“A Different Playground” by Karylle (2015)

2015 is proving to be a fruitful year for my favourite Filipino musicians. June Marieezy surprised her fans with a Valentine’s Day EP Throw Away Love Songs, Bamboo Mañalac returned to his rock roots with Bless This Mess. B.P. Valenzuela came out with The Neon Hour and Sam Concepcion released 1Sang Daan.

Also came are more of the bands. From Yolanda Moon’s rocker slash ethereal sound in their debut single Leaving Soon to Jensen and the Flip’s debut album Honeymoon, which seeped of love and throwback vibes.

But excitement-wise, nothing came even close to when my favourite OPM singer Karylle released her sixth album A Different Playground (or #ADifferentPlayground for all the fans on Twitter), fizzing of positive energy, sunflowers, horns and soul.

Where her previous album K went for a more extroverted and bubbly direction, A Different Playground is faithful with its title, delving deeper in a darker route and manipulating pop and jazz elements to colour the world through Karylle’s eyes. Sunflowers, Half A Million and final track Tenderly do this best, using sultry and sensual elements reminiscent to Desert Drama and even Zsa Zsa Padilla track Nag-iisa. It’s the trumpet sound that easily made it my (current) favourite track.

But songs like Baliktanaw and carrier single Can’t Shut Up brightens the album back up, reminding listeners of Karylle’s penchant for dabbling with multiple genres at once and putting them all in one record.

Other than Tenderly, I’ve got to commend the similes and wordplay in Sunny Daze. Maybe the Barbra Streisand reference was on purpose? Because it really worked here. The simplicity in the lyrics and the guitar is very Karylle: songs about the happy little things in life that manage to stamp themselves on the heart.

I was only disappointed that the album contained eight songs, less than ten like her previous EP. I’m hoping album number seven has the standard ten to twelve tracks!

Recommended tracks: Tenderly, Sunny Daze and Paano Ko Tuturuan ang Puso

Download now!

Web Map:

Twitter: @anakarylle

Instagram: @anakarylle

iTunes: A Different Playground

A Different Playground (Physical):

– Astro Virramall, Greenhills
– Astro SM Megamall
– Astro Robinsons Ermita
– Astro SM Mall of Asia
– Astro SM Aura
– Astro Glorietta, Makati
– Astro Greenbelt, Makati
– Astro Podium
– Astro SM Fairview
– Astro Fairview Terraces
– Astro The Block, SM North Edsa
– Astro Trinoma
– SM North Edsa Record Bar
– SM Megamall Record Bar
– SM Fairview Record Bar
– SM Makati Record Bar
– SM Mall of Asia Record Bar
– SM Cubao Record Bar
– Landmark Dept Store, Makati
– Landmark Dept. Store, Trinoma

– Troy (Karylle’s #1 London fan)

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“30 Days Dry” by Robert Eric Shoemaker (2015)

Being an artist myself, I guess I’ll always be partial towards art therapy. I find the process of writing my thoughts down, throwing it all on music and even scribbling my frustrations down on sketchbooks until they become little pieces of art very therapeutic and a more effective release of negative energy. Those inclinations were what pushed me to agree editing “30 Days Dry”, a poetry book by Chicago-based poet and playwright Eric Shoemaker.

“30 Days Dry” is the first entry to Thought Collection Publishing’s 30 Days… Challenge, a project encouraging literary artists to write about a specific topic or story in a frame of thirty consecutive days (I’ll post the link to it below so you can join!). Shoemaker’s entry focuses on the struggles of addiction and seizing the light of sobriety through “self-betterment and de-contamination of the body and mind”.

Documented with piercing accuracy, the entire healing process is laid out bare through poetry form, making it easier for the reader to empathise with stories like what goes on after a guilty relapse, his inebriated mind making him see a “wide-hipped monster savoring his claws at me-“. After going through the last brushes with intoxication, he begins to pick up the pieces, later questioning his ethics through subtle dark humour, calling himself that “hypocrite on the other side of the mirror”. The language throughout the journey is rigid and somewhat offbeat, which mirrors what’s going on within the mind perfectly.

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What Shoemaker doesn’t say through language, he expresses through the structure and overt physicality of his poetry, from the lines repeated over and over again to the point of imbalance (“Jack is a good boy./Round and round”), sprinkling short and blunt poems in between longer ones to the flirtatious way he utilises punctuation (or lack thereof, in some cases), like the sole question mark lingering in the final line of “Day seventeen” like a fish hook.

