December 27, 2012

The Best Filipino Tracks of 2012 (#40 - 21)

Coming up with a year-end music list is always exhausting. You scour the dusting archives and recount the experience you had with the 8-month single. You skip meals and do some hefty amount of research just to check on accuracy and background info. You play the music again and again, until you absorb detail by detail, the impact it had on you, the way it accompanied you on your long walks and commute, and the killer hooks that made you tap your foot without missing a beat. Then you compare. Contrast. Rub out some excess. And to some point, add the overlooked ones. Voila! There goes the top 10.

Below is a list of the Best Filipino tracks of 2012, this blog’s very own tribute to a successful year in music. And before anything else, I just want to clear that this doesn't affirm any sweeping statements, claims or whatsoever unbearable bragging of expertise that some might point out. These are just personal thoughts. I could be wrong. I might be right. It's just a space anyway. And I’m sure you have yours to use.

40. Outerhope – “Hear The Days Go” [ free download ]
No End In Sight

Trading dreamy, lo-fi pop for a synth-churning charmer straight from a China Crisis/Prefab Sprout scuffle, the Benedicto siblings are up to the challenge of surprising long-time fans and listeners with their new sound. “Hear The Days Go,” the first single off their new EP No End In Sight, tackles the passing of days in fringes of nostalgia. It’s inescapably cold and distant, tangled in all its lushness at 3 AM in the morning.

39. Skymarines – “Dreamer” [ free download ]

Skymarines makes the kind of small, intimate bedroom music that you want to cuddle up with. Encrusted with downtempo sparkles and synthetic beats, her track “Dreamer” sounds like nocturnal dream-pop filtered through the wistful lens of a foggy romance. Isa Belle AƱiga’s lilting, lighter-than-clouds coos recall the pangs of a hopeless romantic. She intones the sugary chorus: “Coz I’m a dreamer baby, I’m a dreamer baby…” And you realize you sing and share the same sentiment too.

38. Chocolate Grass – “Roots” [ stream ]

Imagine Jill Scott or Erykah Badu trekking the tropical mountains for spiritual conquest, and you’re pretty close to listening to Chocolate Grass’ “Roots”—a slow-burning, neo-soul jam that immerses you to a sensual and otherworldly experience. Soul diva August Wahh captures the joys and pathos of an Earth woman, singing about the fulfilment of connecting to her ancestral roots and finally coming to full circle, spiritually. Her backing band on the other hand, crafts a beautifully woven tapestry of languid, smooth beats and esoteric rhythms—shaping the music into a mythical ornament.

37. Your Imaginary Friends – “Your Silence Is The Villain” [ stream ]

Taking cues from bands such as Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Yuck, Your Imaginary Friends unabashedly show their love for crossover alt-rock, aiming for a chorus that gets stuck in your head for weeks while taking its already swoony, melodic rush to a higher plateau. There’s no escaping it, really. From the casually thrilling girl-boy harmonies that accompany their mesmeric homage to the decade that birthed us Pavement, Smashing Pumpkins and Lemonheads to Ahmad’s hurtful words of goodbye, their new single “Your Silence Is A Villain” clearly shoots up for perfect pop ambition, a bigger crest of sound that’s bolder, brighter and more accessible—without even having to sell their souls to the public. But even with their shiny makeover, Your Imaginary Friends remain as low-profile and fuzzed out as possible, passing the torch of that glorious ‘90s sound with a refined edge rather than embracing it fully.

36. Sinyma – “Breath Away” [ free download ]
Libre Download

EDM heads, better get your groove on this. “Breath Away,” Sinyma’s lead single smothers the soft edges and bohemian vibe of Nyko Maca + Playground band with pulsating, chill-out beats and improvisational stomps, transforming it into a clubby electro thumper that relocates summer at the middle of a strobe-lavished night.

35. RBTO – “Bloom” [ free download ]

Well, it’s happened. RBTO finally fulfils our craving for some kick-ass summer swagu. His new song, “Bloom” off the 2012 album Inverse features a triumphal opening verse that rhymes kung fu with Sun Tzu, greasing everything together with soul-snaring, laid-back beats from JedLi and Justin de Guzman. Three minutes short, RBTO leaves an indelible smear on your consciousness, mining gold out of word play while “instead of lying, buying mad supplies of irony,” reaching for something that passes off as twistedly ‘macho’ and cool.

34. Outcasts of The Universe – “One Little Bomb” [ free download ]

In just a span of two years, Outcasts Of The Universe has mastered the art of harnessing emotionally captivating songs layered with cold flowing beats, synths, and downtempo electronics that satisfy a need for solitude and introspection. So it only makes sense that director Zoraya Lua would turn the video for their song “One Little Bomb” into a twee My Blue Valentine that nobody anticipated: a time-clutching story of a relationship gone astray amid open boxes and found secrets.

33. The Camerawalls – “Wanderlust” [ stream ]

The Camerawalls remains to be one of the primary movers of the independent music scene, releasing consistently stellar singles that trail into modern indie classic territory. Their 2012 single “Wanderlust” brims with inexplicable charm that reeks of pastoral beauty and warmth, pretty much a return to good old, Rondalla-inflected folk-pop that we’ve fallen in love with. In the band’s official site, they describe the track as “a downtempo tune that prompts the listener to sigh for the nomad's life, if not immediately bring out the backpack and slip on a pair of walking shoes.” But it’s more than just that: “Wanderlust” finds Clem’s vocals in a monastic calm, ratcheting up the drama without even having to resort to some form of heavy-handed delivery. All it takes is to sing his heart out, the old fashioned way.

