Listening to the Unknown(s): Discovering New Music at the Universal Records CD Sale

A Non-Christmas Christmas Tradition
It is the holiday season once again and apart from the usual Christmas traditions that people usually look forward to – gift-giving, reunions, Simbang Gabi, caroling, bonuses, just to name a few – there is also one “holiday tradition” that I anticipate during this month of merry-making: it is the Universal Records CD/DVD Sale.

UR CD sale poster

Happening over a stretch of several weekends starting from late November until December, the CD/DVD Sale is organized by Universal Records, Inc. It sells marked down records and movies that are mostly distributed, marketed, or produced by the company itself. The CD/DVD sale can be a bit overwhelming: it occupies a whole floor of the Universal Records Building (along Quezon Avenue) and the prices are dramatically slashed that some of the CDs are only as low as P20 (roughly $0.48). The merchandise are all original and in excellent condition, and there are various genres for both movies and music to choose from. If you were a music lover such as I am, you would feel like a child inside a candy store! Too good to be true? Well, it does have a bit of a downside. For the music part (on which I will concentrate), it does offer records from an assortment of local and foreign artists, but a large part of it sells albums from artists that you have probably not heard before. So if you are the type of listener who consumes music that is aired only on mainstream radio, then your choices here would be limited, unfortunately.

Judging a CD by Its Cover
The first time I purchased some albums from this CD sale three years ago, I bought several albums from foreign mainstream artists and completely ignored the “unknowns.” However, the following year, there were fewer albums from mainstream artists to choose from. Not wanting to go empty-handed, I decided to be more adventurous and buy albums from musicians I had never encountered in my life before. I thought that if the album were horrible, it would not be such a waste of money as it was only P20 anyway. On the other hand, if it had some good stuff in it, then it would be a terrific bargain. Since I did not have any clue as to how they sounded, I based my decision on the album covers and on those little stickers that provided comments or background information about the CD (which I later on realized were actually unreliable!) So, one by one, I carefully selected a few pieces here and there and hoped that they were worth my every peso. Some of them turned out to be decent – The Cinematics was the most notable of the bunch – but some of them were not.

I had acquired music from a slew of artists I had not known before (thanks to Blalock’s Indie Rock Playlist) but there was no purchase necessary; all 120+ songs put up every month were up for free download. There was no money involved and so there was no sense of loss or disappointment because I did not pay for them anyway. However, with the UR CD sale, not only was money involved, but also time and physical effort. It did not offer the convenience of a click like online music did, and so if all the CDs I bought turned out to be shitty, the dissatisfaction was doubled. Despite this, I found out that buying music from artists that were unfamiliar to my ears could actually be a source of adventure. The sense of unfamiliarity brought shreds of excitement. In a way, they seemed like Christmas gifts: the wrappers might look nice, but they still have to be opened to find out if they were the same on the inside.


I went to the CD sale again some two weeks back and as always, I scanned piles and piles of unknown artists and looked at the covers or song titles that caught my eyes. I ended up buying 10 albums. Two of them I actually knew – Doves and N*E*R*D’s. (These two were more expensive than the others that I bought. Originally they were P450 but I got them for only P200. Still relatively inexpensive, if you ask me.) One was familiar to me only by name (I Am Kloot) and the rest were complete strangers.

If you are in the mood to discover new sound, I have enumerated the CDs I got below and included selected tracks from their respective albums:

N*E*R*D are kind of out of place in this bunch of albums!

N*E*R*D are kind of out of place in this bunch of albums!

Hundred Reasons (Kill Your Own) – Kill Your Own

Call and Response (Winds Take No Shape) – Colors Bleed

The Stands (Horse Fabulous) – Do It Like You Like

Feeder (Pushing the Senses) – Feeling The Moment

Cooper Temple Clause (Make This Your Own) – Homo Sapiens

I Am Kloot (I Am Kloot) – From Your Favorite Sky

The Cribs (The Cribs) – You Were Always The One

Budapest (taken from the compilation album, Brighter) – Is This The Best It Gets

Doves (Best of) – Andalucia

N*E*R*D (Best of) – What’s Wrong With Me

The prices might have been extremely affordable but I decided not to get overwhelmed.  I only bought a few because I am running out of storage space for my CDs.  Hey, the world did not end last December 21, so I am pretty sure there will be another one next year.  Until then, I will enjoy the new music I have discovered and hope to discover more as the new year enters in a couple of days.

Speaking of the New Year, let me take this opportunity to thank everyone who have visited this site either on purpose or by accident.  I wish that 2013 will bring us more artists to listen to, more concerts to flock to, and more courage to explore the potential and endless possibilities not only of unknown artists, but moreover in ourselves, and in life in general.

Advance happy new year, guys!  See you next year.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s