I was stunned by the efficiency of things. But first, I was stunned by the candor of the Starbucks barista at Leviste, who remarked that I still wanted hot coffee despite the heat wave. I didn’t tell her that I was buying coffee because my body needs it, and that I woke up from a room that wasn’t too hot. But more importantly, I bought coffee because my body needs it.
Salcedo Village on a Sunday is a world in itself. You can walk around the well-manicured lawns, text while crossing the street, do similarly risky things, and be fine. I imagine there are people who live here who rarely set foot outside the village because they think that to do so is to court danger. Unlike them, I’m in Metro Manila for a reason, so I stepped out of the utopia for a few hours.
I went to Paranaque to check up on people and things. I expected the Skyway toll fee to be around 150 pesos, but it was only 72. Once again, stunned. I thought prices of things would have doubled, tripled while I was away.
There were the same old shops along Dona Soledad Avenue, which wasn’t comforting. Comforting would be seeing the Zagu store near the Sunville entrance. The BPI and the Mercury Drug branches were right where they’re supposed to be. It’s always comforting to see BPIs and Mercury Drug stores. New restaurants have opened; there’s now a Chowking in the spot where a bakery used to be. It was a bakery that looked like it sold only two types of bread, ones you wouldn’t eat. Not pandesal because obviously you’d eat that. If there are restaurants in Betterliving that you love, you better appreciate them while they’re still there because they’ll be gone soon. You can’t expect shops and things to stay in Betterliving forever; only the BPI branches and Mercury Drug stores do.
Annex 35 is still cramped and difficult to drive in. I remember Jom teasing me about it several years ago. He was hoping I’d be offended at his observations that our subdivision is inferior to the other subdivisions because the streets are narrow and most of the homeowners’ cars are parked where they’re not supposed to be. But what made it all ridiculous according to him was that the security guards at the entrance were insanely strict. The punchline he was probably going for was: Who would want to rob this village!? I didn’t have the heart to tell him that unambitious robbers would.
People are welcome to help themselves to my college textbooks. It’s tough to declutter because people nowadays like fewer books in their homes. That’s not an opinion. Everyone wants digital versions of everything, which to me is not the best way to live. If you’re not spending on physical books and music CDs, what is it that you do for fun? I could never give up my book and CD collections, but I know that the lack of storage will always be an issue. I almost gave away many of my books a year ago because I thought they were just going to rot in their poorly ventilated, cramped shelves, and I knew I had to do something. So, I could never be accused of being unevolved. But I’m glad I didn’t give them all away! They are to me what children are to straight people. I’m not proud of the fact that I used to cover my books in plastic, but that corny habit turned out to be hugely beneficial to some of my books that have been saved from quick deterioration. I’m very sorry I took off Franny & Zooey’s cover. It’s not too late to save her, though.
Ads for books
The streets of London are filled with ads and billboards, but there aren’t a lot of ads for iPhone X, cosmetics, and skin clearing products, which is a shocker. Instead, there are many, many ads for plays, movies, and books.
My most precious book find was ‘Butt’, a compendium of Butt magazine’s most intriguing interviews, which I found in one of the Waterstoneses (the five-storey one, the one where I could spend the rest of my life).
Fun fact: the United Kingdom, not Kinokuniya, has all the books you could ever want. But I could be wrong. Hearing strangers talk about books in the bookstore was a heart-stopping experience that has never happened to me before.
In Bangkok, we have Dasa, secondhand book and CD sellers. In the UK, they have Oxfam. Oxfam is better because every penny you spend goes to charity (and to the salary of Oxfam employees). When you buy a bunch of books, CDs, vinyl, or DVDs from Oxfam, you’re not really hoarding but donating and living your best Christian life.
I posted a photo of myself browsing CDs at HMV on Instagram and it came off sounding a bit shady because I captioned it with ‘I love museums’. I didn’t mean to imply that CDs, DVDs and Blurays are relics from the past. If you know me, you know that I am never shady toward anything that I hold dear. I need to explain this.
I spent around 4 hours in HMV stores – one in London and another in York – an amount of time that could have been spent in more ~important~ places or in other horror tours. But, to borrow a phrase from tour brochures, no visit to the UK is complete without a 4-hour stop at the local record store!
And what a record store. They have CDs from 1997, one of the best years in music, and DVDs and Bluray of movies and TV shows that you will never find in Asia. I bought Jeff Buckley’s ‘You and I’, which is probably the 57th Jeff Buckley posthumous live album release. It is the rare Jeff Buckley album that’s properly mastered, ie, doesn’t sound like it was lifted from cassette tape recordings like the albums ‘Live at L’Olympia’, ‘Grace Around the World’, and ‘Mystery White Boy’. Jeff Buckley died in 1997.
