So the new Rivermaya has released a new EP. After the Rico Blanco fiasco, and the open auditions for a new singer, Rivermaya, now backed with Jayson Fernandez as the new lead singer, has come up with another record, fresh off the heels of last year’s Bagong Liwanag. Of course, Bagong Liwanag was an LP, and if one considers that Isang Ugat, Isang Dugo was a collection of covers rather than an album, Rivermaya hasn’t released a bona fide, full-length album since 2003’s (!!!) Between the Stars and the Waves. That said, Buhay definitely an important release for the band, as it establishes its new identity post-Blanco.
So how does it measure up? The band retains a lot of the musical styling of Between…, but many songs in the album also show a lot in common sonically with the Bagong Liwanag LP. Many of the songs exhibit the same simple setup that defined that release, simple, no-nonsense pop-rock. Songs like Nice To, Maskara, Pure would fit right in with that LP, barring the non-acoustic setup, of course. At the same time, the more trippy, ambient sound that dominated Between… is readily apparent in cuts such as All for You, Alone, and I Want You, though not as haunting as the last time out. Rivermaya, as a band, is at a crossroads, it is fairly fitting that the band would look to its roots to find the destination that has yet to be determined.
Aside from the aforementioned tracks, there are also some tracks that are of note. Obviously Sugal ng Kapalaran deserves mention as the album’s first single. Oddly enough, it doesn’t really exemplify the album in any way. In fact, it stands out in the bad way as the most abrasive song in an album full of dreamy pop-rock. Still, it does have company in the abrasion factor. The song Piping Tom sometimes reminds me more of Radioactive Sago Project than of Rivermaya, with a message that goes completely against the modus operandi of this blog (I’ll leave you people to listen and find out for yourselves). It’s sad that there is practically no chance it’s going to be released as a single, due to its profanity and general quirkiness.
Another thing of note is the fact that the new singer factor is not particularly jarring. Although there is nothing particular that makes Jayson stand out as of yet, he does not detract much from the music. As far as drop-off is concerned, the jury is still out, as this album doesn’t have any particular vocal track that separates good singers from the greats. It is something to pay attention to in future releases, though.
Also apparent is the fact that the band has no qualms in referencing the turmoil it has endured in its songs. After all that the band has gone through recently, there was virtually no way it wouldn’t However, it is not a tone of depression or one of angst. Rather, ‘Maya opts to take a more positive look at the past, and looks forward at what is to come. The songs All for You and Nice To both have lyrics that one could view as love songs, but they can also be taken as a metaphor for the band itself, as the band moves on from a difficult time and battles on into an unknown path.
In summary the album is a great “comeback” for a band that has endured its share of punches in the recent past. In a Philippine music scene full of EMO bands and self-deprecating love songs, the album is an uplifting breath of fresh air. In a sense, this is the anti-EMO album. The band would have every reason to bitch about recent events, much moreso than other select bands, but they continue to create uplifting songs, without giving in to the bad vibes, but also not without growing and learning from the experience.