We are big fans of Pochoy Labog’s previous band “Dicta License” in these parts. That’s why “Your Year” by his new outfit Malay was really one of our most anticipated local releases this year. Sadly, it falls short of being a perfect album. While not without its merits, it suffers from a few things they can improve on. And being objective purveyors of taste, we will make sure to list down both the good and the bad.
Pochoy Labog is undeniably talented. And we mean really fucking talented. He’s a great songwriter and a very charismatic frontman. It also helps that his voice is really good and he has character. The rhythm section is pretty tight as well, with drummer Alden Abaca keeping a steady beat and Miguel Dayanghirang’s bass lines pulsating in every song. Sadly, a good song is worth more than the sum of its parts.
The album has tight musicianship in spades, and Pochoy’s lyrics verge on the poetic and anthemic, from the album opener “Moving” to the upbeat “Lundag”. The album definitely shows Labog’s range as a songwriter and a poet, writing not just about society but also keeping it a little bit personal this time. There’s no fault in that aspect of the songs. And like we said before, the rhythm section keeps things tight enough for us to appreciate the dynamics within the songs.
With that said, we feel that the album suffers from predictability. Predictability in the sense that the band wears their influences on their sleeves and the album comes dangerously close to being formulaic. While we get that they really love grunge and alternative rock, we know that such a talented band can do better. There is ample room for experimentation and for doing things a little bit differently. Some albums suffer because of lack of cohesion. The problem with this one seems to be too much cohesion to the point that it becomes unsurprising and the slow to mid-tempo songs drag on for too long. It failed to showcase their skills as musicians, which is a shame.
We were also surprised that the drums sometimes drowned the vocals and guitar lines. If it was mixed better, then it could’ve worked wonders seeing as this is a band whose members clearly worked well together. And we come back again to our initial point: it could have been better. Think of this review not as a review, but an assessment. There are a whole lot of things that the band can do better, and we’re sure that they’re capable of doing it.
There are some standout tracks though, including “Breaking”, with its intricate guitar lines and minimal sparse drumming. The foot-stomper “Anak Ng Diyos” is another memorable track with its beautiful melody and instrumentation. It almost sounds like a lost song from the 90‘s OPM band boom.
We can sense great things in Malay’s future. This is not a masterpiece as a whole but there are some in it — if the band keeps going at it, we’re sure we will hear something from them that will be exciting and groundbreaking.
Recommended If You Like: 90‘s alternative rock, tight musicianship, great lyrics