32. Tarsius – “Deathless Gods” [ free download ]

As part of the Ang Nawawala OST, Tarsius collaborated with acclaimed music video director Marie Jamora on the live performance video of “Deathless Gods”—a banging, laptop-and-drums IDM jam that unites danceheads, indie kids, and scenesters in one heck of a mosh roll. The rotating, one-take clip shows Diego looking damn serious and busy tweaking his electronic gears while allowing the spotlight to take over Jay pounding the skins like a vicious pro. The simple but neat video treatment is what keeps all those elements so expertly balance, but it’s the improvisational charm that makes it sound more organic that any local electronic releases this year.

31. The Ringmaster – “Lady of all Rung Evenings” [ stream ]

The Ringmaster’s “Lady of All Rung Evenings” echoes the quiet intimacy that Francis Lorenzo displayed on Sleepwalk Circus’ debut album, Great Secret Show. But instead of swathing in distortions and shoegaze-inflected swoons to capture the existential feelings of longing and frustration, Francis keeps things mellowed down and a little feminine, basking in heart-stabbing, downtempo pop that goes to as far as conquering all hell and mud in pursuit of love. This time, he’s restless not with himself, but with his art, his woman, and the need to express himself.

30. Fando and Lis – “Sapat Na”
Found and Lost [ video ]

Stripped off pretension and complexity, “Sapat Na” is a piano ballad that you would want to hear early in the morning regardless of any weather. It’s a rare kind of pure, after-cuddle joy that slowly fills up the spaces only occupied by love and two people who are in love, leaving a wonderful scent that one could only wish not to expire. Khavn has mastered this natural gift of sentimentality and words, a sincerity that rises above smoke, an emotional outpour shared by someone who never gets tired of repeating “I love you” day after day, even if the world has grown tired of it.

29. Duende – “Ugly” [ stream ]

Music critic/Vandals On The Wall contributor Richard Bolisay commended hiphop duo Duende for “the grim stories they tell rather than have them overshadowed by a quicksand of chorus and samples.” On his review of the track “Ugly,” Bolisay called it “a confessional of many unpleasant things about living in this country, but one that is soberly moving, its understated production values complementing it so well.” While others exhaust their energy on braggadocio and tired old gimmicks, Duende spins tales of third world angst with an eye of a street poet, outliving life by living within its violent means. Skarm’s cold, dramatic production adds a biting grim to the narrative, but careful not to overrun everything else in it.

28. Pasta Groove Feat. Armi Millare – “Psilo” [ free download ]

Paolo Garcia a.k.a. Pasta Groove is back tossing and splicing samples from his old vinyl record collection, layering a beat-based, musical template with a meditative crosspiece that Erykah Badu would jam for. Such description captures the vibe on “Psilo”—a smooth slow-burner of a track that drifts, ebbs, and flows, moving in a gradual sonic muster that recalls some of Paolo’s finest works. It is ambient, chill-out and neo-soul music ambivalently lumped in together, sounding more like Badu/Aretha Franklin on acids. Armi Millare provides guest vocals on the track, and as usual, she kills it with melismatic singing that qualifies as smoldering lust to the ears.

27. The Strangeness – “Ramblin’ Man” [ stream ]

No. This isn’t a cover of a Hank Williams Sr. song bearing the same title, but more of an attempt to rewrite the good old Southern heartbreaker into something as equally honest and compelling as the point of reference. The Strangeness pays tribute to the stoner sentimentalist by way of lo-fi, mellowed-out guitar jammery in which Francis Cabal intones, “it’s a force of habit, when you want something you grab it” while pouring his soul with a dad-rock disguise. It’s an understatedly disarming performance that doesn’t really need any embellishment in it, because for all we know—a song this clear and simple, with a voice that’s just breathtaking in its most despairing moments—is more than enough to get you through your saddest days.

26. Alessandra De Rossi – “Make It Better” [ video ]

“Try to fix me, don’t make it better,” Alessandra sings on the first line of “Make It Better,” alluding it to her experience recording songs with a professional studio producer. Apparently, Alex wrote this song as a big ‘fuck you’ to the snooty musician who wanted to take full control of her music and reject her every imprint of creative decision. And like a real punk with heels, Alex took it on stride and hired Pat Tirano instead to co-produce majority of the tracks on her brilliant electro-pop debut Adrift.

The chemistry between Pat and Alex is undeniably tight and strong on “Make It Better.” Over chilling atmospherics and washes of echoes, Alessandra takes a bold plunge at how artists should take integrity and craft at heart, insisting on perfecting the kind of homemade art enhanced by music software and technology in her own terms. Pat on the other hand, lends his expertise on the mixing and production side, giving Alex’s sound a more polished direction.

25. DJ Arbie Won Feat. Katwo and Analog MC – “Trapper Keeper” [ video ]

DJ Arbie Won is all set to release his all-star bag of an album United Freestyles Volume 3, featuring guest vocals by Drip’s Beng Calma, Nyko Maca, and Nimbus 9 to name a few. This time, he’s gotten better and more interesting with his production style, nailing turntablist rhythms with kaleidoscopic, femme-fatale pop and streetwise funk, rabidly skewed in old school hiphop fashion. Such is the case of his new single “Trapper Keeper,” where he shares the spotlight with his new muse Katwo Puertollano –the feisty front woman of indie rock icons Duster and Narda—unclothing her with a big-tent personality that pinches a thing or two from M.I.A. to Azealia Banks, Santogold to our very own, Sampaguita. Not to be left out, Analog MC provides a tongue-in-cheek verse as support to Katwo’s fearless embodiment of the cool, not afraid to top some cheese on a straight-faced, urban swag that's bound to challenge the pop music landscape this side of the borough.