Only those who remain fascinated by physical media would see the wonders of such a magical place like HMV. Having visited a 1st world country for the first time, I was stunned to see a record store like HMV whose continued existence in the UK can be explained by two things:
1.) Piracy is a serious offense
2.) People consume culture by the bucketful, and we all know that the best way to consume things is by the bucketful. I only stayed for a week but the Brits seem very, very cultured. It’s very nice.
Whenever I go to an exotic country like the UK, I try to visit a record store and look for Jeff Buckley, Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan albums. I collect things, I don’t know why! But here’s a nice Italo Calvino quote from his essay “Hermit in Paris” which explains this mania of mine:
So now we are entering into the limitless Paris adored by collectors, this city which invites you to make collections of everything, because it accumulates and classifies and redistributes, where you can search as in an archaeological excavation. The collector’s experience can still be an existential adventure, a search of the self through objects, an exploration of the world which is at the same time a realization of the self.
European food is blandish but some sausages are scrumptious. I say this as a very Asian person who has only stayed in the UK for 7 days. Asian food is so good that you can’t not have it for more than 3 days. It seems silly to eat Chinese food while in Sheffield but on your 3rd day without an Asian meal, you start yearning for Asian soup and other Asian dishes that assault your Asian senses.
Harry Potter shops
There are plenty of Harry Potter stores in York which JK Rowling probably liked. York was exquisite. It’s no wonder pubs are a big thing; they’re warm places filled with stone-cold foxes, a great variety of beer, and human warmth. Yes, human warmth. Everyone knows everyone, and if you don’t know anyone, you could try butting in a conversation, or go with someone like our friend Aya who’s the mayor of Sheffield‘s London Street pubs. She could really rule that pub circuit.
If I were a Potter person, I would have died on right there on The Shambles, a quaint little district lined with wizard and witch-themed stores with names like ‘The Store That Shall Not Be Named’ and such. But what I am is a Chucky stan, which is why I was more excited about the HMV stores where all the Child’s Play movies are sold along with many horror movies, including the elusive ‘Cult of Chucky ‘ and ‘Halloween H20’.
I have a suggestion: The Philippines should market Jose Rizal’s novels ‘Noli Me Tangere’ and ‘El Filibusterismo’ like York does JK’s Harry Potter. Then, we shall put up Noli Me-El Fili stores all over the country, so someone could die in our streets out of sheer joy of finding a store that sells exclusive Ibarra collectibles.
Dreamgirls would never leave you
I was stunned upon realizing that the ‘Listen’ number in the ‘Dreamgirls’ movie was turned into a Beyoncé solo performance. In the play, it’s a Deena and Effie duet about listening to the girl you originally were, before you turned into a duplicitous, scene-stealing broad. I bet they changed it in the movie to make sure Jennifer Hudson doesn’t out-Beyoncé Beyoncé, which she ended up doing anyway. The West End play was very good. The Curtis character, unremarkable in the movie, is a commanding charmer in the play.
I fell down the stairs in the Air BnB apartment where we stayed, and it’s not even one of the trip steps which the Scottish peoples deployed in the old days to trick burglars into killing themselves. No one can be sure that the ‘trip steps’ were designed to kill burglars, rather than just seriously injuring them, but given the Scots’ fascination with killings and executions (at least in the old days), that’s probably the real intention. If you’re walking around Scotland, watch your steps.
Could I live in the UK?
I probably could, but I was told that the cold can be unbearable. I have no doubt that’s true. And for a thin-skinned skinny Asian like me, it could be a big problem.
I thought, yes, I could live in the UK because the people are polite, and as we all know all we really need in this world to survive is the warmth of human friendship and to be treated with politeness at all times. Living in a cold country like England sounds exciting and if things don’t turn out well, I could Down and Out in Paris and London myself and write a bad memoir about my difficulties with visas and things. I’d like to see a movie where someone moves to another country and shows how difficult it is to legitimize one’s residence. London has Waterstones and HMV, — also things necessary to survive — but for now we stay put.
When we moved to Better Living in 1994, my brother and I made friends with the neighbourhood kids. We had to because our house was poorly furnished and the architectural lay out was ill conceived. Our bungalow was a box with two bedrooms – one small enough to fit two boys who haven’t been circumcised and one master’s bedroom which I didn’t see the masterliness of at all – and a bathroom that has drainage problems. Maybe it is a little early to be talking ill about a house that we still live in but someone has to document its history and right now I have time to do just such a thing.
Our mother, who was responsible for the house, was about to die and so it was a sad time for everyone, although I don’t remember any of us being very, very sad. We didn’t look forward to it maybe because we weren’t sure her death was imminent.
