CD reviews: Gloc-9, Jay-Z, Paramore
"Liham at Lihim"
It’s easy to imagine the pressure on Gloc-9, the rapper otherwise known as Aristotle Pollisco, to put up a follow-up to his best-selling "MKNM" featuring the anthem of 2012 “Sirena.”
For his seventh release, Gloc’s got stellar collaborators in Rico Blanco and Regine Velasquez at the top of the list, with the video of the first single, “Magda” (featuring Blanco) already being hailed for its cinematic potential.
But "Liham at Lihim" is all about the music and lyrical content and overall, lesser-known contributors stand just as tall as the A-grade music makers. In “Hindi Sapat,” an ode to moms everywhere, Gloc and rising star Denise Barbacena deliver an emotionally charged “thank you” note to the first lady of every decent home. “Tsinelas sa Putikan” featuring Marc Abaya is a stark reminder of the struggle against the powers that be, with the final clincher “Minsan ang paglaban ang natitirang paraan” sounding the alarm of just resistance.
On the flip funny side, listen to Gloc borrow lines from a puerile nursery rhyme to kick-off “Itak ni Andres.” He reprises his call for clean elections in “Kunwari” with Kamikazee, Queso’s Biboy Garcia, and Wolfgang’s Manuel Legarda onboard bearing the stamp of a charade taken to extremes. Some really cool R&B soul fire up the slick testifying in “Siga” featuring Quest.
In the end, the big ticket tracks will get the promotion they deserve. It’s just that there are other gems in this five-star album that should not be ignored.
"Magna Carta Holy Grail"
It had to happen: rap becomes the main act and sleek good-sounding R&B gets second billing in a firestorm of protest pop music. It’s kind of funny too because label mogul Jay-Z takes up the cause of the underprivileged in colorful flow while wallowing in the afterglow of some of the sexiest tunes and most dance-friendly beats today. Listen to “Heaven,” “Part II” featuring Beyonce, or “Holy Grail” and you’ll thrill at the prospect of these tunes being transformed into well-crafted hits.
The contrast between production values and the actual intent is a tribute to Jay-Z’s recording acumen, attracting respected hands to work with him in the studio and top deck rappers singing along for the ride. It also contributes a lot to the new album’s triumph -- a sampledelic congregation of machine-gun blasts, new wave synths and brassy squeals tempering Jay-Z’s hate-baiting activist rants.
Throughout, a constant thump operates like the beating of a wayward heart, probably keeping pace with the main rapper’s unhinged lyrical blows against apathy in a messed-up world.
The back sleeve shows a graveyard in front of American Stock Exchange, the barometer of US economic health. It’s perhaps an allusion to the death of the American Dream and there’s no denying where Jay-Z is laying the source of his frustrations to find the “holy grail” of American emancipation.
Now down to three, erstwhile teen idols Paramore side-steps their pop-punk roots and lands into the more mature precinct of the power trio. On their latest album, vocalist Hayley Williams, guitarist Taylor York and bassist Jeremy Davis pull out all the stops in 17 odes to teenage daydreaming, heart breaks and moving on.
Abetted by studio pros, the band’s downscaled power trio re-channels the old blues concept into new school power pop evocative of Cheap Trick, label mates My Chemical Romance and a streamlined remake of their former selves.
What’s impressive about the new album is that it works both as a look back and a forward peek at the band’s musical arc. The melodies remain as catchy as ever and the upbeat tenor of the album belies the fact that the lyrics talk about growing up in the real world and the departure of former members in less than amiable circumstances.
Paramore’s latest album is one of those cool records you can listen to by your lonesome, or dance to with your own shadow. While there’s really no stone left unturned in the sonic department, it sounds like a resurrection of the band for greater things just around the bend.