24. Rico Blanco – “Amats” [ video ]
Galactic Fiestamatik

Helmed with sinister sexiness and ‘80s brooding pop fetishism, Rico Blanco’s “Amats” takes us to his gauzy stalker world—dark and commanding, electric and spine-chilling, combining solid pop songcraft with layers of esoteric, computer world chaos only the Red Queen can read and decipher. It’s Kraftwerk meets Placebo meets Joey Ayala, filtered in a pop-friendly mash up for future chart smash reference: and Rico, the modern Ati-Atihan tribesman wants us to believe that he’s the link between the old and new world, modern technology and indigenous culture, combining two opposite forces to create an offspring he could call his own.

23. Archaster – “Hometown” [ free download ]

Archaster’s new track “Hometown” finds Francis Yu contemplating on his decision to leave the town encrusted with memories of his friends and family, nothing coming out in his words but grieving from a distance. The music around him sways in between hopelessness and lament, chiming in the pangs of a brooding road-folk sentimentality reminiscent of The National’s work in High Violet and Alligator.

“Let’s take a walk down to the streets of Valenzuela, walk down with me,” he muses with a heavy heart, clouded with thoughts that it might be the last time he’ll get to experience walking on a late-night empty street with familiarity winding down in thick air. Archaster’s reputation for sad bastard melancholia is pretty evident in this track and a closer listen reveals big moments that get more affecting with more listens. What draws me into this emotional claustrophobia is the way the music gets into the layer of the storytelling, providing crack of light coming through darkness.

22. Julie Anne San Jose – “Enough” [ video ]
Julie Anne San Jose

Julie Anne San Jose was pretty much inescapable this year, her bubblegum personality matched with girl-next-door confidence and talent has the makings of the next Sarah Geronimo—the manufactured teen queen embodying the typical Filipina mold—morena, silent charmer, mahinhin, not exactly in that order. But there’s something refreshing in Julie Anne San Jose that sets her million miles apart from her less interesting contemporaries. Her voice, surprisingly an effective instrument that blends effortlessly in songs like “I’ll Be There” and her charming Youtube cover of “Super Bass,” straddles in between melismatic sweet tooth and big-lunged power, and doesn’t come off as too saccharine for an average pop listener’s taste. But aside from those things, she can rap, act and dance, working her onstage theatrics without having to turn base or crude to get there.

On the Toto Sorioso-assisted R&B jam “Enough,” Julie Anne San Jose connects to listeners on a very personal level, carving the track with her candid bite of personality, singing as if she was facing the mirror all along. There’s no pristine diva moment here or detailed histrionics, just confessional teenage issues that would make for a great ugly-cry. Part of its appeal might lie in the way Julie Anne carries herself, brash and confident, like a strong, young woman who’s had enough of life fuckeries and the consequences of adolescent love. Add to that the undeniable summer vibe and glossy production, and what you have now is one of the better slices of modern pop released this year.

21. Nemesis Q – “Doppel” [ stream ]

Not everyone’s a witness to the mammoth size of a genius that is Jayme Ancla. Outside his guitar duties for alt-psychedelia band The Strangeness, he turns to his hiphop alter-ego Nemesis Q for some bedroom comfort, lashing out on Tito Sotto and forgotten ‘80s tabloid drama over cluttered, funky beats and mellow jazz breaks. At the risk of being laughed at, he wears the mask of a noir storyteller that spins tales of cold violence and bloodied revenge, his fangs way too sharp that it cuts on steel egos and bikini tops with an easy nibble.On “Dopple,” Jayme pulls off a rehashed psychoanalytical thriller on record with an entirely refreshing take, spitting pig-sick venom one moment and humanly realizations the next. He battles with his mind like Norman Bates would on a regular day. Then he decides to torture the bitch that cheated on him, works his way to clean the crime scene after as if nothing happened, and drives to his ex’s house to destroy every pictures of them together with slanted rage.

He raps, “So, I drove into her house, breaking every picture of us being together like a fuckin earthmover. I tied her upside down then stab her fuckin neck. Then she looked at me "Who are you?" as she fuckin wept. “Jayme has a macabre imagination that could rival even the oddest of misogynistic morality tales, taking gruesome content to a heartbreaking art-form instead of just the usual grim. He’s Nick Cave trying to get through Childish Gambino’s soul with an effortless street cred, and when he completely immerses himself to the act, his schizoid panoply of words leaves you emptied and stunned. And worse, it gets you stoned for a day trying to figure out where that canned of a wisdom came from.

BEST FILIPINO EPs OF 2012 (10 - 1)
BEST COVERS OF 2012 (10 - 1)

December 25, 2012

The Best Filipino Tracks of 2012 (#60 - 41)

Coming up with a year-end music list is always exhausting. You scour the dusting archives and recount the experience you had with the 8-month single. You skip meals and do some hefty amount of research just to check on accuracy and background info. You play the music again and again, until you absorb detail by detail, the impact it had on you, the way it accompanied you on your long walks and commute, and the killer hooks that made you tap your foot without missing a beat. Then you compare. Contrast. Rub out some excess. And to some point, add the overlooked ones. Voila! There goes the top 10.

Below is a list of the Best Filipino tracks of 2012, this blog’s very own tribute to a successful year in music. And before anything else, I just want to clear that this doesn't affirm any sweeping statements, claims or whatsoever unbearable bragging of expertise that some might point out. These are just personal thoughts. I could be wrong. I might be right. It's just a space anyway. And I’m sure you have yours to use.