After she died, we moved on and made friends with the kids in our new neighbourhood. Kids in the village were nice, especially the girls who maybe found me and my brother intriguing. As children, we were very cute and we advertised ourselves as half-Chinese although the truth is that we are maybe only one-fourths Chinese. Being half-half is great because you get asked about your heritage by Filipino classmates and friends who are 100% Filipino and who have no other heritage to speak of except their Filipinoness which is something me and my ‘half-Chinese’ siblings wouldn’t ever be curious about. Being young and Chinese-looking is one of the best life stages ever. It makes you feel special, unique and attractive.
Mostly, the girls found my brother cute. I know this because they told me and also some of our boy friends. My brother truly is the cute one. Aside from being good-looking, he was also good in math, algebra, English, dancing, HEKASI and architecture. He was well-loved by high school teachers who made it a point always to emphasize that I am not like him at all in terms of interpersonal skills and smiling skills and maybe also dancing skills. He can wear Spice Girl drag in a cheerleading competition and still be adored, but if I had pulled a stunt like that in high school, my sexuality would have been questioned and that would have really hurt my feelings.
I used to like basketball because there used to be a basketball court in front of the house. Despite the presence of this mini-court I never really got better at it because my heart belonged to volleyball. Volleyball is such a beautiful, graceful sport and I loved it and I think I still love it now. But anyway, my brother and I used to play basket with the annex boys even though I knew in my heart that volleyball is my sport. My brother, my kuya, got better at it, although he looked really funny, like a flying hanger about to dunk.
One summer afternoon, I overheard my brother talking to some of the girls. The girls, apparently, found me a bit effeminate because maybe I played volleyball well or I played it with apparent glee and abandon, I can’t be sure. Maybe, they found me a little girly because I’m one of the two boys in the group who never got teased with a female. The other one is an obvious gay with quite a gay name so his effeminacy surely has never piqued anyone’s interest. It is very hard to imagine that gay’s gayness ever having disturbed anyone’s peace. Also, I got along well with the girls.
If you’re a second child, being the subject of discussion induces feelings of preciousness in you because it rarely happens. I didn’t exactly delight in being talked about but of course I wanted to know just how my brother would defend my honor. He didn’t defend my honor because maybe, to begin with, no one’s honor was being besmirched.
‘So, is he gay?’ was what I remember being asked of him. I don’t recall him disproving their suspicion. Instead, he described my character in a way that, even now, will be hard to refute. He told them that while I may not actually be totally gay, I do have a tendency to mimic the behavioural patterns of the group to which I attach myself the most, which during that particular era was the group of the volleyball-playing girls. It was classy of him. He knew that I could get very sore about being accused of homosexuality. He knew how much it would have wounded me. On our worst fights, I need only to be called ‘gay’ in order to lose my shit and lose.
I’ve always believed that my personality is special, magnetic and that in time, it will shine. Coupled with my exotic half-Chineseness, I used to believe that once I get out of school, I could dazzle people and employers with what I have to offer – my Catholic education and ability to describe people and things using big, Mariah Carey words. These didn’t happen very often. Instead, I became the dead of the party in most parties and my half-Chineseness has officially ceased fascinating people.
When I was in college, I bought a lot of CDs. Random albums that I thought I might enjoy. I bought Coldplay’s X&Y, Tiesto’s Just Be, and Sarah McLachlan’s Mirrorball and many, many, many others. I read somewhere that Mirrorball was Patty Laurel’s leave-me-alone CD. But who cares about Patty Laurel’s favorite album? Thanks to my mother’s fortune, I was able to buy all the albums I desired. Mirrorball was the album I played the most because it was gorgeous and her voice, indescribable. My brother said something about how Sarah McLachlan was one of those artists who sound as gorgeous in concert as they do in the CD. I agreed and that was when I became a super Sarah McLachlan fan. Even though I haven’t found the time to care about Shine On, hew new, I hope she comes to Bangkok very soon.
Freak is what Augusten Burroughs will make you feel like in his Chistmas book, You Better Not Cry. Freak for not having memories of childhood filled with Christmas craziness anticipation. Freak. Especially if you happen to be a gay adult who can’t remember a childhood marked by tinsel fascination or any of the other Christmas fascinators. My Christmas childhood was spent fearing the day when Christmas ceases to mean dicking around the extended family compound in Pasay for gifts and cash, but mostly cash, because, if you must know, I’m ‘economically-challenged as hell’, allegedly, and at an early age I must have been made aware of the greatness of the sensation brought about by having so much cash. Mostly I remember just really wanting to have as much Archies and Jugheads. You would understand if you remember that in the 90s, a Double Digest has 256 pages and Filbars sells 3 for only PhP 200.