All of this illuminates the character’s growing humanity while exercising the writer’s finesse creative writing. Shoemaker squeezes the juice out his thirty days, ridding himself of the negative energies that consume him until he is ready to challenge the world around him, gaining not only a firmer grip on the ground on which he stands, but on his identity. This is most evident in my personal favourite “Day nineteen (the artistic balance of work and art)”, where the writer uses bare and naked language to question the structure of society and its perspective of art, where it stands and why we should give it the time that we could be using for overtime shifts, eventually leading up to the final line “Why i who has the luxury to make this decision?”

The final poem ends in a positive note by saying “I can”, a phrase that can might as well be a useful mantra chanted every morning before stepping out of your front door. It leaves the reader relieved and satisfied to know that although there isn’t any concrete certainty that the narrator will always remain sober, but thanks to the epiphanies and revelations that the narrator has come across with through those thirty days, they are assured that the poet has gained a stronger grip on the ground, and if ever another relapse happens, the bouncing back will be quicker.

“30 Days Dry” also features the gritty and fantastical artwork by Susanne Wawra, whose emotive work helps visualise those that cannot be through words; the crayon-like effect gives out an impression of a child’s work, but the actual images themselves combined with that evokes a fittingly haunting vibe.

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Web Map:

30 Days Dry:

Print: 30 Days Dry

Kindle: 30 Days Dry

Magzter: 30 Days Dry

Eric Shoemaker:

Personal website: reshoemaker.com

Facebook: Robert Eric Shoemaker

Susanne Warwa:

Personal website: susanwawra.com

Facebook: Susanne Warwa

30 Days… Challenge Contact Information:

Webzine page: 30 Days… Challenge

Kat Lahr (Creative Director): anthologies@thoughtcollection.org

My Top 5 Haley Reinhart Songs

Haley Reinhart will always remind me of the kind of summer where golden sunlight blasts through closed eyelids, your psyche drenched in a beer buzz and everything is fun and carefree. Her singing voice is both creamy and meaty at will, it can twist and turn on itself and she’s got the songwriting talent to go with it, as she is credited as the songwriter for most of the songs that she’s known for. Awesome!

I believe to this day that her music and throwback style is the catalyst that pushed me into believing that I am not from this generation.

So to commemorate her rendition of “Creep” alongside the viral jazz band Postmodern Jukebox reaching five million views as well as her reaching number #1 on the UK iTunes Jazz Charts, I will show you my top five Reinhart tunes that you need if you want a playlist that’s as sweet as honey.

5. Sweet Something

This 1920s-style unreleased song didn’t make the official cut of her 2012 album “Listen Up!” but it certainly made its way to eager fans’ hands. Short and sweet, there were rumours of this meant to be an opener for her second album, which I hope still will come to fruition in her new EP coming soon.

4. My Cake

It’s one of those songs that you just know is a Haley Reinhart original. A female-empowering song that can fit right either in big stadium concerts of intimate gigs for that slinky show number. My favourite version of this song is when Haley improvises, especially with equally talented musicians such as Casey Abrams, Mark Ballas and Dylan Chamber. Hoping this song will be on the new EP, too!

3. Free

The song that got me reeled in Reinhart for good. Prior to this, I had only heard of her take on “I (Who Have Nothing)” during her run on American Idol, and from catching up on then new episodes of 90210, I stumbled upon her once again, this time interacting with Jessica Lowndes aka Adrianna Tate-Duncan. The music video to this was too cool, as well. The ’50s vibes are true and alive there!

2. Creep (Radiohead original)

If you could check my iPhone’s most played songs, this song will definitely be one of the top ten. I wasn’t a big fan of Radiohead and I will admit I’m still not, but this song got me checking them out, what with the peculiar storyline and all that. My favourite part is the final chorus: sublime.

1. Follow Me (I’m Right Behind You)

A lazy listener can see this as a fun and trippy song but to those who will encrypt the words in between the psychedelic sound it boasts, it’s actually a treasure trove of lyrical poetry that can leave a mark on you or make a very good Facebook status, and that makes a great song for me. For those who are caught in a confusion game of signs and subtle hints, this is for you.

Congrats to you Ms Haley! Thank you for always being my summer singer!

– Troy

Featured image above originally from the LA Times website.

“Leaving Soon” by Yolanda Moon

Another gem by this Manila duo. The song captures both the heartache lingering from a crumbled romance and the heat and the summer vibes of the Philippines, elements which I long for since I returned to London.