60. Tide/Edit – “Backpack” [ stream ]
Ideas EP

Where so much contemporary post-rock releases focus on lengthy instrumental compositions and crescendo builds, Tide/Edit would rather embrace the genre’s melodic, soft side with a sparkly glide that clocks short of three minutes. Their new track “Backpack” is driven by such aesthetic stamp; with its chiming riffs and drum beats pushing farther than you thought it could go, transporting you to a moonlight swoon in just one sitting. Turns out, the world is an ideal aural setting for all things dreamy and mesmeric, especially when you view it with this beautiful song performing soundtrack duties in the background.

59. Dirty Hate – “La Brea” [ stream ]
We Don't Mind We Don't Care

There’s nothing like Dirty Hate’s “La Brea” this year: a trippy, guitar-wielding anthem that screams of one night stand and cheap motel rooms, best played when your buddies are around to join you in a fun, group sing-along. It finds its heart where there's a bottle of beer, inhabiting a reckless spirit that is both sexy and weird, punk and psychedelic, depending on how it fancies you.

58. Theories of Sweetness – “S'il Vous Plait” [ free download ]

Count Cagayan De Oro-based chillwave duo Theories of Sweetness as one of the most interesting new breeds in the local ambient department. On their spare time, TOS makes moody, intricate piece of bedroom melancholia, combining layers of delicate keyboard melodies and syrupy electronic beats with dragging haze. Distant and textured, their new track “S'il Vous Plait” sweet-talks you to curl up and get cozy, conveying that lackadaisical feeling of youthful abandon in a six-minute pop song. It comes across as some form of a sleep-inducing drug set to headphone music; and the more you listen to it, the more it puts you to daydream unconscious that’s all too sweet you wouldn’t even want to wake up from deep slumber.

57. The Oktaves – “K.U.P.A.L. [ video ]
The Oktaves

Ely Buendia has taken a bit of aesthetic turn: he now joins Nitoy Adriano of The Jerks and the Padilla brothers on a new hard rock band called Oktaves. There’s that burden of living up to the expectation of being labeled a supergroup, but on their new track “K.U.P.A.L.,” Ely and gang keeps it straight up and simple, swiping pretty heavily on feral riffs and unabashed rock n’ roll fury like some form of classic-rock worship is about to take us in a sweep. Never one to back down, Ely shows that he can screw around dirty, teeth-rattling guitar chords with a bluesy strut, taking its listeners to a time when rock music was about fun and gratuitous sexual tension.

56. Spazzkid Feat. Skymarines – “Candy Flavored Lips” [ free download ]

Prolific electronic producer Spazzkid recently hooked up with Skymarines on “Candy Flavored Lips.” Together, they push the sonic boundaries of R&B and electronic music to a more esoteric direction—woozied, drugged and liquefied until it enters your consciousness and refuses to leave. Sure it brings to mind PBR&B stars The-Dream and The Weeknd, or on a local level—Eyedress, but what makes this thing work in a novel context is that the combination of organic percussions and abrasive sonic elements actually fit together, from Skymarines’ wistful singing tone to Spazzkid’s spacious and nocturnal production.

55. The Pharm – “Limits of Stability” [ video ]
The Pharmer's Guide to Higher Ground

Art-rap ensemble The Pharm pulls off another gem with an ethereal-weirdo streak, bending minimalism and style in a way that doesn’t feel overwhelming. Over a ghosted ambient sample and lo-fi hiphop beats, Lloyd and Liquid exchange rhymes and flips every word with a delicate flow, striking a balance between hermetic verbosity and poetic urban cred. But it’s Skarm’s cosmic production that elevates this track to some form of a hard-hitting assault, oiling some finesse to an otherwise gritty delivery.

54. Submarine Supreme – “Bore” [ stream ]

The internet is home to millions of virtually unheard music waiting to be embraced or junked in the bins of a digital age relapse. Count us as one of those few people who find thrill in unearthing internet treasures that nobody would even dare to care and listen to, but still manage to grab our attention in visceral ways that we sometimes can’t understand. By accident, we’ve bumped into Submarine Supreme—a low-keyed, bedroom haze project by Bubblegoo’s Tobit Rubio. A week ago, he posted the aberrantly charming “Bore” and it’s a track that when peeled off its skin, comes off naturally as a carefully attended piece that sounds ambitious in its homemade scope. Is it just us or it does sound like an attempt to capture the sweet distraught that is Radiohead’s In Rainbows or just an experiment in guitar textures and dizzying, stereo-panned noise? Whatever it is, we’re really excited to find out what Tobit is up to soon.

53. Chillitees – “La la la” [ free download ]

“La La La” is another highlight in Chillitees’ Manila Sound brew of retro-R&B smoothness, an instant feeler that sends you a warm hug in a night of longing and emptiness. Uela’s voice grabs you by the ear, whispering in a close distance as if she’s someone who knows your weakness from soul to knees. When you hear her sing “Di na maghahanap ng iba, dahil sayo ay kuntento na,” it transports you immediately to a heavenly kink of ecstasy and you can't help but surrender in it. Don’t say you haven’t been warned, but I’m telling you as early as now: You wouldn’t want to escape this feeling.

52. Sandwich – “Mayday” [ video ]

An anthem doesn’t attempt to be anything. It just is. And that’s everything I like about Sandwich’s break-out hit “Sugod." It's a song that aside from transcending social class and margins, tackles the quintessential hymn of all music festival goers and free gig campers, the glee that ensued in every beer-wasted rock n’ roll moshpits, and the fun and fulfilment live music brings to the table. While not everyone will agree with me, it is without any doubt, this generation’s answer to Juan Dela Cruz Band’s “Ang Himig Natin” or Sampaguita’s “Bonggahan”—an anthem that nurtures the wild side of youth culture in an authentic way, where it smells natural and bohemian.

