Three points on time: Review of Uppercase's Bukas Makalawa EP

Review summary: Uppercase sends us along this playful ride despite the sadness of realities.

After a solid debut of pillowy soft indie rock structures, Toronto’s UPPERCASE, once declared the “Top Band” by Filipinos Making Waves Festival in 2013, have released their short yet striking EP Bukas Makalawa.

Running off the success of their debut full-length and their Philippine tour, the quartet returns with new materials banked on the gravity of the alt-rock purveyors’s musicality. But what's so engaging is what else are added to the mix.

Starting with the obvious, the title track “Bukas Makalawa” opens with the frontman’s subdued voice set in the band’s trademark melodic style. Collaboration with another vocalist Faye Tagadtad is appreciated here, mostly because it feels organic and not just a means to show off vocal melodies.

“Kay bilis namang lisanin ang umaga/ At ako ngayo’y iniwan mong nag-iisa,” sings the duet in seeming wonder, which gives listeners a flashback of their album “Time Space Warp” a nod on the notions of time.

First idea of time is about succession. Part of the group’s charm is the ability to compose songs that capture stages in time: the past, the present, and the future. “Kay lupit naman ang lahat ay panaginip lang/ At babalik na lang muli/ Sa susunod na lang,” they put in another line. Perhaps this is one way to listen to their whole EP. After all, the acronym stands for extended play, that can be interpreted as a succession of the previous record.

Abot Kamay,” on the other hand, grasps the group’s feel and appeal. Aside from the terrific guitar riffs and hyped-up drums they are known for, the song is catchy and frank with sing-along potential that certainly suits the quartet’s reputation. One can’t help but get transported with the words in the second verse “Nasisilayan na ang jeep/ nauubusan na’ko ng oras/ sa dami ng iniisip.”

In the acoustic “Tanghaling Taksil” one could relate to that feeling of being stuck in a routine and longing to move on to catch a breather. Because an interval of duration, in this case 1:05 minutes, cannot be conceived in our own life. The march of time knows neither pause nor interruption.

Again, time implies continuity.Tuldok” is that moment of realization to move forward as told in the chorus: “Ngayong nandito na tayong dalawa, Di ko alam kung paano magsisimula/ Di biro ang luha ay bubuhas na/ Ngunit kailangan na nating tuldukan ang nadarama.” The strings add a whole epic sound to the music.

“Mabilis ang pag-ikot ng mundo at hindi tumitigil…” may seem cliché, and the lines go on “tulad ng pag-ibig ko, walang humpay/ Habang ako ay tila hinihila palapit/ Hindi lumalayo.” The final track “Panaginip” instills our last, but not the least, point on time. A continuous succession cannot be a continuous succession of nothing. The stinging guitar solo then spruces up the end of the tune, filling in the vocal phrase behind.

Uppercase sends us along this playful ride despite the sadness of realities. It matters little here whether this reality is purely ideal, or is realized outside of us. Bukas Makalawa may be heard as a self-congratulation that the band has what it takes to carve out time to pursue their own dreams. If anything, this follow-up feels like a sampler pack, the songs can break the 5-minute mark. Nevertheless, we’ll hear more with their forthcoming discography.

Bukas Makalawa is available on Spotify, Apple Music/iTunes, Deezer, ReverbNation, and their website

Album tracklisting:

1. Bukas Makalawa

2. Abot Kamay

3. Tanghaling Taksil

4. Tuldok

5. Panaginip

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