It’s easy to see why Augusten Burroughs’s brother accuses him of retardation. In fact it would be retarded not to accuse him of that; it would have been charitable of his brother not to see little Augusten as anything but a retard. Augusten is a freak. So freakish it often seems like he’s making stuff up, but who cares? We always need a laugh and it’s generous to produce hilarity at one’s own expense for the greater good of those in need. This act of generosity surely must make baby Jesus proud.
It’s become an Augusten Burroughs tradition to make mountains out of molehills, to milk every single life event of its story-telling worth as something worth telling and killing millions of trees for. Getting into his Christmas reminiscences, I expected to read about minor accidents that happened to happen during Christmastime. Maybe in his childhood his mom got drunk and his dad sort of got upset on one of his Christmases is what I thought I should set myself up for. A Wolf at the Table really scarred me, if you must know. It scarred me deeply. But no. Augusten shocked me with genuine sadness, Christmas-style.
I know I set you up for AB’s Christmas memories but I feel like talking about myself instead because I know me better than I could ever know Augusten. You must know, though, that You Better Not Cry involves Santa Sex.
Persons not of the naturally sunny, happy kind are or should be aware of the lameness of expressing unpleasant thoughts about Christmas because if they are not, there’s forever the risk of being perceived as eternally trying to be unique and contrarian which is just so the wrong way to be. When expressing dissatisfaction over Christmas and its hassles, family hang-up horseshits-reminding tendencies, it is best to be firm and clear about exactly why and just how is Christmas and it’s Mariah Carey ambience is making you not delirious with joy. Persons of this type, maybe they can try to aim for Christmas Fever okayness and be out of sunshine persons’s sight. Grinchies, to save themselves from judgments, could immerse themselves in the true spirits of Christmas, preferrably those that are 40% proof. Just like our guy Augusten.
I want to have all of Mariah Carey’s Greatest Hits albums because I fear the total shut down of CD-selling is nigh. CDs are always going to be a part of me, they’re a part of me indefinitely, although I’ve been reassessing the importance of CDs in my life since it seems like such a huge waste of money to buy several greatest hits album of an artist whose individual albums I already own. Besides, how greedy should a record label be to release not one, not two, but five Greatest Hitses for a single artist to sell me, the unwise consumer? More importantly, how greedy am I for wanting to have everything of hers? Very greedy, it would appear, and I don’t mind. I never knew how much greedier I could get with an iPod since owning one only caused me to want even more albums. I therefore conclude that greed recognizes no format.
I only ever felt this need for Mariah whose Greatest Hits I got recently. It is a sloppily packaged CD and there are no thank yous to be found, not so much as a Hi, not even the type of hasty i-love-you-fans type of message that artists feel the need to say to fans for their contribution to their already insanely vast riches via album purchases and general acts of worship. As a practicer of such worship, I don’t feel sorry for contributing to certain singers’ riches as it is their due for being so aspirational and generally just fabulous in every way and for being so great at making people feel this blinded but ultimately satisfactory sense of satiation, and for being so skilled at promising lifelong fanaticism to them that creates within a fan/lonely-consumer-who-finds-meaning-in-material-things a true sense of fulfillment and joy that’s quite hard to explain although easy to be repetitive and be such a bore about. Greatest Hits is quite the obligatory Sony release and its fuss-free booklet is such a shameful act of obligation fulfillment since this is the least suspicious greatest hits of hers and couldn’t they have at least got a nice, crazy quote from her. In a perfect world this would have remixes, b-sides, live performances, rock versions and remakes which we will never tire of.
This collection claims to be ‘the ultimate Mariah Carey album. From the infectious Dreamlover through to Fantasy and Underneath the Stars all the songs on this album are certified Mariah classics‘ which may or may not be right depending on which particular consumer is consuming this product. This is simply something that can be said of any of her compilation albums including The Remixes and #1s. The sequence doesn’t do the randomness of the songs any favor. This compilation is for the very casual Mariah Carey consumer and the album is happy just to be sold.
The inclusion of Fantasy ODB Remix in The Remixes, although already included in two previous compilation albums, is not this album’s only sin. Here is finally a remix album with which the geniuses at Sony can finally shelter the remixes of her great remixes [I Still Believe (Damizza Remix), Breakdown (Mo Thugs), Honey (Bad Boy Remix), to name a few ] and what do the geniuses do? They not only exclude the remixed version of the songs, they include the previously released album versions, probably with the mindset that consumers who have yet to discover the very obscure Mariah Carey discography will learn that a song called Breakdown exists in its chaste form, that is, non-remixed, even though it is in a REMIX ALBUM, and it will be so much better to leave it untouched and stack said songs with actual remixes. Concept schmoncept, sales is king. Also a sin? Uglifying Charmbracelet’s Yours featuring a guest verse from BIG sound alike Bone Crusher. Another sin is editing I Know What You Want right to the part where Busta Rhymes says J Records. This album needs to confess.
