Music review: Teenage 'sessionistas,' Owl City

Posted at 10/07/12 2:00 PM

At the 5th Sessionistas annual battle of the bands championship on Saturday night at the Greenhills Parking Strip, Kombo Ni Vjosh, a group composed mostly of teens, with the front person and the drummer barely in their teens, proved mightier than four other more mature and skilled finalists.

The champs opened their set with a rap-rock version of Gloc-9’s “Upuan”, kicked out the jams with a workman-like revisit of Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love A Bad Name”, and concluded with an original composition that’s ready to take its place among the very best Pinoy rock ballads ever.

You’ll be hearing from them soon when they play Tiendesitas as regular performers.

The sound of the teen band was a far cry from last year’s winner whose guest performance featured a lumbering run through cumbersome grunge and sludgy emo-metal.
Pinoy rock ain’t dead. It’s just being hijacked by the next generation of young musical wizards and oddballs.

Frank Ocean

"Channel Orange"

For an R&B album, the latest album from prolific songwriter Frank Ocean is devoid even of fleeting moments of tension. Probably, he wants the listener to focus on his lyrical wordplay and gift of gab. Add the fact that his music starts from scratchy sketches then goes on swelling into hook-laden love croons, and Frank O. could be on to something like “progressive soul,” one without the baggage of sex, politics or race overtones.

Listen to him fill out the 10-minute plus “Pyramids” with varied shades of neo-soul and smooth jazz. In “Lost,” he borrows a few things from Prince and the ‘50s girl groups for a lovely tune worth humming in your day dreams. In “Bad Religion,” he harks back to ‘60s psychedelia stuffing it with references to “Eleanor Rigby” and mid-‘60s garage bands while connecting the dots between casual relationships and true faith.

Ocean sings of a ubiquitous “she” who in the album assumes names such as “Cleopatra,” “Pilot Jones” and the generic “lover.” They bring out his sensitive side and there is something disarmingly romantic about the record’s tangent on wretched love. From that angle, hope springs eternal.

Ocean easily evokes music from another era and from past musical idols, but his latest album points to a gloriously bright future for his idiosyncratic brand of soul.

Owl City 

"The Midsummer Station"

The band openly references the Pet Shop Boys, guilelessly borrows from the Cars and shamelessly ransacks ‘70s disco such that it’s difficult to give Owl Music much credit for originality. With such limitation, the band makes some concessions in the lyrics, re-directing their concerns beyond the rave-till-you-drop ethos of their chosen musical sources.

There’s the hype that everybody gets hits star turn on “Shooting Star.” “Gold” wants everyone to take pride in himself. The opening track goes for a quasi-religious image with "Follow the light through your dreams and disasters."

Elsewhere, more self-empowerment persuasions, e.g. “One start, one heart, one life to live” issue from the rah-rah rocking vibe of “Speed of Love.”

“Good Time,” with guest vocals from Carly Rae Jepsen, shoots out the sparks in a pairing of party-time lyrics and insanely celebratory music. Owl City’s "The Midsummer Station" is the feel-good album of the season you can dance to.