Yolanda Moon shows here their musical consistency through the melancholic lyrics and upbeat yet chill tunes, which is a winner for me. A bit faster than my other favourite Smlltlk, but both complement each other.

Also, the two actors in this video are phenomenal. How I crush on Clyde Rodriguez.

I can only dream about a life of being a Manila hipster, living the carefree and artistic life, soaking up all the 24/7 sun and posting #OOTD posts on Instagram with my also very cool friends.

Thank you, Yolanda Moon! You can expect me to be buying your upcoming EP!

Web Map:

Twitter – @YolandaMoonSays

Facebook – Yolanda Moon Music

YouTube – Yolanda Moon

– Troy

Foodtrips: Manila Bound

Once upon a time, I didn’t like eating. I grew up in Manila not having double rice and indulging myself in street foods (except BBQ and hotdogs!), and that’s why I grew up in a white sando and very thin. Like tooth-pick thin.

That’s a picture of six year old me all ft. my sisters Ate Aiya and Ate Michelle back in the late 80s.

That’s also why it was a great experience flying back home last month and deciding to eat our entire refrigerator and asking my sisters for bituka ng baboy and Jollibee. I remember asking for kanin and ulam at around 2:30pm, exactly the minute I felt cured of my unfortunate fever and cold. Yaya extraodinaire Ate Mildred was shocked at how much my plate was able to carry!

Where did Troyski na mahina kumain go? I think I ate him when I decided to be a part-time food blogger!

PS. One thing that did not change about me apparently was my spacey-ness and child-like laugh. Phew!

That reminds me of the time my friends and I ate in Chop Chop in Shepherd’s Bush and while everyone gave up with their big plate, I was still chowing down on my roast duck with egg fried rice!

Of course, I had my staples Jollibee, McDonald’s, Shakey’s and Tokyo Tokyo, famous names I grew up with in Manila, but I discovered so many more places upon my return that I just make me want to come back quicker!

Rancho Lorenzo

One of the more grown-up get togethers with my family, Rancho Lorenzo became our first stop to have a few buckets of San Mig Light and started the kwentuhan.

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I specifically love the native Las Piñas City feel here. The wind was just right and we were close to familiar landmarks that made me feel safer.

Food-wise, I had the salmon with lemon and sweet corn which could have been more enjoyable without the bones or maybe that’s just me used to eating salmon without the bones. Then we had I think four buckets of San Miguel Lights and Red Horse beers and more pork sisig which lasted just as long as we laughed, which felt like hours.

Hen Lin

Every Filipino knows Hen Lin! I had vivid memories of eating pork dumplings with my mom in Robinson’s Imus, a tradition that continued when we frequented Festival Mall before heading to my sister’s shop Ubehalaiya, the only difference being I developed a love for chili and calamansi and I had a tendency to order more than three orders of siomai, much to the glee of the Hen Lin assistants, and to the surprise of my mom.

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YES, that was all mine!!! No shame there, especially because I was the one who paid, anyway! Happy eating!

Serenitea

Thank you Serenitea for introducing me to wintermelon milk tea aka my future wife!

After going around Quezon City with my sister and mom we stopped by the nearest Serenitea branch and I was then introduced to my future wife: wintermelon milk tea. If you want to see just how ecstatic I got after the very first sip, scroll down to the photo below.

My second trip back to the same branch happened because I had heard good stuff about their Yakult tea, a drink which up to that point in my life I had sworn to avoid since my sister told me scary but false stories about the drink (I will not write it down here to avoid any problems with their company). Luckily, my reluctance towards the drink had been dissolved and has been turned back to love as I tried their Green Apple Yakult Tea, which was just as great as the Wintermelon!

Tip: Make sure to control your excitement and always shake the drink beforehand. You don’t want to spend the first half of the drink sipping one half Yakult and the bottom half green apple juice.

Infinitea

Green Apple Fruit Tea, Mango Fruit Tea and Lychee Fruit Tea

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I swear there must be something unhealthy about drinking fruit tea more than twice in a week, but I didn’t care since Infinitea exists. If I went to Serenitea for milk and Yakult tea, I went to Infinitea for some good old fashioned fruit tea.

I repeatedly ordered the Mango, the Green Apple and Lychee flavours as they were all so good and refreshing, especially after our Pansol roadtrip which I will write about sometime soon. Thank you Ate Michelle for buying me some when I had no extra cash!

