January 3, 2013

The 10 Best Filipino EPs of 2012

2012 is the year when everyone with basic knowledge on home recording went Bandcamp and uploaded tracks that would end up as EP. While most of these releases lacked professional guidance in the mixing and technicalities department, there are those that practically embraced lo-fi charm and DIY magic to pull off an exciting, if not groundbreaking, record for music fans all over the world to enjoy.

Below is our list of the Best Filipinos EPs of 2012, majority of these records you can download on Bandcamp for free. We’ve been supportive of musicians that despite not getting any mainstream attention or label support, remained truthful to their artistic vision, releasing stuff that pushes the boundaries of music-making and craftsmanship.

10. Love Never Dies - Ascension [ free download ]

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 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.

9. Romcom - It's Tight Like Prom Night! [ free download ]

There’s a reason why it’s effortless to lump RomCom in with the rest of the pack trying to relive the glory days of the 90s. Their debut EP It’s Tight Like Prom Night! plays like some sort of a dainty homage to an era where slum books, dated chick flicks and cassette tapes have thrived and made waves in our collective consciousness. Catchy and unashamedly girlish guitar-rock tunes drip in here with candy-dot honesty that recalls Moonpools and Caterpillars or Fatal Posporos—only that instead of embracing watermark quirks, they opt to write confessional heartaches in a diary pinned with pictures of Moffatts and Freddie Prince Jr.

8. Rome and the Cats – House Party EP [ free download ]

Anyone who’s had the fortune to listen to Rome and the Cats’ excellent 3-song EP, House Party should know by now that these kids can rock out a euphoric, starry-eyed record brimming with new wave nostalgia and massive layers of summery synths. Each track blends to the next, like a long extended jam cut with future and back. But it’s only just 3 songs, and it leaves you wanting for more and more of that utopian ‘80s blast that builds into some climactic dancefloor fantasia your mind’s been telling you about.

7. Outerhope – No End In Sight [ free download ]

Three albums in, and they still sound like stoned college kids humming twee tunes that evoke childlike whimsy in between summer and rain. But C86 and Sarah Records influence aside, they’ve quite grown into something else that would pass off as a product of the 80s. On No End In Sight, Outerhope welcomes a more textured, synth-driven direction, exploring electronic music of the introverted kind. It still has that grasp of all things wounded and intimate, but this time the whimpy dream-folk nostalgia of the first two albums is redressed with a lazy sprawl of haze, thickening the sound with complex knot of feelings.

6. The Juliens – Tite Rasshai [ free download ]

Never indulging on technical or emotional fireworks, The Juliens serve to remind us exactly why bedroom intimacy has always worked on most indie records. For one, it’s a style that relied on familiarity and comfort, sticking around with details that connect more on a personal level. Like The xx’s Coexist, The Juliens’ Tite Rasshai is always on its toes, toying on new aesthetic grounds, but remains relatively closer to where both the home and heart is. It sounds emotionally adrift, coddling your heart just when you’re about to run away.

5. Nemesis Q – Ganger [ free download ]

Nemesis Q’s Ganger throws that hard left hook to the jaw, one that sickens you after a few seconds and leaves you panicking for your life the next. Here, Jayme Ancla plays the role of a misogynist noir storyteller talking about hate crime and revenge, its ugliness getting under your skin like an inescapable nightmare digging deeper into your consciousness, staying there for long. He’s effective at that, really. Ancla combines violent weirdness with a magnet for controversy and commentary, turning transgressive stuff into one of the most refreshing indie rap discoveries of the last three years.

4. Dirty Hate – We Don’t Mind, We Don’t Care [ free download ]

If their debut EP We Don’t Mind, We Don’t Care was any indication, Dirty Hate could be one of the most important Filipino guitar bands that came out in recent memory. They pop and fizzle with glam-nasty guitar riffs and suffocating post-punk menace, cutting through the silence with playful anthems of brood and sex, mostly combining these two to create a mood that translates to joy and sorrow, guilt and ecstasy, and a sense of vague emotional immediacy that makes you feel bad before admitting with a laugh. Like nocturnals sneaking into the empty streets late at night, they sing about finding escapism in sexual fantasies (“The Devil Inside Me”) and making love to a stranger in some hotel room to temporarily take away the loneliness (“Deception Temptation,” “La Brea”).