And because the world needs another Mariah Carey love songs compilation (and maybe it seriously does), Sony, the milkingest record label of all time, releases The Ballads. Mariah is pure cash cow at this point. She’s been milked so thoroughly, you have to wonder if there’s any left for her babies. I’m sorry, that was sinister. But Sony is sinisterer. This is actually not a completely worthless product if you ask the laziest playlist maker in the world. This proves useful when you don’t feel like making your own Mariah ballads playlist, except the playlist is still quite limited and repetitive. If I were to make my own ballads playlist, I’d include unreleased and rare stuff such as Slipping Away and There for Me because I’m not from Sony music. Record Label Geniuses think differently. What is another Hero, Vision of Love, My All in yet another Mariah Carey greatest hits of sorts collection? Cash and time spared from a well thought-out playlist, is what.
The greatest greatest hits in my humble opinion is the modestly titled, #1s. In its liner notes, Mariah screams, No! This is not yet the Greatest Hits! Too early for that! although it may as well have been. This is a remarkable collection that reminds of the time when Mariah albums are both product and art, however meaningless being either entailed. And it’s just what we needed: a fairly sized number 1 hits collection that begins with a foreboding of things to come, image and soundwise. It begins with the sexy Sweetheart with Jermaine Dupri, followed by prestige duets When You Believe with Whitney Houston and Whenever You Call with Brian McKnight, which if songs were representations of our diva, is exactly how I like my Mariah: sexy and prestigious. It begins with the recent hits and winds down to the earliest, offering a trip down memory lane, tracing the progression/regression from the skimpy outfitting, helicopter ho posturing-Mariah to the Boyz II Men dueting, tights-loving Mariah of the Sony Mottola years. It was a lovely era of great, almost minimalistic album covers (#1s, Butterfly, Daydream) and rap guest verse-heavy R&B which is really what made me go crazy about her. Not long after this gorgeous era, she got a little crazy herself. But the hits that resulted from the insane era, also great. And with bated breath, I/we await the 00s Mariah’s greatest hits., Glitter things very much included.
If I were to make an album consisting of only covers, these are songs I would pick to sing:
1. Wishful Thinking by Duncan Sheik – because it’s well within my range. Plus I really like the Great Expectations soundtrack. From that soundtrack, I’d also pick Sunshower by Chris Cornell because it’s so sweet and I’m a sometime admirer of Chris Cornell’s jawbones.
2. Wait by Sarah McLachlan – because it sounds so dark and deep, and Sarah McLachlan is one of my favorite singers of quietly angry songs.
3. Borrowing Time by Aimee Mann – because if you’re a guy and you sing her songs, it doesn’t matter what your vocal chords are made of, because as long as you know how to interpret any song of hers, the vocal chords will not matter very much and your true feelings, your soul will lend itself to the song, the music and all will be forgiven. Hahahahaha. But I kinda mean this.
4. That’s Just What You Are by Aimee Mann – because I truly love her candidness.
5. Morning Theft by Jeff Buckley
6. All the Lovers by Kylie Minogue – which I would have to render in acoustic or maybe not.
7. Cosmic Love by Florence + the Machines – because this song is just too damned gorgeous not to be in my album god damn it.
8. Rootless Tree by Damien Rice – because I want to be able to say fuck you in a song in a meaningful and melodic way repeatedly.
9. Train on a Track by Kelly Rowland – because If I were a pop diva, I’d definitely be Kelly Rowland: low key yet gorgeous. But more than that, this song is so heartwarming and it has a cuteness to it that doesn’t feel forced or something.
10. Siren by Tori Amos – because once upon a time I really idolized her and this is the song that introduced me to the wonderful world of Tori Amos.
11. HATE U by Mariah Carey (Bonus Track) – because even though she’s crazy, I love her and if the song proves to be too tough for my limited vocal performing, I could always switch it up with The-Dream version.
Emma Forest used to cry herself to sleep because she didn’t write the The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe. She’s saying this as someone who probably used to be nuts over Edgar Allan Poe, and I instantly recognize the sentiment because it’s similar to my own failure to come up with the idea of superstarmarian, not that I’ve ever had the foresight to come up with something revolutionary or meaningful. But me and Emma along with other fellow Florence nuts should just forgive ourselves for not birthing Florence Welch, for not being responsible for Ceremonials. We should just be happy to have it in our lives.
People who joke about wanting to end their lives because there’s nothing in it for them anymore should cancel the suicide and listen to this first.
Strangeness and Charm is even more explosive in the studio version. In it Florence sounds like Karen O but thousand times better.
You would want to dance to Heartlines, cry to Only if for a Night and Shake it Out, and have sex to Seven Devils. It’s the kind of album you’d want to do activities to, including but not restricted to doing drugs, getting drunk, jumping off the 33rd floor of a building, expressing love.