Amber Pichi Pichi

Before visiting Imus, Cavite for the last time before flying back home the next day, we bought some food from the Amber branch in Bacoor. My sister suggested it on the way and I vaguely remember watching a YouTube video of Karylle and Coco Quizon blogging about the brand, so I was more game into trying them out.

Apart from the heavenly cheese pichi pichi (not a huge fan of coconut), I also remember the very tasty pancit canton, my all time favourite type of noodle dish. The very, very juicy pork bbq and insanely masarap na suka as sawsawan made the entire experience worth remembering, and worth coming back to.

Daddy’s Toasted Siopao

I had my first toasted siopao as a thank you gift from my best friend Jelyn’s sister Ate Camille when I dropped off her pasalubongs for her family there in Manila. I actually thought the siopao was to be brought back to London, hence why I didn’t say thank you. Sorry! Thank you so much!

Toasted siopao is basically what it’s called: a small siopao toasted so it can be eaten sort of like a small pandesal with palaman, either chicken or pork.

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It makes as a good savoury snack during the afternoon, especially for me as I am a self-certified ulam boy.

Route196

During Karylle’s pre-Valentine’s Day gig there in Route196 (you can tell how much of a fanboy I am!), my sister treated my mom and I with their pork sisig and iced tea. I will always remember their pork sisig for the fact that it had egg in it, which made me eat it quickly because the egg was going to get solid if I didn’t mix it, which I found weird. Did pork sisig always have egg in it or have I always been spacey throughout my life?

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See you again soon, Philippines!

– Troy

#nowplaying Bands! Groups!

I’ve been immersing myself in music the past couple of months since the Christmas season, and I’d thought to share with you guys just where my money went thanks to iTunes.

Here’s a load down of the albums currently on top of my Most Played list on my iPhone. Okay, I never really look at that feature on my iPhone so I’m not sure but I’m assuming it is. Happy listening!

Hale – Hale (2006)

Always been playing eveHaler since 2006, always been there during my problematic high school days three years later, and always around during my walks to and from work. Hale’s lyrics are so deep and relatable they can transport you to a college campus around Manila, letting you relive the pain the lead vocals Champ Lui Pio is feeling at that very moment.

Their second album “Twilight” deserves the same level of praise, as well. I’ve got my dad and his incessant playing of “Blue Sky” to thank for getting me into this band.

Songs to watch out for: “Take No” for its really catchy, emotional roller coaster hook, one of its singles “The Day You Said Goodnight” and “Underneath The Waves“. Not included in the album but in need of cheering is their other single “Toll Gate“; its storyline holds a very, very special place in my heart, a time when being young was all I had.

The Corrs – Talk on Corners (1997)

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I’ve got my mom to thank for instilling The Corrs in my young, impressionable mind. I will always credit them for my being a poet, what with their simply yet really clever lyrics, melting into double entendres, playing with pronunciations and making me a hopeless romantic at age five.

All throughout my life, I grew up believing that I’ve been in the same field where they filmed their “What Can I Do (To Make You Love Me)” music video because I watched it over and over again it must have been misplaced in my memory. I’m the only person who can also dance to “Runaway”, one of their famous songs not included in this album.

Songs to watch out for: “So Young” for the ultimate road trip song, “No Good for Me” and “Love Gives Love Takes” are the two songs that painted my childhood a poetry rainbow.

One Direction – FOUR (2014)

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I read an article somewhere last year that One Direction’s Liam Payne believes their fourth studio album will not only keep their female fans satisfied, but can also garner some attention from male listeners. Fast forward to now, and their more alternative rock-pop sound has effectively won me and my iPhone over. Well, you were right, Mr Payne.

Take away the mass merchandising and the screaming fans, the album has strong weapons under its sleeve to make it a solid record on its own. The lyrical depth, the raspy voices matched with the retro sound that they’ve slipped perfectly in like a glove. For cynics out there, I don’t suggest you be fooled by their first single.

Songs to watch out for: “No Control” for the Louis solo, “Fool’s Gold” and personal favourite “Stockholm Syndrome” for the 80s vibes.

Spice Girls – Spice (1996)

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I’ve got my sisters to thank for getting me into Spicemania, from dancing to “Who Do You Think You Are” up to remembering every single scene of their movie (“Sunday drivers! It’s only Saturday!”). I was the songs’ sense of optimism that made them stay in my playlist until now. Perfect for dark, rainy mornings to college and when it’s so nice and sunny but you have to go to work.

I also remember defending the Spice Girls as one of the best bands of the 90s when me and my friends were talking about it back when we were around eight years old and I still believe in what I said. Sorry, Backstreet Boys.