Dirty Hate’s We Don’t Mind, We Don’t Care vividly captures this unflinching grimness of a woefully misunderstood man completely lost to his sexual impulse and desire, sometimes mistaking it for intimacy while also reinforcing the idea of suburban loneliness and romance through a damaged, late ‘60s garage-rock tune that has everything and nothing both at once. It’s a concept record by standards: heavy on sex and emotions, relatively short on details. But looking past the artifice, it seems like the band is savoring every part of this process with seriousness that can be interpreted as mere camp, something that’s rare in indie rock music nowadays.

3. Pedicab – Kaya Mo Mag-Sando? [ purchase online ]

On their latest 6-track EP Kaya Mo Mag Sando, Pedicab proves to their detractors that they’re still a galvanizing force in both the indie and mainstream music markets, busting shiny, disco-inflected punk tunes so mightily that we’re now embarrassed to be the wallflower that doesn’t know how to dance. This is more of a cousin to the band’s debut album Tugish Takish than a real follow-up to Shinji Ilabas Mo Na Ang Helicopter, with Sando bringing nonstop fun and escapism and accomplishing the feat where every songs (except for the filler title-track) want to be as tight as the singles. On first few listens, they’ve instantly dragged me to their delightful, four-on-the-floor anthems about drunkenness, summer heat and annoying insects the same way my friends or uncles would have remarked LOL-worthy innuendos in one of those beer-flooded nights. Suddenly, it feels like the 90s again, where everybody doesn’t even care about indie cred anymore.

Though Pedicab couldn’t be expected to surpass their previous heights in Tugish Takish or fully immerse themselves in the playful experiments of Shinji Ilabas Mo Na Ang Helicopter, it’s amusing how they were able to deliver another brilliant record brimming with unassuming confidence and consistency that appeals to as many people as possible. At album # 3, they’ve proven enough longevity worthy of a discography track down. And in the grand scheme of Pedicab’s career, this is only one in a series of albums that should define why they’re one of the biggest bands of this generation, and why they need not to dumb down or alienate audience just to prove something.

2. Eyedress – Half Japanese [ free download ]

Every so often, a young artist would pop out in the blogosphere to give us something destined for greatness. Half Japanese did that to Idris Vicuna, a melancho-wave masterpiece that may have found itself drifting in the pitfalls of loneliness and isolation.

The songwriting often reads as personal musings of a man who’s never gotten tired of confessing his personal troubles to the wind, revealing his coping mechanisms on subject matters dealing with love, heartbreaks and loss. Eyedress knows better than anyone else how to make sad bastard music in the most imaginative way possible, disregarding ambition and focusing instead on meanings more tangled with personal experiences. On glo-fi opuses such as “Deathbed” and “Tokyo Ghost,” he paints a surprisingly nuanced picture of a man coping up with the death of a loved one, handling it with grace and refinement, like a how mature person would. And on the summery pop standout “Teen Spirits,” Eyedress is just being Eyedress, the playful slit-wrist kid who believes in love like any normal person would.

1. Archaster – Would You Like Some Tea? [ purchase online ] or [ stream here ]

Striking in its frail icy beauty, Archaster’s Would You Like Some Tea is full of small delights and quiet moments, putting in as much weigh on atmosphere and nuances as on the actual music. It’s easy to think of it as an intimate bedroom-pop that smells of fumy breath or yet another spare, low-key record from someone who wants to make a Leonard Cohen or Neil Young out of his slit-wrist poetry. Hardly the case, Francis Yu—the man behind the dream-folk project, Archaster—dismisses the preconceived notion with an attempt to create a reflection of emotional truth in the most affecting way possible. On Would You Like Some Tea, Francis claims to be a slave of love. He makes music that is smaller than his heart but is as big as the impression it sends, capturing the pulley between love and nostalgia as if it’s restored into a film roll filled with sepia-toned memories.

While many artists struggle to create a stirring piece of work that yields interesting results, Francis’ strength lies on the smallness and claustrophobia that he imposes on himself, making excellent use of whatever’s near and dear to him. There’s no sense of ambition or groundbreaking experiments on his Would You Like Some Tea—only songs meant to be heard in your own little room with nothing to hold on to but a cup of brewed tea and a cigarette stick.


Earthmover – First Sighting [ purchase online ]
Tide/Edit – Ideas [ purchase online ]
She’s Only Sixteen – She’s Only Sixteen [ purchase online ]
Theories of Sweetness - Proximities [ free download ]
Goodbye Yesterday Hello Today – GYHT [ free download ]

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

1 comment:

  1. Ian - A bunch of thanks for your support to the local Pinoy indie scene - and rooting for the underdogs at that. These things keep musicians/artists inspired to push their talents further. Keep the faith as always!

    - Paul/Dirty Hate



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