Many times before I almost swore off Mariah because she keeps making decisions I do not approve of, the latest of which is allowing Justin Bieber to shit on All I Want for Christmas is You the result of which is highly despicable. But I probably won’t let her go, the crazy one. In case I do, dahling, Miss Welch will take your place and it is not a place you would want to relinquish.
Regarding Christmas, maybe this Christmas I’ll give really nice people in my life Ceremonials so people in this country responsible for accounting for album sales will see sales of it skyrocket and then sound the alarm up in the UK where Florence presumably mostly stays or wherever and have her informed and her people, ‘hey, that tiny Asian country that is not Singapore is buying your album. Go there.’
When I go nuts over a musical artist I want everyone in my life to believe and succumb to the fascination like I did to Robyn. The Robyn campaign wasn’t very successful on account of her CDs aren’t being sold here. This time it will be different…
I used to think of Florence as an indieish, panderous-to-the-hipster-crowd type of performer that I had to have someone pull strings to obtain Lungs from somewhere over at some First World in the belief that the album simply would not be available here. It’s with an enormous surprise that I discovered Between Two Lungs wedged between Faithless (whatever that is!) and Foo Fighters at an AstroVision. This country’s music distribution people have taste after all and it is a taste I highly approve of. Deluxe Edition at that! Bravo, people in the Philippine music distribution industry. I’m sorry for doubting your faith in the absolute gorgeousness that is Ceremonials. Never had I been so pleased to have a notion of mine be disabused.
Adele’s 21 is highly and widely regarded as one of the modern time’s most recognizable greatest pop album and in fairness to the fattie, 21 is indeed very good but it’s also so thoroughly depressing. Ceremonials is also mostly sad but it’s also pretty, hopeful, powerful, otherworldly, vibrant, alive, mesmerizing, danceable and joyful.
The Grammy will regret the day it did not choose Florence + the Machines as Best New Artist. They will not recover from that folly.
‘And I did cartwheels in your honor, dancing on tiptoes My own secret ceremonials before the service began, In the graveyard, doing handstands.’ I do, if it’s physically possible, want to perform cartwheels in her honor, dancing on tiptoes, my own secret ceremonials before the album mania began.
When I had my first break up with my first male girlfriend, I remember repeatedly playing Aimee Mann’s The Forgotten Arm and I have never stopped associating it since then to heartbreak although it was really more like a loss of a prized gadget than human. Nothing truly remarkable is happening right now except the remarkable things that are happening that I’m not aware of. I won’t remember any of these recent times’ remarkable things but I’ll always remember it as the time that this stunning piece of art was born.
I meant to transfer to the iPod the CD KanlunganMga Piling Kanta ng Buklod which Kiel got me two Christmases ago but I never got around to it because I am drowning in a sea of albums and there is no more iPod to transfer it too. Ani DiFranco’s Not so Soft reminds me of the pureness of Damien Rice’s music, the type that has the least amount of post-production tinkering that either polishes or ruins an album, which is not to say that I don’t like them overproduced, studio-manufactured pop sensations. For Christmas 2010, Kill gave me Not So Soft, which is of the Damien Rice, Gary Granada mold: unadorned, just guitars, studio intervention-proof, and melody-deficient album the likes of which I’m fortunate to have industrious, online-purchasing, eccentric friend who would think to give me such things, aside from the obvious that I like receiving things of the round and shiny kind. I may never catch the nuances of Ani’s beautiful poetry, I may take issues with its lack of soaring melodies, but I can see why certain people would take to her soaring emotions. I can imagine how at some point in someone’s life songs like On Every Corner and Not so Soft (in a forest of stone, underneath the corporate canopy, where the sun, rarely, filters, down, the ground, is not so soft, not so soft…), might have struck someone’s something, the way Damien Rice’s O lulled me to sleep and kept me company during certain Quiet Rage moments not too long ago.
A striking opposite of the folky, guitar artistes is Kylie Minogue, a recent obsession of mine in this electropop-crazy music situation of late. I knew the moment I heard that Star World teaser commercial which used the Get Outta My Way intro that Aphrodite had to be mine. I rarely like first singles but All the Lovers and Get Outta My Way make me feel really happy and empowered and deaf. She makes the kind of disco, let’s dance, dance floor, love me with your disco balls, disco songs that are truly dance- and happy-making. It’s all crazy in the dance floor silliness that are organically gay and disco.
