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100 Essential Filipino Tracks of 2014 (#20 – 1)

December 30, 2014 5:21 am by: Category: Features, Lists Leave a comment

Sarah G

As part of our annual assessment, we rounded up Vandals On The Wall’s trusted pool of writers, contributors, partners and colleagues to come up with a list of the finest Filipino tracks of 2014. Resounding disagreements and individual differences aside, the task of listing down recent releases that have struck us in a profound and intimate way, is indeed a challenging effort. It requires an individual to sift through a goldmine of rarities and obscure finds, only to pick a few that stand out from the rest of the pack.

Special thanks to all the Shiny Happy People who took the challenge seriously despite their very busy schedule: Ian Urrutia (Vandals On The Wall), MC Galang (Vandals On The Wall/Amplify.ph), Itos Ledesma (Vandals On The Wall), Klaris Chua (Vandals On The Wall), Tomi Uysingco (Parallel Planets), Bonnapart Galeng (Yuckzine), Derwin Dexter Sy (Bomba Press), Derek Tvmala (Earphoria), Carlos Magno (Sari-sari Sounds/OPM World), Miao Olivar (Amplify.ph), Ren Aguila (GMA News/Vandals On The Wall), JB Balaquit (Doc Def Productions), and Ajie Recto (Green Apple Productions).

20. Loop – Adorable
327 points, 7 mentions

This is a song that smokescreens all the would-be pains and disappointments of romance, all because it started as a harmless admiration. “Adorable” is, as vocalist Kim Trinidad quipped, a song for the gullible, the lovestruck humans blinded with the false promise of a blissful love story. (MC Galang)

19. Munro – Sea Eyes
329 points, 7 mentions

Munro’s slow but steady pace in releasing singles means that I fully expect a second single next year. Her known live appearances are few and far between too (the last one I can recall was in late June). Her first single from a projected album, accompanied by a two-screen video featuring waves, features her singing about a morning after to the tune of a single repeated note. The picture it paints of both the feeling of being tired yet being satisfied in the company of another is vivid, and ends in what very well may be a musical comma. We look forward to hearing more from Munro next year. (Ren Aguila)

18. Jensen and the Flips – LoveChild
331 points, 7 mentions

OPM has forever been criticized for not being its own genre; rather an assortment of local knockoffs by foreign sound. Many would contest that our artists’ work honor and uplift the many influences heard home. Jensen and the Flips’ brunch-funk joint is testament to this gift of churning out genuine, soulful songs, this side of the globe. (Carlos Magno)

17. Washington Drama Club – She’s A Malady
333 points, 7 mentions

Anyone can start a band, filter boy-girl vocals through tape-hissy ambiance and jangly guitars, and pass it off as home-recorded indie pop. But there’s something about Washington Drama Club’s style that goes beyond the deliberately predictable ground leveled at this type of music. “She’s A Malady,” their debut, smacks of lo-fi starbursts and laid-back comfort, swelling with the pride of shedding traditional indie-pop virtues by way of grizzled guitar textures, one-finger synth riffs, and starry-eyed, boy-girl harmonies. On the surface, it soars in its infectiousness. But as soon as you get to feel the damaged part from the inside, possibly drained after a terrible breakup, you’ll find it easy to appreciate the track more for its irony. Not all upbeat songs need to be happy. (IECU)

16. Autotelic – Dahilan
338 points, 6 mentions

“Dahilan” shows no shame in mining the essentials of a pop anthem—a great, infectious one to be exact. What too often gets overlooked in this effervescent hit machine is that beneath the cheery disposition and sugar rush, it’s far from being a product of a happy ending. When Josh sings, “Bigyan mo ako ng dahilan, dumudulas ang mga kamay,” it feels like he is on the verge of losing hope, and a bad closure will only make his feelings worse.