Same can be said on “Mayday,” Sandwich’s attempt to rewrite “Sugod” with a surf-rock flair that recalls The Pixies and a poppier Sonic Youth. But instead on universalizing the collective embrace of every gig goers out there, Raymund and gang pays tribute on the culprit behind some of the best rock n’ roll parties and gigs thrown in recent memory. Yes, more than anything else, it’s a song about Mei Bastes—the tattooed events organizer who at one point in her life, brought free live music to a different dimension that united all music fans from all walks of life. It’s an anthem to get your hips to dancing and like every nostalgia fetishists, a recollection of a time when every Meiday gig is worth looking forward to.

51. Some Gorgeous Accident Feat. Micaela Benedicto (Outerhope) – “On A Clear Day” [ video ]
Sleep In Symmetry

Dale Marquez and Micaela Benedicto are up to something beautiful and breathtaking, collaborating on the hazy, dream-pop track “On A Clear Day.” Having broken through a distinctive sound, Dale continues to lift off a winged surreal world, with layers of sugar-coated, textured noise and swooshing guitars ascending to a slow-dragging take off. Mick on the other hand, allows a Cathedral wall of sound to wash out her childlike, whimsy vocals, providing a deceptively emotional mix that evokes vertigo and nostalgia, beauty and pain.

50. The Sleepyheads - “God’s Lonely Man” [ video ]

After churning out catchy jangly pop anthems that linger around themes of loserdom, social alienation and meaninglessness of the world, we kind of expected “God’s Lonely Man” to fit in the same bill, poking fun at the miserablist feeling while embracing Jonathan Richman-meets-Velvet Underground lo-fi claustrophobia like it’s 2005. But lo and behold, they’ve worn something different this time, grinding on the walls of guitar distortion and noise for a slightly different direction. “God’s Lonely Man,” the new track off The Sleepyheads’ upcoming record SEE-SAW sounds more like a noise-pop reincarnation than a return to old form; melting such familiar themes we’ve grown accustomed to in a distant, abstractly pained haze. But this time, it’s done with tongue-in-cheek sensibility and a hint of comic satire, wrapped up with a video of a porn-worshipping, pathetic chub basking in his own little, miserable world of glossy babe posters and adult magazines.

49. Kjah – “Sunggab” [ free download ]

Unlike other local MCs who rose to Fliptop prominence, KJah’s brand of hiphop distances away from his big-tent, rap Battalia persona, unclothing such excesses with lyrical complexity that is at once street-savvy observant and gritty. On the new track ‘Sunggab”, he raps over a Childish Gambino beat with a speedy blast of hurtling urban poetry. It’s impossible to pull your ears away from this intellectually astute deathblow, especially with spit-fire lines that put to a length the wordsmith meaning in hiphop's sometimes-annoying culture of braggadocio. He takes pride and spits, “Simulan mo ng magsulat, mas mahapdi ang tama kesa sa itak, pag buka ko ng bibig ang apoy rumatrat, mala-bala ang ragasa nasa aking pag talak.” And we’re left with our mouths open, trying to figure out where that zing of a fly came from.

48. Stomachine – “Your Turn” [ stream ]

In its unique and infectious approach to indie pop, Stomachine’s “Your Turn” sounds like it belongs to a particular decade spinning bigger but softer alt anthems straight from someone else’s sensitive ego, scribbling notes from The Magic Numbers' sappy fluff and finding delightful escape in Ben Gibbard’s sharp-witted confessionals. With a chorus as warm and sad as the ocean waves, “Your Turn” convinces us that in its embrace of widescreen hooks and power-pop melancholia, Stomachine could pull off heartbreakingly sincere moments without being unintentionally funny, creating a sonic blueprint that hits a little closer to home.

47. The Gentle Isolation – “US Rock” [ stream ]

There’s a reason The Gentle Isolation’s “US Rock” comes in the form of bright, candy-store whimsy. Like The Cults and The Cardigans’ feel-good tunes, the song seems to inhabit that lovely intersection between young love and wistful summer, cranking out great happy-sad music that drags on for days. Ness Urian relays the exact moment that made her grapple on excitement and nostalgia: “Seasons would come and go, my love for you continued as we grow,” she sings in a sunny but terse melancholic tone, seemingly hopeful of that day when that guy she loves would feel the same way too.

46. Unclemullet – “Stasis” [ stream ]

The bombastic hissyfit of Unclemullet reminds me of everything cathartic about late ‘80s noise rock, that “your-world-in-a-blender” kind of guitar sound pioneered by alt veterans Sonic Youth, Husker Du and Dinosaur Jr. Their new track "Stasis" waxes a mixed proclamation of anger, love and frustration in its distorted, mind-numbing churn, making it sound more real and heartfelt than what you expected it to be. Sure it takes a few listens for the music and noise to sink in, but once they have, they're indelible. Next thing you know, you’re murdering it on a press play repeat without a bit of irony at all.

45. Mastaplann Feat. Bambu – “Welcome To Manila” [ video ]

Perhaps the most unexpected turn in Philippine hiphop this year is when Bambu finally decided to hook up with the equally iconic rap group Mastaplann on “Welcome To Manila.” Everything in it sounds massive and triumphal, displaying a red-carpet tribute to the city that withstood all forms and shapes of calamity thanks to the unwavering Filipino spirit. With the rise of fliptop pitting wordsmiths and street-life troubadours on a game of wits, it’s refreshing to see two relevant stars in local hiphop sharing the microphone together for a hard-hitting observation on Manila’s fat-ass streets, recalling the nostalgic days when life was so much fun in here ala Francis M’s Man from Manila.

