Wednesday, June 9, 2010

13 Seconds to Love by Kjwan (2009) Album Review

I feel I'm not qualified to comment on Kjwan since I barely keep the band in my consciousness.  For one, I've only heard one or two songs from their 2nd album, 2StepMarv.  And having listened to Kjwan's self-titled debut, I can't accurately say anything about the change in sound evident in 13 Seconds to Love.  If anything, however, it was for the better.

The album's name is supposedly inspired by the words of some producer from Malaysia that "he can tell whether a song is going to be a hit within the first 13 seconds". A hit, of course, is a song that is palatable to (or has the potential of being devoured by) the masses.  I'll give that Malaysian dude the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe he can tell that a song's going to be a hit if it does backflips in the first 13 seconds.  But what does it say about Kjwan- the guys who made the 13-second thing a template for writing this album?  Hit-seekers, to put it accurately.  Not inherently a bad thing, but it is sort of limiting isn't it?

The band then chose love as the album's central theme, and there you have it- a supposedly clever album title that can easily be confused with 30 Seconds to Mars.  Anyway, true to its word, the album is indeed full of songs about love- not the stereotypical "love songs" per se, or anything as cheesy.  But that's to be expected from most of Kjwan's music.

I've always known them to be a band that unabashedly flaunts a dominant overdriven lead guitar, but this time around the guitars actually get comfy in the background, building up songs from the bottom up, at the same sonic level as the other instruments.  This "effort in restraint" actually pays off, resulting to stronger songs that remain focused on their individual 'feels', as opposed to employing a jack-in-the-box style of guitar playing to keep the listeners interested.  There is the exception in What About Us however, which showcases orgasmic and cacophonic guitar work as if to say they haven't forgotten their guitar chops.

An old picture of the band as a complete 5-piece. 
(L-R): J-Hoon Balbuena, Boogie Romero, 
Kelly Mangahas, Marc Abaya, Jorel Corpus
There's also a new dynamic of extending sections of a song, oftentimes into climactic crescendos, usually towards the end.  It's both good and bad. Good because it sometimes contributes to the overall feel of the song, occasionally saving it from mediocrity, and bad because it's all too common throughout the album, not to mention these prolonged sections sometimes go on for too long.  At some points, the drums comes to the rescue and spices up these prolonged sections to keep things interesting.  At others, it adds to the annoyance of repetition.  Nevertheless, J-Hoon Balbuena's drumming is good and experimental, oftentimes coasting near the edge of overdoing it.  However, the drums themselves sound too 'treble-ish' for my taste.

The lyrics are plain and simple, and I have nothing to say about it.  Vocal duties are now divided between Mr. Marc Abaya and Mr. Boogie Romero.

Marc Abaya hasn't changed, still singing in his signature hushed voice.  He tends to sing the last word of a line by 'sliding' his voice down though- which I find annoying (a thing I cannot accurately put into words but I'll just point you to the stanzas of Lifeline).

Boogie Romero on the other hand, is a surprise.  He's got a small singing voice, that of a little shy kid.  It would really help if he loosens up a bit, belting the words out without having to worry about letting too much saliva out (or phlegm).

Kelly Mangahas plays the bass in such a way that you'll remember the songs by its bass lines.  Really great performance from the guy that I might consider giving this album to him.

The album was recorded in Kerplunk Studios in Manila I heard, and so far this is one of the better rock productions in the Philippines I've heard these days in terms of sound quality. I can totally see recommending the studio to other bands, Urbandub most especially.

Overall, an enjoyable album.

My score:
6 out of 10

No comments: