There’s something intrinsically fulfilling about listening to an album in its entirety. Much like reading a book cover-to-cover, it allows you to get to know the characters involved and discover the story behind them. There is a reason songs in an album are arranged in a particular order, and listening to them in the prescribed sequence is akin to reading a book one chapter at a time.
So this is how we choose to listen to Favorite, Ang Bandang Shirley’s latest offering: track after track, while leafing through the understated album inlay with nary a thing to worry about on a quiet evening.
“Maningning” breaks the silence and sets the right mood, almost sending us to a dream-like trance with only the sound of soothing keyboard and guitar tracks to pull us away from oblivion. And just when we think I just slipped into an unconscious state, “Umaapaw” rouses us and we mumble, “not bad, not bad at all.”
The truth is, that track alone was enough to make us wonder if this could be the band’s best album yet.
And it’s not due to some testosterone-filled guitar riff, heavy base line or pounding drum solo, characteristics you don't necessarily look for in a Shirley record. The beauty of Ang Bandang Shirley’s music lies in its inspired and poignant storytelling and fluid melodies. These are the types of songs that would never overwhelm even if you turn up the volume to high. Nobody upstages anyone; it’s as if each band member makes a conscious effort to put calculated portions of their input to make sure everything’s feels and sounds just right. Shirley has always been easy on the ears, but the band knows when to cut deeply into the heart.
This is not to say that Shirley’s songs are underwhelming; rather, it’s quite the opposite, and this album is proof if there ever was one. From “Umaapaw,” the mood goes uptempo and each song delivers a deliberate attempt to please the listener and you find yourself game for the moment and stay curious even as the album winds down towards the last few tracks.
“Karamay” sustains the excitement that “Umaapaw” stirs and “Makahiya” keeps those happy-joy-joy feelings in check with a dash of melancholy. Mahawakan ko sana/ ang pag-ibig ko sayo, it says over and over, stirring a slightly depressing case of last song syndrome.
“Alam Mo Ba” is the sort of song even mainstream listeners would gravitate to. It is one of the catchiest track in the album. Its effect is similar to “Nakauwi Na,” a track from the band’s second album, “Tama Na Ang Drama”—both songs make you want to sing at the top of your lungs and dance at the same time.
“Siberia,” contrary to its title, is a sunny ode to love. It’s a song that celebrates that warm fuzzy feeling you usually feel while frolicking in the sun/meadow/carnival with your significant other. “Maginhawa” is likewise heartwarming and as engaging.
The album seems to wind down to take on a different character with “Relihiyoso.” You wonder if it's their way of saying goodbye. You also remember female vocalist Selena Salang-Davis’ announcement that she will be taking an indefinite hiatus from the band. “Favorite” plays, followed by “Actually” and “Ilang2“ and suddenly, everything else, even the succeeding tracks, sound bittersweet.
It feels a bit disconcerting that Favorite might probably the last Shirley album we’ll experience for a very long time.
It appears they have matured as songwriters, apparent in the band's vastly improved dynamics. There is a reason to enjoy almost every track, whether it’s the sincere and relatable lyrics or the catchy or dreamy yet well-knit musical arrangements.
Tama Na Ang Drama was a satisfying sophomore effort, but Favorite deserves to be called Ang Bandang Shirley’s finest work and your favorite album to date.
Ang Bandang Shirley’s “Favorite” album is available on iTunes. CDs are available on wermshop.bigcartel.com, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Coming soon at Satchmi Store Megamall, UP Town Center, and The Four Strings @ Cubao X.
Photos by Yuji de Torres