FAVORITE

I first heard of Ang Bandang Shirley back in college.

I was just starting to get into music then and Ang Bandang Shirley, just like their contemporaries Ciudad and Up Dharma Down, were among the bands I got to read about on the pop culture Mecca that was Tumblr.

Back then, posts detailing how lyrically and musically brilliant the band was dominated my dashboard, prompting me to seek them and their music out — not an easy task, I have to admit, with my only option being this: save whatever I could from my school allowance, and just brave the Manila traffic just to catch a gig of theirs at Cubao X.

This fascination with Ang Bandang Shirley would continue on for the greater part of the next few years, with the band producing songs which later on would make up a large chunk of what would be my life's soundtrack, as dramatic as that might sound. For instance, Patintero / Habulan / Larong Kalye served as the perfect backing track to my first forays in romance; while Acid Reflux served as the accompaniment to my first real heartbreak. Solid, right?

Looking back at it now, Ang Bandang Shirley is one band that's easy to like, not just because they're good, but because their music is one that easily becomes a vehicle for catharsis — and it's something a lot of fans have come to know.

Ang Bandang Shirley is one band that’s easy to like, not just because they’re good, but because their music is one that easily becomes a vehicle for catharsis.

***

It's a hot Saturday evening and people are steadily streaming into the Metro Park in Pasay City's Blue Bay Walk. They're here, of course, for the launching of Ang Bandang Shirley's "Favorite" album and, as expected, social media is already abuzz, with the hashtag #FavoriteAlbum making its rounds on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and what have you.

The night is electric, festive, even. Onstage, local rockbands Outerhope and Musical O serve as the night's opening acts, while a large crowd — fans both new and old numbering in the high hundreds —  gather near the stage.

Despite its atmosphere though, the night's a bittersweet one for the band's fans, especially when one considers the fact that while this album is one that's fast shaping up to be one of Ang Bandang Shirley's best, it's also the last one where Selena Davis' voice gets to be heard — at least for some time.

Known mainly for their hits such as 'Di Na Babalik, and Nakauwi Na, as well as the fan-favorites Patintero / Habulan / Larong Kalye and Tama Na Ang Drama,  Ang Bandang Shirley - composed of Owel Alvero, Selena Davis, Ean Aguila, Joe Fontanilla, Enzo Zulueta, Kathy Gener, and Zig Rabara - has been active for nearly a decade now, their music a spiffy amalgamation of radio friendly pop-rock goodness and masterfully written lyrics.

Already esteemed musicians in their own right, Ang Bandang Shirley is one act capable of packing any venue it plays in to the rafters. In fact, one need only go to the band's gigs at any of Manila's many music bars, like say, Route 196, if only to see its legions of fans engaging in what has become known as "mushpits" i.e. passionately singing along to their already extensive discography.

Produced in collaboration with musicians Modulogeek, Big Hat Gang, Nights of Rizal, The Ringmaster, and Mikey Amistoso of Ciudad and Hannah + Gabi, "Favorite" - the pop rock septet's latest studio album after the critically-acclaimed "Themesongs" and "Tama Na Ang Drama" - is in many ways, the perfect distillation of Ang Bandang Shirley's musical sensibilities, with the band mixing their propensity for lyrical honesty and emotional nuance with polished production in this recording.

This is not to say that the rawness first heard in "Themesongs" and "Tama Na Ang Drama" is gone — it's not. The deceptively simple Umaapaw, the lead single from "Favorite", for instance, is miles different from other love songs currently playing on the airwaves, thanks largely to its lyrics which perfectly encapsulate the feeling of being in love, no bells and whistles needed.

On the opposite end of the emotional spectrum is Siberia, which advocates a different kind of love. Despite being written from a broken heart's perspective, Siberia is not angry - in fact, it's happy, with its lyrics - "pinili ang sarili...sumaya" - urging its listeners to dust off their heartbreak and just move on.

The album's non-singles are similarly good, as well. From its opening track Maningning which expertly blends ambient sounds with the band's lilting melodies, to the deeply introspective Relihiyoso which showcases a surprising Frank Ocean-esque production, "Favorite" finds Ang Bandang Shirley in fine, fighting, form — just the way that they've always been.

***

It's well into the evening and people are still abuzz at the Metro Park in Pasay City's Blue Bay Walk. Ang Bandang Shirley just finished performing, and as expected, the hashtag #FavoriteAlbum successfully made its rounds on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and what have you.

‘Favorite’ finds Ang Bandang Shirley in fine, fighting, form — just the way that they’ve always been.

Despite Ang Bandang Shirley's 23-song set having come to a close, the atmosphere at the Blue Bay Walk is still electric, festive, even. In fact, a large crowd still mill near the stage, some, still nursing bottles of beer, others, with tears streaming from their eyes and smiles on their faces, lying on mats, all in a bid to extend the night if only for a few minutes more. And to be honest, I can't really blame them. After all, to paraphrase what the band says in their new album's title track: "Ang Bandang Shirley is here. This is our favorite place."

Tracklist:

Maningning

Umaapaw

Karamay

Makahiya 

Alam Mo Ba (Ang Gulo)

Siberia

Maginhawa

Relihiyoso

Favorite

Actually

Ilang2x

Ono

Palindrome

Karagatan

Ika (Bonus Track)

***

Ang Bandang Shirley’s “Favorite” album is now out on iTunes, while physical copies are available on Wide Eyed Records and at Satchmi Store Megamall, UP Town Center, and at Four Strings in Cubao X.

Special thanks to Kathy Gener of Ang Bandang Shirley and Wide Eyed Records Manila, as well as to Page Four Productions.