Spin Kubra Commander’s “Kublai Can” and Dance-Weep-Gaze

Kubra Commander is back with another successful negotiation between detachment and intimacy. It’s shoegaze with pop smarts; it’s indie with modern-classic hooks.

Kubra Commander is enjoying an ongoing Manila tour, and yeah, it’s the perfect opportune time to tell you about their new swing-and-sway indie banger.

It’s routine for me, upon hearing a new release by someone, to review what I wrote about their previous effort. And in the case of Kubra Commander, it’s always a yes, a confirmation, a reinforcement. They’re still, to quote an earlier writeup, “the sort of band that reduces me to incoherent babbling: able recordists, tasteful arrangers, irresistible melodists.”

“Kublai Can,” their newest offering, is no different. It’s dreamy yet propulsive; it’s wistful but with an unmistakable force.

You can run with it, too.

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I mean, literally. As in Bobbi Olvido wanted to come up with something upbeat that he can run or jog to. The title, meanwhile, is an allusion to his favorite restaurant. That’s something of a paradox, isn’t it? Funny side detail.

In any case, Olvido shares that, topically, “It’s about pushing forward while being aware of [your] doubts and fears [while] keeping in mind the rewards of every journey.” I don’t know about that, but it does sound unperturbed, unconcerned, unafraid.

“Pace along the lines of love and death / Charge into the frontlines without regret / When it’s said and done where will you stand / Stay still your heart is in your hand,” he sings to the able accompaniment of cohorts Joko Nozawa, Mich Pacalioga, and JB Villagonzalo (all on guitar); Jah Acab (bass); Josemaria Seno (synth); and Tim Williams (drums), and while that kind of firepower will typically yield a maximalist mess, the Kubra guys just do it with understated beauty.

That’s their MO.

“Kublai Can” is the band’s first post-Rhythm Tourists effort. The arranging and recording process remained pretty much intact, but the writing was “easier,” the group says. That ease translates for sure: in the infectious sing-song guitar lines, in the foot-tapping basslines, in the decisive drumming.

As always, Olvido sings with both a detached cool and a disaffected warmth, and I know that combination is rarely possible, but he’s able to pull it off each time.

I don’t have to sell it hard for you. “Kublai Can” definitely can.

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