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 ]
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 ]
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 TRACKS OF 2012 (60 - 41)
BEST FILIPINO TRACKS OF 2012 (40 - 21)
BEST FILIPINO TRACKS OF 2012 (20 - 1)
BEST FILIPINO ALBUMS OF 2012 (20 - 1)
BEST FILIPINO EPs OF 2012 (10 - 1)
BEST COVERS OF 2012 (10 - 1)