pinoy pop

ALAMAT’s ‘Isapuso’ review: Musical evolution that’s hard to ignore

Joey Dizon

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ALAMAT’s ‘Isapuso’ review: Musical evolution that’s hard to ignore
'I find that IsaPuso is a stronger, more focused release that can finally catch the attention of non-fans of the P-pop movement like myself'
Rating: 3.5/5

I’ll be honest: a decade or more ago, it would’ve been the easiest thing to tear apart anything associated with the terms “pop” and “boyband”: I mean, goddamn – pre-pubescent teens in weird outfits who happened to be barely-skilled singers (lip-syncing most of the time…) with choreographed dance moves that stole the hearts and money of barely legal teenage girls; as much as they would become legit pop culture icons decades later, they were also easy targets for “serious” music fans and pundits, being that there was an inexplicable premium on groups and artists that weren’t manufactured, and specifically made for mass consumption. It’s just how it was.

But, all that’s seemingly over-with now: the rise of K-pop, J-pop, and P-pop – and the current generation’s ability to hone-in and refine everything from individual musical skill to the production of music videos and online content is admittedly, getting better – and hard to dismiss simply as artificial swill created by the reputed-evil machinery known as the music industry. In short, kids really do dig this shit. It’s undeniable. 

And P-pop group ALAMAT is definitely one of the best examples why. Just listen to their latest album IsaPuso. Like…really. 

Fueled by a veritable cornucopia of old and new genres and styles mashed together and anchored by electronic beats, a strong rap game from members Alas (aka Joshua Alvarez), Mo (Aaron Joshua Mitchell), and Taneo (aka Brylle Jordan Uyam) and soaring vocal melodies and hooks from R-Ji (aka Ralph Joseph lim), Tomas (aka Thomas Franco Rodriguez), and Jao (aka Justin Paolo Canlas), IsaPuso has a sonic urgency that simply seems to announce itself as a release that’s not playing around – as evident on the almost-dark and heavy opener “Dagundong,” that perfectly drives the group’s collective nationalistic point home, with spitfire rhymes and a call-to-arms chorus. You get the same lyrical fury – albeit in a more R&B-flavored output – in “Noli,” which has an infectious stop-and-start cadence to match the stylized vocal phrasings of the group. 

Of course, it’s not all gloom n’ doom for this bunch: there’s still that penchant for pulsating modern rhythms (“Dayang”), the retro-disco sound (“Manila Dreams” and “Mutlo”) that delivers a familiar vibe to the more mature listeners, and the contemporary dance/R&B party anthem “Day & Night,” which navigates more-familiar boyband territory, especially with its generally carefree lyricism: “Unang kita ko pa lang bigla na kong nahulog/tas kinabukasan unti-unti na akong nalulunod,” that’s preceded by an almost-N’Sync-like chorus. Again, the fact may be that it’s nothing new, but sound-wise, it is executed quite well and reinforces why the formula works so well for fans of the genre.

ALAMAT’s ‘Isapuso’ review: Musical evolution that’s hard to ignore

Personally, what really carries IsaPuso as a collection of songs by a band that’s bent on hanging around long after the fad loses its charm is the single “Walang Hanggan,” a track that brings everything back to being a true-to-the-bone song. The production – which includes an ear-catching layer of banduria – and probably one of the best, well-phrased opening lyrics (“Patong-patong na pangako mong napako / pero ‘di pa rin nawawalan ng pag-asa…”) I’ve heard in a pop song in a long while – just flows naturally yet inventively; the melodies and the chord structure behind it perfectly capture the song’s heartbreaking sentiment, and shows a sophistication that’s not so common in the movement. If you ask me, this is a direction and musical journey I’d be interested in seeing the group take more often.

Formed in 2020, ALAMAT consists of multilingual and multiethnic members – all who’ve sang in English and their native Tagalog, Iolocano, Kapampangan, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Bikolano, and Waray-Waray as a way of both differentiating themselves from their contemporaries, and as a reminder that there’s more to the Philippines than both foreign influence and the influence of Manila.

Arguably, though the group made immediate waves with their first few singles and established themselves as a hardworking unit – with the completion of last year’s Pasulong EP and a continuous live ethic – I find that IsaPuso is a stronger, more focused release that can finally catch the attention of non-fans of the P-pop movement like myself: while they’re still very much among the frontrunners in the game, it’s a lot more obvious now that ALAMAT sincerely – and respectfully – has plans to break out of the mold and play in the bigger arena of music in general.

And while I can confidently say that it’s still not music for everyone, a spin of IsaPuso will prove that there’s much more credit that has to be given to ALAMAT for effectively navigating their way through the world of P-pop, and for having a well-crafted product that continues to expand the lines of the genre and its reach. These kids are definitely alright. – Rappler.com

RATING SYSTEM:

1 – Skip it

2 – Not for everyone

3 – It’s alright

4 – Excellent

5 – Life-changing

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Joey Dizon

Joey Dizon was former Editor-in-Chief and currently a contributor for PULP magazine, and formerly the creator and co-host of Adults Only Radio on Jam 88.3FM. He has also played guitar thrash/hardcore bands Skychurch and Intolerant, and represents artists like Chelsea Alley and Abby Clutario.