One of the hardest things about making a positive dent in today’s music scene is standing out from the crowd. Bands are dime a dozen these days and being unique is a valued commodity, for both the band and the manager-label contingent. Sometimes it’s the sound, or the lyrics, or technical ability, having something unique about the band can go a long way towards catching few peepers. Being different, therefore, isn’t a bad proposition. Hopefully, the band is different in a good way, and not in the ear-piercingly awful kind of way, though.
That said, one of the more unique bands in the Philippines is Paramita, a three-piece band composed of Ria Bautista, Marco De Leon, and Alsey Cortez. Their unique attribute is actually very obvious- their singer also plays the drums, which is pretty impressive in retrospect. Aside from the much-spoken-of drumming vocalist, an interesting visual sight in itself, the band’s first album also played music that was intriguing, to say the least. Listening to cuts like Takipsilim and Panaginip Lang from their debut album Tala showed their different sound: folksy, yet still pop-influenced. Their songs also exhibited a grand, majestic feel, heard in tracks like Hiling and Tala, most probably their biggest singles to date. Not dissimilar to PNBMD-era Imago, the album had its share of fans for its distinctiveness.
Now, the band has released their follow-up, the eponymous Paramita. Listening to the album, one can see how that the band has grown since the change in guitarist, as well as true whatever they have experienced in between Tala and this album. The folk part of their music is less pronounced, and there is a bit more variety to the songs in this LP. One of the observations made by Dodobird (writer of a music blog that has since been deleted) was that Tala had a shortage of single-type cuts in the album. This one has no such deficit, with songs like Lisan, Recurrence, and Sa Piling Niya all having the musical sensibilities that are fit for the music video treatement. Musically, this album is a different beast from Tala, with songs having more immediate appeal than its predecessor.
The opening track, Sa Piling Niya, has that pop-rock sound that can cause last song syndrome. Very catchy, and, as I mentioned, very single-worthy. The next song, Panganib, on the other hand, shows that covering Sampaguita might have had long-lasting effects on the band. The song is not as fast paced or danceable as a Sampaguita song, though. In fact, it is probably the most slow and deliberate cut on the album. But as far as moxy and delivery, a heavier, punkish swagger replaces the more storyteller/lover vibe that usually permeates from Paramita songs.
That storyteller vibe is back in full effect in the next track, though. As She Sleeps, musically, is similar to A Dreamer’s Lullaby or Porcelain Sunrise from Tala, a slow song that isn’t soul-crushingly corny. Listeners are then exposed to a large contrast, as the song is immediately followed by not-all-that-slow Decadence. The most fast-paced song in the album- by a mile – we see Ria experimenting with the punk-pop-rock sound a bit more. It doesn’t hurt that the inclusion of trumpets could remind one of Sunflower Day Camp, as the song has many elements of that genre of music.
Post-Decadence, the band settles down to the music we more often associate with the band. Recurrence, Of Lakes and Sirens, and Tadhana are all heavy, emotional (but not EMO), love songs, although none of them have the gravity of Tala (the single), which is a shame. More fast paced fare follows, with Lisan, A Little Less Time, and Goodbye, Goodnight evoking songs like Hiling and Carousel. Afterwards, rough (and I do mean rough) versions of Lisan, Recurrence, Of Lakes and Sirens, and A Little Less Time are included. I question their placement of the drafts, though. I thought they should have placed the instrumental ending track Roboto ahead of the drafts, as the four rough mixes are more like Hidden Track/Bonus fare rather than actual parts of the album. But that may just be me.
In the end, listening to the album actually reminded me of the transformation Imago took in between Probably Not But Most Definitely and Take 2. Gone are the folk elements of Tala, and replacing them are more grungy guitars and a heavier overall sound, kind of like what happened with Imago’s music in those two albums. I do doubt that Paramita goes cute-pop in their next album, though. The album is definitely not bad, but it is a bit offsetting in the beginning, as the first half of the album can be confusing to the listener with its randomness. Nevertheless, it’s a fine album, and it should be one of the better releases this year. As for the uniqueness factor, the folk sound may have been discarded, but the polish of the album can go a long way in redeeming that. After all, being plain good is still better than being a different shade of mediocre, or worse yet, a different shade of bad.