Perhaps the most pretentious blog entry I'll ever write

I was at the mall yesterday, at the record store, feeling very frustrated, as always. On the new releases shelf: earworm-inducing tween pop, generic American pop-punk, and acoustic covers of songs. Oh, and since it's almost Christmas, we get "party mixes" featuring this year's hits lovingly sequences with Jingle Bells. Considering my love for British indie rock and not-so-quirky female vocals, it just does not cut it.

It's hard to be a self-respecting music fan nowadays. I know, that line sounds pretentious, maybe completely dismissive of the fact that Justin Bieber runs the world - I wouldn't complain if she fits my not-so-quirky female vocal idea - but think about it. If you want to listen to music that's more challenging than the faux-dubstep, faux-urban pop that permeates the airwaves today, then you're not in luck. Sure, they also stock Arcade Fire (because their Grammy win forced them to), but it's just one stripped-down copy against the rows of shelf space devoted to suddenly-popular but still-shitty All Time Low. And don't get me started on Korean pop, which should be good on its own, but is owning too much space considering their fans are only a screaming minority.

So, if you want to listen to something else, you end up downloading illegally. I'll admit, I've done my fair share, too. But I love listening to the Manic Street Preachers, and I have not seen their last three CDs in stores here in the Philippines. And All Time Low, despite their popularity here, will never be as good. (Disclaimer: I'm not ripping those boys apart - my two siblings are big fans - but my sister will readily admit that they're generic American pop-punk.) And any amount of praying that the record stores here will open their eyes and realize that there's a bunch of disenfranchised people who love their music and are willing to pay for them will do you no good.

Remember ten years ago? Tower Records was still alive back then. Their branch at the Alabang Town Center was quite big - and while I never really grasped the variety of music in store back then, I knew that there was a big section devoted to jazz, and "pop/rock" occupied two aisles. I definitely know they carried Elbow's albums. I bought Athlete's Tourist and Missy Higgins' The Sound of White with my own money. I almost bought Beth Rowley's debut here, even - but when I had the money, the store closed.

And now, here I am, at Odyssey, looking at this one shelf, a third of which is K-pop, another third Taylor Swift derivatives, and another third really obscure Swedish indie pop that never even sells here. And that's the whole "pop/rock" section. Nothing for those whose musical preferences can't be defined by a single popular-despite-being-beyond-shitty radio station.

Okay. I do buy pop sometimes. I have all ten Glee CDs. Also, this happened. I grew up listening to jazz, but I also grew up listening to pop radio. But this was in the 1990s, when pop radio really meant it when they say "more music". This was in the early 2000s, when System of a Down was played on a Top 40 station here, and Keane's Everybody's Changing sat nicely with a still-decent Jennifer Lopez. Sure, you'll still hear the occasional outside-pop act on the radio, but not after you've heard the word "baby" a million times. Apparently people want to hear the word "baby" a million times. Or "Alejandro".

Anyway, I did buy Beth Rowley's CD eventually - in Singapore. That's what the Odyssey trip made me want to do. I wanted to return to Singapore. At least those kids learned well when they were under the British. They were always good with these things. You go to their record stores and you see floors devoted to a genre. My two Elbow CDs came from there. My two Manics CDs came from there. I would've bought a Sia CD if I had enough money. I can lose myself in one of those record stores - sure, it's frustrating not knowing what to buy, but you can go home with eight CDs that you will never see sold in Manila. Well, except for the Glee CD. The first one, I bought in Singapore.

When my sister returned to Singapore early this year I gave her five thousand bucks and a list of CDs she should buy for me. I was expecting nine, and she only returned with four. Laura Marling's outstanding second album was there, as well as this CD from Lissie, an artist I wouldn't have heard of if I stuck with local radio. Sure, a bit disappointing only getting four, but hey, CDs from acts I actually care about. I was making a list in my head yesterday. I want Laura Marling's third. I want Noel Gallagher's solo debut. Now, that's one guy who's not obscure. Surely many people know Don't Look Back In Anger, right? Wonderwall? He did not sing that, but he penned it. You can slap a sticker on his debut album that explains who he is. "The main songwriter for Oasis." They can do those stickers for those Swedish acts, complete with "if you're a fan of obscure act with obscure act, you'll like obscure act" lines, why not for people we might possibly know?

They didn't, by the way, have to do that with the new Beady Eye (read: Oasis minus Noel) album. I spotted Different Gear, Still Speeding at Fully Booked today. That place is perhaps the closest we have to a Singapore record store. Just one floor, but a wide selection nonetheless. You know, like what you'd usually see in a record store when pop radio played so much music. I ended up buying the new Oh Land album there earlier. For a thousand bucks. When I could've downloaded this for free instead. Like all the other albums I want but can't get, because kids prefer to hear "baby" a million times.

I know. I'm sounding both pretentious and resentful. And poor. I can't afford everything at this rate.

And I haven't gotten around to mentioning my conversations with Jeany at this rate.

And your responses...

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