44. KaapiN - "Everyone's the Same" [ stream ]

Judging from the hidden gems we’ve found online, experimental pop/IDM duo KaapiN might be the most interesting export that came out from Cebu since Faspitch. At its mighty finest, KaapiN’s amalgam of eerily minimalist soundscapes and digitized textures showcase an aesthetic that bridges the space between technology and human emotions, amplified in a gossamer-thin electro pulse that articulates the new kind of loneliness and longing brought about by our constant connectedness. “Everyone’s The Same” honors these feelings, bursting out all over a sheet of android noise and saccharine melodies. Plenty of things are going behind this cyborg wallop, but if you get past that, the song reverberates with something much deeper, leafing through a series of disconnected and connected emotional wiring that binds us all.

43. Brandon Cueto – “I Can Count On You” [ stream ]

Brandon Cueto’s “I Can Count On You” is not the kind of glitter bomb buzz populating the recent strain of EDM and dubstep records. Sure, it marries the former’s sense of scale with ethereal minimalism, but hardly does it smell of grimy breakdowns and serrated bassdrops that would make you scream, “Cornetto ice cream!” Instead of tension and sirens blaring, it conjures emotional weight out of female vocals, disembodied and chopped like the sound of a ghostly town floating over seismic beats.

42. She’s Only Sixteen – “Dying To Meet You” [ video ]
She's Only Sixten EP

As if The Strokes wasn’t enough, third wave, garage rock revival is making its presence felt this year, from The Charmes’ fun-loving guitar rock to The Strangeness’ cult-inspired, smashing-windshields psychedelia. Suddenly, everybody wants to be next The Velvet Underground or The Stooges again, or to a more obscure extent—Television, embracing the loose, primal energy of their heroes while incorporating the ragged revolt of 21st century youth culture and ennui. She’s Only Sixteen belongs to this new wave of stripped raw guitar bands from The Philippines that you don’t feel sorry to have existed this late, updating their old fashioned, less-is-more aesthetic with a more commercial sound and boyish appeal. Their new single “Dying To Meet You” is a proof of this bristling revival, a fist-in-the-air mosher that’s too charming to ignore because it’s just that good. It’s rife with solid, driving rhythms and hooks reminiscent of The Strokes, sneaking its way to you like a love letter from a dusting cabinet.

41. Markki Stroem Feat. Zia Quizon – “Steal Your Soul” [ video ]

Hunky singer-actor Markki Stroem made the right decision when after his rewarding stint at Pilipinas Got Talent, he recruited Zia Quizon on “Steal Your Soul,” the first single off his debut album, Thousands Pieces. While it barely cracked major charts and got underwhelming response from radio listeners, the collaboration brought out the sexiness in Stroem and made him explore the edges of pop music with soulfulness and ease. Zia on the other hand, sounds captivating as ever despite her short part, allowing Markki to shine without making her look like the second fiddle to the lead.

BEST FILIPINO EPs OF 2012 (10 - 1)
BEST COVERS OF 2012 (10 - 1)

December 20, 2012

The 10 Best Filipino Beat Tapes of 2012

As far as texture, sample flipping and creativity is concerned, young Filipino producers have finally stepped up their game the way it’s expected of them, putting fresh, innovative spin on beatmaking microtrends while also stamping a personality that would distinguish their work from other aspirants in the scene. Beat tapes or hiphop instrumentals, as what they’re called, offer a closer look at the production trends and techniques helmed by beatmakers at their most inspired studio hours.

Oftentimes, we chose to ignore the people behind the sickest beat that propelled that big, gritty rap song to a chart-topping smash, or sadder than any fate, fail to acknowledge their contribution to hiphop or music, in general. But this time, we strongly feel the need to pay homage to these trailblazers, those that showed range and talent as an artists’ artist, and those that spent grueling hours perfecting the craft in two minutes of spastic builds and ricochets. And 2012 is the year when young producers—either in the hiphop or electronica mold—took their chops to an entirely invigorating level, showing the world that the next Flylo and Dev Hynes might just be living here, tripping on beer, bleeps, and beats.

10. L. Yap – Home Made Beats

Jazzy rhythms crackling over vinyl. Bluesy guitar licks filtered in boom-bap canon. Home Made Beats is an EP that thrives on vintage sounds of pure, unabashed beauty, splintered with laid-back hiphop beats to capture a more casual feel. It’s an easy listening piece that blurs the borders between urban music and chill-out, coming off as early morning sunshine served in your dose of sleepless, nocturnal nights.

9. Ize – Mists and Mixed Feelings

Production styles especially in hiphop/electronica have mutated into stranger and sparser directions, moving in no discernible pattern. Ize’s Mists and Mixed Feelings belongs to this new wave of nocturnal daydreamers, concocting a minimalist throb that feels as if it’s being drawn into the light.

8. Kirvy – vol.two

Music website, Potholes in blog described Kirby’s vol.two beat tape as a record that “explores cutting-edge sonic space juxtaposed with familiar classic acapellas, showing that while the North American West Coast might be ground zero for forward-thinking futuristic hip-hop beats, Kirvy’s Philippines might not be as far away as they seem.” And they’re indeed on point: vol.two offers a series of urban-knocking cradlers that sound more like boombap abstracts than actual songs. This record is best played at 3 AM in the morning while you chill at the balcony wearing nothing but after-sex undies.

7. Obi.von – Melt

As a product of his intercultural exposures and travels, Obi.von’s Melt flips the meaning of “world music” into a jungle of otherworldly chaos and order, moving in transient speed as it snatches every possible sonic remnant it could get from the places he visits, molding it with fluttering effects and jagged drum sequences to give it a more twisted vibe.