Songs to watch out for: “Naked“, “Say You’ll Be There” and my all time favourite “2 Become 1“, the single version, by the way, but I really, really like the version from their 2007-08 reunion tour.

And by the way, it was Posh Spice who captivated me the most, if you were wondering.

Jaspects – Broadcasting the Definition (2006)

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Blending together the musical genres that are jazz and hip-hop, one of the ambitions of this band is to combine these two genres, automatically creating a bridge between those two groups of listeners. I’m not fully familiar with this band, with my our mutual friend being the ever so elegant and fun Janelle Monae. Thank you!

One of those outcomes of my lazy scrolling around iTunes after payday, I love how clean the trumpet sounds but it still sounds quite vintage.

Songs to watch out for: “Next Stop, MLK” (the intro though!), “Is She…? (feat. DJ)”, “Peachtree Blues (feat. Janelle Monae)” for the ultimate throwback feel and “Throw Yo J’s Up (feat. Iyana)” because that beat, man. I will certainly be looking more of their work soon!

The Pernice Brothers – Overcome by Happiness (1998)

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Another band hailing from the 90s, The Pernice Brothers and I crossed paths in 2012 when my favourite Twitter person @JoshRadnor posted their titular song as his daily Song of the Day tweet, and from then on, their calm if not melancholic music has found its permanent home in my life.

Intense feels during my A-Level days, writing introspective poetry and Christmas ’12 with friends, the last year we were all irresponsible and living only for fun.

Songs to watch out for: “Overcome by Happiness“, “Chicken Wire“, “Wherein Obscurely” and “Ferris Wheel“. Pure joy, pure sadness. A poet’s dream come true.

How about you? What’s currently on your playlist?

– Troy

“No Water, No Moon” by Bamboo (2011)

Sa buhay na ito,

tayo’y manatili,

huminga ng malalim, huminga ng malalim.

There’s only so far two musicians whose work has managed to spiritually and emotionally move me away from the ground and into oblivion: June Marieezy and Bamboo.

Before fully diving into his musical world, I’ve only really heard Bamboo sporadically through countless replays of famous songs like “Hallelujah”, “Hinahanap Kita” and “Elesi” from his hit ’90s and ’00s bands Bamboo and Rivermaya. These were the songs my sister and my dad loved whilst I paid half a mind to.

That all changed in 2013, two years after Bamboo released his first solo album poetically named “No Water, No Moon”.

I’ve heard from some friends who loved Bamboo back in his banda days that they were quite surprised and disappointed when they first heard his different sound, they thought his solo career would have the same rocker and astigin tone. I’ve taken the time to listen to both, and I guess it’s just up to you whether you can appreciate the two different sounds and accept that Bamboo is an ever growing and evolving figure, not afraid to go a completely different direction (Very much like his star sign Aries, if I may add).

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There’s something powerful, breaking and cathartic in all of these songs, whether listened to in one go or one track now, the other later. They’re refreshing in contrast to the less emotional, bouncier songs that there are today, and we as listeners are allowed to delve in the deepest corners of ourselves and feel something that the singer does: vulnerability.

Songs like “Down The Line” and “All Hail the Fool” all drip with volatile emotion, pent up feelings so raw and aching to escape that even after a year of being listened to, can still hit me in the heart.

This album came to my life in the most perfect time, to aid a time in my young life that needed aiding, a time of changing phases, where bravery and a stronger sense of hearing of the gut instincts was needed. These songs helped me bear the pain of growing from this lazy kid without responsibilities into this kid (haha) with priorities, letting go of what’s hurt him and enjoying the void that those thorns left behind.

Tracks to listen for:

In This Life:

YouTube link above is all the evidence I need for you. Every time that I hear that song, chills and tears, man. That song came to my life in the perfect time and it still serves as a daily reminder to just breathe, a task so important and easy, a cleansing task that can get us through a lot, but so easily forgotten.

Everything will be okay in the end.

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The 2013 Bamboo still values light, peace and love, just in a different genre.

Just Go:

One of those songs perfect for the city dwelling guy, walking out of his workplace after his fifth eight hour shift when he was just contracted three days. Yup, I’m describing myself. November was one hell of a month.

Web Map:

Support OPM! Download the album by clicking these links. #nowplaying

iTunes: No Water, No Moon

Amazon: No Water, No Moon

PS. Thank you for following me back on Twitter Bamboo! Hope my tweets about my comically awkward life amuse you.

– Troy