The Fantastic Florence plus the Fabulous Machines
There’s a drumming noise inside my head, it makes such an almighty sound. Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in the air. I know I can count on you. Gone are the days of begging the days of theft, no more gasping for a breath! (in terms of obtaining the album legally). These lyrics and the way she sings them, the kind of delirious, gleeful singing she does, approximate the experience of listening to Lungs. It’s the kind of album that puts you in listening phases. It starts, perfectly, with Dog Days are Over and progresses majestically to the middle, around Drumming Song through Cosmic Love, around which horrific sing-alongs at the top of my lungs ensues. The listening experience is the kind that makes you sit up in rapt attention (here comes Between Two Lungs! I must sing!). And ends with explosive sweetness with You’ve Got the Love (When food is gone, you’re all my daily need).
I’m so glad I watched TV the day I did, at that pivotal moment when the Dog Days are Over video happened to be playing on Channel [V], and I discovered this. This Florence fawning reminds me of my Tori Amos phase. I got to appreciate Tori around Scarlet’s Walk, which is to say very belatedly, and wondered how it must have felt to fall in love with her when Little Earthquakes was new. I could say the same for Mariah, Sarah McLachlan, etc., but I just feel like it’s more sensational when someone goes through a Tori Amos phase. I know it’s all so vague and so queer. I’m just glad to have paid attention to F+tM right on time. I haven’t seen a single foreign act concert because the effort it takes to go to one is just too much (lining up to buy the ticket, hailing a cab to get to the concert). If Florence Welch (or Sarah McLachlan) comes over, I’ll be attending my first ever. Promise! The only sad thing about Lungs is that it ends. The music is sweeping, grand, operatic and spine-tingling. None of which can be said of Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream. Yes, we really do need to bash others in order to effectively get some of our messages across.
Just when I thought her discography couldn’t get any better, it gets any betterer. After obsessing over Body Talk for a month and a half, I did some digging and discovered the oldish Robyn which also turned out to be an outstanding, impeccably made pop album. The Robyn slobfest is evidently far from over. That the album be as listenable from start to finish is really all that you could ask for which is precisely what the Robyn albums are.
Sometimes I feel like my tastes are heavily influenced by consensus and by critics whose judgments and sensibilities I wish were mine, since I hardly listen to radio anymore, so that if some snobby music site says Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavillion album is so good, I ‘obtain’ it and convince myself that it is in fact good. I very randomly choose music to ‘obtain’ so the pride I felt for having discovered Robyn, out of sheer curiosity, is a moment of great pride and confusion. I’m very confused why her songs are not as famous as those stupid G6-airplane songs. I’m confused why this genuinely Europop artist FROM EUROPE is not as popular with the electronica pop-crazy music market of the moment. Lady Gaga is understandably famous since she’s quite the artiste, she sings and dresses insane, and The Fame Monster is all the work she ever needed to convince the heathens that she’s a bona fide musician whose talent far outweighs the antics. So she’s fine. But with everyone else, WHY? Why is Robyn opening for acts like Katy Perry!? Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to work. Had Robyn been a chart-topping Billboard queen, I don’t think she would have been the sort of musician that I would go the ends of the earth to scour old albums for, and cry in frustration for its lack of popularity. Now that I’ve thought about it, in music, everything is very much right how they should be.
I was going to join an essay writing contest with a whopping P3000 Sodexo (?) GC prize, with the theme, What is the most important thing 2010 gave you. Quickly, me and Romy White thought about the type of essays people are probably going to submit, stuff that would basically announce to the world that in their hollow, middle-class chests, a heart beats, and in their Carpal Tunneled limbs, a hand that gives.
My first thought was 3000 is a lot of CDs, around 6 or 7. So I set aside work to write my pretty stupid idea for an essay about how I’m grateful finally for MP3s and technology in general. I would have said that I’m grateful to 2010 for finally giving me the epiphany that technology is good, that it makes people lead better, convenient lives. But I thought the society of writing geniuses that run the contest might misinterpret the essay as incorrect or just plain stupid, and that I’m missing the point of it since it’s quite clear that one is supposed to write about a heartwarming, modesty or charity-driven Chicken Soup type of essay, which I just don’t have the persuasion powers to pull off.
I would have also said that I’m grateful to 2010 for giving us one of the best Kathy Griffin Specials, Whores on Crutches, her funniest since Strong Black Women. But it’s too much of a giveaway.
Finally, I thought too of saying that Robyn’s Body Talk albums is 2010’s most precious thing. I want to implore everyone to download it since it’s one of those albums they don’t make available in CDs in 3rd world nations, and I think it is really so good. You really, really should hear it. It’s the best. Do you remember 90s singer Robyn? Do You Really Want Me Am I Really Special and Show Me Love? It would have been so gratifiying to win P3000 GC at its expense by saying at 500 words or less, about how much I wanted to give 2010 a blow job for giving birth to Body Talk.
I probably would have gotten away with something about how 2010 gave me the realization that music hoarding is not good and then segue into how hoarding and owning many material things is not a good state of being but then it would have been just as bullshitty as the MP3/technology epiphany horseshit.
