AUDIO JUNKIE: Maris Racal’s unwanted attention, Barbie Almalbis returns, Katrina Velarde gets an upgrade

Published June 26, 2021, 11:32 AM

by Punch Liwanag

These ladies are acing it.

Maris Racal is getting a lot of attention for the wrong reasons. Sure, it’s juicy to ask the 23-year-old Racal how things are going with her and her current beau. Especially when it’s Rico Blanco, who is 25 years her junior. Not that it matters (because they’re both single for one). But you know how it is, the curious just want to know. It is, however, unfair for Racal. Who instead should be getting said attention for her catchy new single titled “Ate Sandali.”

This upbeat pop rocker is just the right kind of girly bop that makes your head bob. Doesn’t matter if you can or can’t relate to the theme of it—it’s not life-changing and not senseless either—the important thing is that when “Ate Sandali” starts playing, it has enough zing to hold a listener’s attention. A cracking beat, a catchy chorus and that lyrical hook that goes “kung ayaw ka niyang pusuan, wag mo nang subukan.” That’s sound relationtionship advice, if you ask me.  

Anyway, Maris Racal seems like the passionate type. In an interview, she shared that she’s “been writing lyrics and songs since her early teens,” and it’s only now that she’s getting the confidence to put herself out there. It does help that she’s getting insights from a real ace. But even Maris admits that “gets unnerving at times” given Blanco’s experience. But all’s well apparently as her beau is “surprisingly humble” and she’s building her confidence around him when it comes to showing the latter her own tunes.

Barbie Almabis was once the darling of Alternative pop rock in the early aughts and with good reason. Besides looking the part, Almalbis is a solid songwriter who wrote most of her namesake band’s material and also during her eventual solo career. This songsmith has been operating under the radar these past few years as she balances a domestic life with her career. There’s the occasional release of course, But with the release of a new single titled “Silaw,” we might be seeing more of Barbie Almalbis quite soon.

This sparse, melodic tune finds Barbie singing airily over a lone, arpeggiated guitar that sounds electronic and like rhythmic raindrops at the same time. Almalbis ruminates on “the feeling of drowning in (your) troubles and the depths of hopelessness.” And yet the effect of Barbie’s song is that of a light beam cutting through shadowy corners.  Hence the beautiful word “Silaw.”

A collaboration between Almalbis and her husband Martin Honasan, “Silaw” is a prelude to an upcoming album called “Scenes From Inside.”

Katrina Velarde sounds like she got a sonic upgrade on her new single titled “Sa Panaginip.” Actually, Katrina, once known as the “suklay-diva,” did level up for her new single. She hits a good groove on this R&B inflected number whose songwriting credits is a dynamite combination that includes Thyro Alfaro, Ivan Lee Espinoza and a music production that boasts Marvin Querido and American drummer and pop jazz luminary Mike Shapiro.

Katrina sounds electric as she sings Thyro’s lyrics. And while she reins in that powerful voice to stay in line to emphasize the melodic hooks, the occasional soaring, diva-esque vocal styling can still be heard. But rather than overpower, those formidable pipes are there to enhance. We like this new Katrina—singing beautiful Tagalog lyrics over classy grooves courtesy of her new husband and producer Mike Shapiro. We smell a winning combo here. 

 
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