Music review: “Endings of a New Kind” by Taken by Cars

In review
The 2008 album Endings of a New Kind by Filipino band Taken by Cars

Fifteen years on, the quality of Taken by Cars’ album “Endings of a New Kind” endures: the vocals are still tinged with longing, the drums are still crisp and punchy as when I first listened to it in college. It came to me just two weeks ago why this band sounded different to me: it’s because of its electro-darkwave elements – the drones and drawls of “Uh Oh”, for example, was reminiscent of “Tear You Apart”, the She Wants Revenge classic – that very few OPM bands dare incorporate.

It’s easy to dismiss it as an album fixated on love, lies, longing and letting go, the go-to formula of a lot of OPM bands during that time, and arguably until now. However, I think it succeeds in two ways. One is the way each song is never cloying: it’s sparse, with less lyrics and more mood, with more space for melodies to linger. The intro of “December 2, Chapter VII” is exemplar in creating that mood characteristic of the album: uneasy and yet cocksure, upbeat but wistful. The album ends, fittingly, with “Shapeshifter”, a song resplendent with layers and echoes and that climatic line: “I’ll never need another lie from you.” But also, it’s a piece so nocturnal you could only think of it being played in absolute darkness – as in the album cover.

This leads me to my second point: where the album shines is how it is able to capture “atmosphere”. (I have no formal background in music theory, so I define this as a specific time, place and feeling, all at the same time.) Listening to it now, the album “felt” so humid and tropical – sharing the quality of Up Dharma Down’s “Pag-Agos” or The Dorques’ “Murasaki Blue”, both conjuring the feeling of clothes sticking to sweaty backs in peak summer – that you wonder whether there’s a “place-ness” in making music, that the sound is affected by where it was made, that it tends to encapsulate temperature and atmosphere. (Listen to the Swedish band The Radio Dept. and you would get a sense of how frigid Swedish days are.) The album’s strength is in composing a consistent “interior”, if you will: each song depicts a scene of a pitch-black night – “The Afterhours” paints streetlights thick with gamu-gamo you would swat away as they descend on you, while “Stereolove” is reminiscent of speeding cars at SLEX at midnight (“I’m walking / It’s after two / and your song is still playing in my head.”) There’s always a special place for songs that are able to pull this off admirably well – songs that leave you to wonder which came first: the band or that “atmosphere”? 

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