CD reviews: New albums from Sirens, Imago

Posted at 06/29/2014 3:35 PM

Imago
"Kapit"

After an amicable split with erstwhile front person Aia de Leon, a revamped Imago recruits pop-rocker Mayumi and expands to a five-piece workhorse with Zach Lucero moving to guitars and a new drummer in place.

“Kapit,” the band’s latest release, is superficially a look back at its back catalog in sound and lyrical content and obviously, a harbinger of new things to come. With two guitars turbo-charging its musical muscle, Imago’s new songs rock harder than expected and the addition of Mayumi’s thin voice (as opposed to Aia’s almost masculine tonality) put the retrofitted group on the same frequency as a ‘90s college rock playlist. You can hear strains of Liz Phair, Throwing Muses, and Dinosaur Jr. (with Juliana Hatfield on lead vocals).

It’s not a bad thing by any measure. "Kapit," on the whole, sounds more like a preview of a new band working out its future. The band isn’t ready to give up the old buzz (a sophisticated ballad in “Malaya”) but is more than willing to display the strengths in their current configuration (gorgeous pop rockers in “Summer Baby” and “Malaya”).

Having evolved to five on the floor, Imago, conscious or not, survives complacency and moves forward.

*****

Sirens
"Beginnings"

Originating from Cebu, indie five-piece Sirens, now based in Manila, plays alternative rock that owes as much to Urbandub as to Bamboo (the band) and Cueshe.

 

Sirens’ debut album "Beginnings" sizzles with warm melodies and solid hooks that bring up memories of early ‘00s emo. The band embrace the ethos of emo-core (or emotional hardcore) by writing songs about personal ineptitude to love and be loved. On the studio album, these suicidal tendencies cross over to the punk crowd encased in alt-rock aesthetics. Only two tracks rock to the blitz of a thundering backbeat.

In live performances, however, Sirens shove their hardcore balls where it matters. At a tribute show to the influence of Urbandub and at the recent Fete de la Musique Manila 2014, the combo spits out their collective angst so that otherwise emo whiners (“Tell Me It’s Over,” “When All Is Lost”) transform into devil-horned chargers. Sirens is one of those bands that is a pleasure to listen to on the headphones and a minor threat in concert.

*****

D’Angelo
"Live at the Jazz Café, London"

In 1996, then rising neo-soul phenomenon D’ Angelo released a six-song EP only in Japan. It was a stopgap between his debut and sophomore album and this update in 2014 has additional materials which the liner notes point out constitutes the bulk of the live concert itself.

Despite being 18 years in the can, the performance retains a refreshing whiff of a time when black soulmen cut it toe to toe with white boy bands on the other side of the pop fence.
Aside from D’ Angelo’s sweet soul calisthenics, three things stand out: the crack backup band, soul siren Angie Stone on backing vocals and a song entitled “Sh*t, Damn, Motherf*cker” intended probably as a hardcore piece of audience baiting. The best part of course is D’ Angelo’s deft jazz handling of his own songs as well as covers of tunes made popular by Smokey Robinson, Al Green, Mandrill and Earth, Wind and Fire.

The show does not sound dated and clearly bears witness to the birth of a star.

*****

Abba
"Gold: Greatest Hits"

Forty nine songs spread in three CDs is a lavish way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the legendary Swedish pop group Abba. It has also been recently named the UK’s best-selling CD of all time.

It’s difficult to argue with success, doubly harder if the item in question is a runaway triumph. Abba, like the Beatles, will always be loved across generations. Unlike the Beatles, the Swedish foursome surface every so often in other formats: in a film, in a musical, in elevator music and in repertoires of cover bands across the world. Their music literally lives on.

“Gold” may however be tipping Abba’s music to the point of boredom -- 3 CDs of precision-tooled ‘70s pop, omg! But like it or not, there will always be a herd for this type of comfort music.