6. 500 – Moon Unit

Few records this year have done such a remarkable job wringing intricate, challenging concepts out of minimalist soundscapes. 500’s debut beat tape Moon Unit achieves that kind of awesomeness with confidence and commitment in his vision, showing us his “clear and positive approach to life” through spectral shapes and fragments that echo post-Dilla hiphop or Flylo sheen, the third world way.

5. Suhnraw – Soul.

The accessibility of home recording meant that everyone with internet access and gear can be a record producer, but majority of these aspirants can’t pull off magic they way it should be brewed and done. Fil-Am bedroom producer Suhnraw proves that there’s more to the art of production than being outstanding and inventive. On Soul., every palette and sonic washes simultaneously roll toward you, connecting on an emotional, soulful level without being completely immersive.

4. Justin de Guzman – Maschine

Maschine feels like late night ruminations, a cocktail soundtrack that you play once in a while to cover up your loneliness. The straightforward beats provide a striking contrast to the jazzy, mellow rhythms and spaced-out abstractions of every track, adding pizzazz to an otherwise purple-hued canvass. But it’s the minimalism that Justin weaves into the mix that makes this compilation of beats and scrapes, an interesting banger. It’s so subtle that you have to pay close attention in order for you not to miss out the details and nuances instilled in this breathtaking concoction.

3. Eyedress – Nature Trips

In the constantly shifting world of instrumental hiphop and IDM where trends seem to expire before you’ve finished drinking your second bottle of beer, Eyedress' psychedelic Nature Trips offers an earthy package that fits both esoteric dancefloor and mood-time, countryside driving—soundscapes, that when perceived abstractly, unravel a world where you don’t have to end up worrying much about anything at all.

2. B-Roc – This Is Your Captain Speaking

“This isn't about technical skill, the beats were made to breathe a little. Allowing each listener some room to think and feel,” producer-extraordinaire B-Roc shares with local hiphop blog, Soulfiesta in a short but sweet, self-curated note. And he is damn right: over minimalist beats and soul-inflected samples, he fires his own gun with bullets of a craftsman, hitting both nuances and emphasis in a single blow while others struggle to do it in their overly stylized, heavy-handed approach. B-Roc, as usual, knows his way out because the game is his own piece of puzzle, teaching us a thing or two about hiphop production 101, the basics of it and the sharper grounds that he redefined through time and experience.

1. Similar Objects – Synchronicity is the Norm

Jorge Wieneke is more than a product of internet buzz and hype. He’s a dope, forward-thinking beatsmith that dwells on the artifact of sounds, carefully dissecting and restructuring its layers to create some hazy form of pastel-painted, esoteric energy. Sychronicity is the Norm, his best work since last year’s Finding Astral Lovers is a collection of ambient, abstract and urban sonic reels, built over chopped recordings, sedated synths and trippy basslines that are intertwined and integrated to cause friction or tension, a nasty-beautiful one to be exact. On Synchronicity, Jorge trades laptop blues for sampler intimacy, his approach forging deeper connection with the music he samples on turntable and the fragments that it has turned into.

December 18, 2012

WORLD WITHOUT WORDS: Notes on Filipino Post-Rock

One of the biggest revelations unfurled this year involved the sudden emergence of post-rock bands, those cosmic experimentalists that care more about sculpting moods and feelings rather than make any grand gesture of emotional fleeting using words. Suddenly, everybody wants to join the bandwagon and take full advantage of the trend, but only few bands grounded in such sonic mold, have the tenacity to sound forward-thinking and distinct, bending conventional song structures into murmurs of lost space.

Encounters with a Yeti introduced the cold, drifting sound of post-rock inspired by movie scores and abstract expressionism, mastering the art form with their spectacular display of skill and subtlety. They were the first ones in the country to tackle the genre on a more accessible level, eventually landing them a record deal with indie label, Terno Recordings. EWAY’s debut record Pilot was released this year, an album “constructed around a cinematic canvass that’s thoroughly unique even without words to paint them.” It was a well-received work often compared to Mogwai’s Young Team or Explosions In The Sky’s Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, but above all, it set the sky-high record for every local post-rock bands to follow and break, nurturing an altitude of creativity unseen in most subgenres that have emerged long before post-rock made an explosive turn early this year.

Bands like Earthmover and Tide/Edit followed suit, in a few months’ time becoming a fixture in the local gig scene due to their compelling and confident take on the genre. But unlike Encounters with a Yeti, both bands are more aggressive and intense in their inception of the aesthetic, putting more emphasis on the “rock” than the “post.” A cross between Isis and Pelican, Earthmover’s First Sighting was released early this year few months before Pilot debuted via Terno Recordings. It’s a completely different breed of post-rock that "embraced the ferocious intensity of modern rock music," combining calculated mayhem with hypnotic soundscapes. Tide/Edit’s Ideas on the other hand, pedals with unexplained warmth that pushes farther than you thought it could go, borrowing its style from summery indie rock records of the naughties.

Two new promising post-rock acts also bear the imprint of the spatial spectacle harnessed by the above mentioned bands, only leaning towards a more ambient, glacial direction. Love Never Dies, the symphonic/ambient rock duo composed of Karlo Cleto and RJ Gomez, maps out celestial beauty by way of orchestral amber and noise. Their new EP, Ascension which you can download here for free, channels Caspian and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but on lighter, more hypnotic numbers such as “Final Ascent” and “Big News,” they aim for something infinite as the blue sky, rather than exploring mere juxtapositions of silence and fury.

Dave Go’s solo post-rock project, Signs of Light in the Atmosphere provides a swirl of calm in today’s maelstrom, carrying as much emotional depth as the quiet moments seeping in its build and ruins. While others attempt to search profundity in futurism, Dave opts to mine neo-classical influences ala Phillip Glass, with sparse keyboard arrangements more upfront as it wanders from one abstract piece to the other. His debut album, I’ll Forget About Stars For Awhile is now available for download here.

