The thing about this enhanced community quarantine is that most of us now have time to listen to anything to our heart’s content. Cool new record that deserves reco? “Pangalan” by Unique Salonga.
This rock and roll wunderkind renewed our faith in his generation. The Pinoy singer-songwriter, with that bright talent of his, laid bare his mature and well-conceived 2018 debut album, “Grandma.” Naturally, expectations were high for the follow-up album but for him, that just wasn’t a problem.
“Pangalan” opens with the ominous sounding “Korporasyon.” It’s as if Salonga is putting a soundtrack to the, er, unique nature of our current situation. But then all tension is released with the onset of industrial-sized beats and the atmospheric synth of this instrumental mood-setter.
And then we go down to the main business of songs, starting with electrified “Dambuhala.” This early, Salonga’s predisposition towards psychedelia, rock and pop is apparent. Actually, at this phase in his musical evolution, the 20-year old musician seems to be distilling an amalgam of influences. From John Lennon-styled psychedelia and a bit of ‘70s prog rock, to early ‘80s synth pop.
For example, the synth hues and guitar-driven touches of “Lamang Lupa” remind of “Planet Earth”-era Duran Duran. Likewise, “Mga Katulad Mo” is a nod to ‘80s synth pop, or what retro new wave enthusiasts today call synth wave.
The sonic montage “Delubyo” is a straight-up reference to Lennon a’la “Revolution 9.”
Emulation aside, Unique is all about songwriting. And his grasp of strong melodies, like the one he displayed in the catchy and playful sounding “Bukod-Tangi,” is his real strength. Check out the way the song shifted when he reaches the part where he sings; “Oh, ang pagkakakilanlan/ Unti-unting naglaho/ Muli pa ba akong maguguho?” It is a prodigious stroke that belies his age. And the fact that he took a melancholy theme of isolation and wrapped it with a shiny sounding song says a lot about him as a songwriter.
For those experiencing social distancing blues, the hypnotic quality of “Pahinga,” with its theme of acceptance, could be a song to reflect on. Closing song “Huwag Ka Sanang Magagalit,” with those (major key) psychedelic pop melodies, thick and tasty synths, and Unique’s crystal clear falsetto, is a thing of beauty. Quite appropriate too as he croons ‘Nagmamadali sa ‘king pag-uwi /Hanggang sa muli, paalam.”
Unique’s “Pangalan” is his through and through, as he does the producing, arranging and recording of all eight tracks, as well as vocals, guitars and synths. Putting a sense of space and depth between the sounds is Emil Dela Rosa who mixed and mastered the album and played bass, with additional recording credits from Ghabriel Gorayeb (Ghabby Gee) who also played drums. Divino Dayacap completes the band lineup on piano and percs.
With the current “lockdown” not letting up anytime soon, you’re not going anywhere. So we suggest you put those headphones or earbuds on and dig into what sounds Unique.