Actual human-filled events happened in 2010 including weddings, (two, one that is corked so hard and one that was such a spectacle in all sorts of fashions), illnesses, special gifts (as in Apple special), human kindnesses done to me, really annoying things done to me, death of a friend’s loved one, heart attacks, heart conditions of friends’ families, actual feelings felt for family, etc, etc. These were all important to me and I want to relish or pick life lessons off them but 2010, it also made me realize how incapable I am of assigning importance to what really makes life meaningful, illegal downloads or people. It’s a tough choice so maybe it’s best not to submit them for scrutiny, yes? Yes.
In high school, I borrowed a Ray of Light cassette from someone whose taste in music I should have trusted more, whose tape collection I should have tried to duplicate, whose non-classification of music I should have tried to emulate. She sits Sixpence None the Richer, Smash Mouth, Mariah Carey, All Saints, Sugar Ray, Barenaked Ladies, Fatboy Slim, TLC, New Radicals and Spice Girls amongst each other, gathers them around in her stack like unassuming kindergarten pupils, unaffected by each other’s differences. I liked most of what’s in Ray of Light especially Shanti Ashtangi which was nothing I’ve heard before, Sky Fits Heaven, and Power of Goodbye, one of her bestest ballads, but ended up not buying it, the album, because when you’re a teenage boy in high school, buying a Madonna album was just weird and gay. And to me then as it is now, buying an album is crucial to the appreciation of an artist’s music.
It’s not that I was afraid somebody’d shoot me if I was seen buying a Madonna album, it’s that it was inconceivable to me then as a high school boy to obtain one. I’m shallow like that. It’s irrelevant to point out that I still didn’t buy Ray of Light in college because there are other things to buy and pursue, one diva seemed enough, and college is all indie/alternative music time, without the slightest idea what indie/alternative music even means, but yes, I still didn’t get any of her albums during this period, the phony period.
Although there’s still no point in celebrating the day I finally got Ray of Light, its purchase was the moment that I learned how to get over myself and stop fussing over the purchase of a CD. If this sounds like a dishonest and contrived nothing admission, let me just say how I used to buy more than one buffer CD every time I trek to the church to get whatever diva albums are out, which looking at my stack, were a lot, because I’m ashamed to be handing over Tower Records cashier people with discernible smirks on their faces the new Mariah/Tori/Aaliyah. So I have now, rotting and molding in their respective areas of the CD rack, copies of probably never again to be played albums of Coldplay, Basement Jaxx, Death Cab for Cutie, and all other sorts of diva album buffer. So I mean, I’m not just saying, ‘Look at me getting over musical taste sophistication issues by buying Madonna’s Ray of Light!’ The purchase of this album was really somewhat momentous. You can say, it came to me like a ray of light.
I didn’t like all of Ray of Light, however, because my youthful perception of her gravitated towards the drag queen idea of her and this perception was magnified ten times over by Frozen wherein she ups the drag queen persona/gay icon ante in the video, which looking back on it now, was a really good-looking, understated video. But this is something I would never have admitted or known in high school because it’s high school. Besides, I didn’t know understated. For some reason, you never come off as gay or weird if you had a Mariah album. I know several jocks/big boys in HS who had Butterfly and Number Ones. But it’s quite a different matter with Celine Dion, Tina Arena and Madonna, and so I steered clear. Clearly, I had conflicts with certain issues during high school.
Maybe it was William Orbit’s production that hooked me, but I wasn’t aware of songwriters or producers during the time I was starting to get a taste of her. All I knew was that these are beats that are so weird and pretty, and I recall really liking most of them. Shanti Ashtangi was just too gorgeous to me.
For years, I rolled my eyes so hard over the idea of Madonna. I didn’t like her singles (Music, Frozen, Ray of Light, 4 Minutes), and I only bought her albums in a non-committed, obligatory way you buy certain albums, which was how I bought Something to Remember. When she released Confessions on a Dance Floor, it was still out of obligation that I bought it, but then I thought it turned out to be one of her most enjoyable albums, and that was when I started to enjoy her music as the creatures that they are. It’s puzzling to me though how I chose to begin with Something to Remember over any of her albums, it being a ballad collection and ballads not being her strongest suit, to start off with the Madonna discography discovery.
My appreciation of her began with Confessions on a Dance Floor and more then by the Confessions Tour DVD. When I watched this super freak concert, I understood why people go crazy over her, in spite of the nasty things said of her, in spite of her self-absorbed/self-important reputation, which was something of a turn-off to me. But fuck that already. I’m pleased to have discovered her before it’s too late. I loved the Confessions-era Madonna and I hope she never ages. I hope she stops aging for a while. She will age of course but I hope she never acts it.