“We only get to appreciate light in darkness. The light that guides, that never gives up, never fails, and the light that will lead us to the right place.” So said The Juans about the theme of their new record titled “Liwanag.” The new album marks a new beginning of sorts for The Juans’ Carl Guevarra, Japs Mendoza, Chael Adriano, RJ Cruz and Joshua Coronel. For one, the songwriting input is evenly distributed. On previous outings, lead singers Carl Guevarra and Japs Mendoza have the bulk of songwriting, this time, bassist Chael Adriano and guitarist RJ Cruz are contributing significantly to the songwriting.
And the resulting sound is adventurous – The Juans pushing outside their sonic comfort zones with the danceable “Pangalan” and the Lany-inspired electropop of “Pinakahihintay.”
Japs Mendoza even tries out rap on the trap beat inflected “Kahon.” And there’s more of that dance-y sound on pop flavored “Still Standing” (a collaboration song between Guevarra, Adriano and RJ Cruz) even as new original “Teka Muna” takes them onward and they meld modern pop with a showtunes-y vibe.
Which is to say that The Juans have definitely come a long way sonically since their “Atin Ang Mundo” debut of 2015.
Thematically, “Liwanag” is as tight as can be. Themes about life, love and relations are de riguer of course, but the details should be noted. The anthemic-sounding title track, written by Japs Mendoza, is a song about doubt as much as it’s about hope.
The Chael Adriano written and sung “Salamin” had their fandom (Juanistas) in tears when the band premiered the tracks at a listening party recently. At one point during the cinema premiere of the lyric videos of songs from the album, one group of friends sitting in front of the theatre was visibly affected. “I’m in tears because I’m affected by the lyrics of “Salamin,” said a young lady fan. “I can relate to the message of the importance of loving the one in front of the mirror,” she said. Similarly a tear-jerker is the poignant and yearning piano ballad called “Kuya.” Written by Carl Guievarra, the song is a contrast to previous songs and underscore the themes of hope and self-doubt that The Juans have been trying to put across all over “LIWANAG.” Said track is a snapshot of the singer at his lowest (perhaps during the pandemic) and yet despite, still yearns for hope that there will be better days.
Which is to say that the songs in “Liwanag” is a record of the members’ experiences set to music.
On their manifesto for the album, The Juans said: “Lahat tayo kailangan ng liwanag; Liwanag na gumagagabay, Liwanag na nagbibigay buhay; Ang liwanag na nagpapalinaw sa mga bagay na hindi natin maintidihan at Liwanag na tutunaw sa mga kasinungalingan niyayakap natin sa kadiliman.”
A new ace rap group enters the scene. Flow Minister is the rap quartet that features Because, Ace Cirera, LarkMester and FTD. The group makes their debut with the tuneful and grooving rap love song titled “Paninap.”
As expected, these wordsmiths are going to take turns on the mic and what a smooth and flowing sound they make. “Paninap” is just the first single from a forthcoming album from BJ Castillano (Because), Ace Cirera (Angelo Cirera Manarpiis), Nino Andrade (FTD) and Lester Alcantara (LarkMester).
Expect good things from Flow Minister.