Encounters With A Yeti, Earthmover, Tide/Edit, Love Never Dies and Signs of Light in the Atmosphere led the homegrown pact of what seems to pass off as “post-rock” these days. Despite harboring disparate approaches, these bands have one thing in common: they’re all drawn to this universe where soundscapes shape up into a flurry of emotions, united by the challenges of exhausting new sonic possibilities at the expense of a wordless world.

December 14, 2012

The 10 Best Cover Songs of 2012

Our annual year-end coverage starts with the best covers of 2012. While we’re not really big on remakes or those pointless photocopies of classics, we made it a point to include this category to honor local artists that cradled covers as if it were their child.

Kath Bloom Cover

Perhaps as homage to the soundtrack of Before Sunrise, Allan Lumba (Multo) took to his Soundcloud to drop a lovely cover of Kath Bloom’s sleeper hit “Come Here.” Here, he carries the barenaked simplicity of the song with just an acoustic guitar and his singing voice, pulling off a Ben Gibbard in all the right ways.

Sheena Easton Cover

Zia sports Sheena Easton’s ‘80s hit with a retro-soul ‘do smacked of cold, Holiday blues and sweet-stained horns, topping it all with an impassioned vocal that would make you swoon and drop everything you’re holding at the moment.

NIN Cover

GYHT takes one of Nine Inch Nails’ cult favorites and rearranges it into a synth-heavy, post-industrial banger that would fit in any of Trent Reznor’s side projects, if only he would shut up and allow some banshee to take control of the microphone.

Slowdive Cover

Like nocturnal lullabies at the end of the tunnel, Archaster’s version of this shoegaze earmint is short and bittersweet, carried into a strangely quiet soundworld where there's no sunshine to seep in. Francis Yu has mastered the art of mope, taking it to some form of shrine that we’re happy-sad happy to visit once in a while.

Perfume Genius Cover

What immediately stands out in this Perfume Genius cover is the gripping moroseness that Love Never Dies pulled off, staying pretty faithful to the original’s somber tone and mournful guitar melodies. It’s a straightforward version that walks us though the melancholy and comfort that the song brings, so close to home that you can actually smell and feel it from a close distance.

Uffie Cover

Bianca Yuzon shows us how to wreck a messed up song while making love to it at the same time. On "The Party," she gives us an intimate, soul-baring performance that scrubs off the excessive gimmickries of the original.

Townes Van Zandt Cover

Cabal puts his own spin to this backwoods alt-country standard without destroying its confessional intimacy. He sings it the way it should be sang in funerals and countryside driving, but accompanies it with Byrds-like acoustic guitars that sound like abandoned memories washed out by time.

Frank Ocean Cover

Not exactly thrilled with the idea of anyone covering Frank Ocean songs, but Walkie Talkies' breezy, light take on the R&B auteur’s single is just so damn smooth that it could probably melt everything it touches. As different as their musical styles may be, both shares affinity for knee-jerking falsetto croon that adds the right touch of yearning to a love that’s out of reach.

Juan Dela Cruz Band Cover

The Strangeness embraces acid-washed form and subtlety on their remake of an old Juan Dela Cruz Band song that never really made it as an official single. Their version is as rustic and beautiful as the original, both saturated with doom and dust. But The Strangeness’ take is nostalgia wrapped in warm reverb, pissed by a bunch of newbies whose ambition is as big as the song they’re trying to tackle.

Eggboy Cover

Spazzkid reconstructs Eggboy’s “Desperate” into a rainbow of Eurodisco joy, painting the material with the campy swoon it needs. Here, Mark Redito inhales and exhales night life in breezy, arms-in-the-air pulse, creating a crosspath where dance music and intimacy are not considered mutually exclusive.

My love for the original version aside, Spazzkid’s version is commendable for its efforts in bringing the dancefloor back to its bedroom roots. As if overhauling is not enough, he retouches the original with Chicago house piano lines and feather-light disco haze, but careful not to blotch too much pink to his own Dionysian party. When Mark Reddito confides, “I am desperate, I think it’s so quiet I need a cigarette,” he meant the world needs to chill once in a while. And he’s right: with this track pumping color and groove nonstop, I don’t see any reason why people would rather spend time fathoming their existence than finding ways to celebrate it. All we need is to give in to the pleasures of life, 4 minutes and 26 seconds of it you can find in this track.

December 11, 2012

NEW TRACK: Frank Magalona - "Hari"

At the center of the spectacle that is “Hari,” Frank Magalona exhibits confidence and humility in equal measures, letting his arsenal of words fall over layers of sonic extravagance and create friction that sends electric daggers right through the listener’s soul. This time, Frank refuses to get acknowledged as the heir to Francis Magalona’s throne or the kid that showed interest in filling the seat. He’s only interested in telling his dad’s story, far from the virtuous paragons of how it was portrayed in the media, completely reflective of how he saw and felt it firsthand.

Yes, it’s obviously another tribute to the king of Pinoy hiphop in the vein of Gloc 9’s “Alalay Ng Hari,” but Frank does something even more difficult: he curates and eulogizes all at the same time, battling his emotions with lines that forge the connection between the rapper and his hero, careful not to sensationalize his story to melodramatic effect. His homage to the late rapper is articulated in ways that, while rooted in real life experiences, can be embraced by everyone tied by the togetherness brought by his music or music, in general. “Hari” claims Francis Magalona’s legacy and throne as if it will be forever his, but more than that, it’s Frank’s way of echoing our sentiments too, that no one can replace the Master Rapper other than the generation that continues to recognize what and where he’s left off.


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