But instead of witnessing a relationship fall apart, Josh searches for an answer, a reason to hang on, all while shimmying under a disco ball with eyes closed. Just like Robyn’s “Dancehall Queen,” sometimes all we need is a party where we can dance on our own and not give a fuck about what people would say. “Dahilan” is that one soaring anthem that keeps us insulated from the rest of the world; a place where people can pour their collective grievances and heartbreaks, mosh like forever, and find a refuge in the eternity of 5 minutes. Now tell me: How can you be so sad if the music is obviously telling you to dance? It’s a question integral to the charm of “Dahilan,” and once you’re hooked in its premise, there’s no way for you but to surrender and engage in its celebratory funk. (IECU)

15. The Eraserheads – Sabado
344 points, 6 mentions

The infallible and uncanny way that the Eraserheads chronicle the most mundane events of our lives without sounding too diaristic or mawkish is precisely one of the reasons that keeps their music timelessly relevant, without the need to resort to crude gimmicks. Songs like “Sabado” – one of the two singles that the band released in 2014 – are invariably familiar, like fragments of your life that suddenly become all too vividly clear in a span of a few minutes. It’s a song that encompasses a general sentiment, but at the same time, the feeling is also personal, as if the music speaks directly to you. (MC Galang)

14. The SunManager – In Darkness
354 points, 6 mentions

I am one of two people on this panel who voted this their track of the year. There are several good reasons for saying so: the lush, country-folk feel with a classic traveling rhythm, the catchy melody, and inspirational lyrics that provided a refreshing contrast to much of what I heard this year. It is the kind of song that reminds me that the big encounters with darkness happen in the smallest, most intimate spaces (a theme echoed in Dodo Dayao’s film Violator), but our survival depends on fighting it and finding hope in the process. (Ren Aguila)

13. Ciudad – S.I.F.I.L.
366 points, 7 mentions

“Single, single, double, double…,” that’s me dancing every time I hear Ciudad’s “S.I.F.I.L.”. It’s as if it was a track from P.M. Dawn’s debut Of the Heart, of the Soul and of the Cross but it is definitely Ciudad. The band’s refreshing take on the late 80’s to early 90’s pop music is probably the best throwback that happened in OPM this year. This “new sound” they bring on their standalone single S.I.F.I.L. (Such Is Falling In Love) proves that Ciudad’s penchant for catchy music is beyond genre. Everybody dance now! “Single, single, double, double…” (Bonnapart Galeng)

12. Three.! – Eye
376 points, 8 mentions

Sultry, late night dream-pop comedowns heavy on the cold atmospherics, you want to just bundle up close to the fire as Three.! slowly lulls you to a dream-like state. This is the auditory version of looking out at the passenger window as you drive higher into the Benguet trail. “Chill” doesn’t even come close to explaining what it is. The otherworldliness of “Eye” refuses any classification. (Tomi Uysingco)

11. Earthmover – Three
381 points, 9 mentions

Still from their First Sighting EP, “Three” is a perfect soundtrack for an epic daydreaming in less than eight minutes. As the intro teases you with its polyphon-like entrata, you know that something grand is going to happen. Expectedly past midway, the transition from a monotonous state to a climactic buildup explodes right before your very ears and then transcends you into a calming end. A seamless progression which Earthmover is known for. (Bonnapart Galeng)

10. Ourselves The Elves – Baby I Love You So
387 points, 9 mentions

Listeners more familiar with Ourselves The Elves’ previous work will notice the rustic desolation that comes in the mood and instrumentation of “Baby I Love You So,” a new track off the soundtrack of Petersen Vargas’ thesis film, Geography Lessons. While it retains the sweetness and charm of Aly Cabral’s vocal inflections, this kundiman-infused ambient-folk bender evokes the quiet night that follows the stormy afternoon havoc, settling into this simultaneously ethereal and lush sound that we haven’t heard from them yet. In this shivering cold, “Baby I Love You So” is the much-needed blanket to keep us warm for the rest of our stay. Or maybe, for the rest of the year. (IECU)

9. Up Dharma Down – New World
394 points, 9 mentions

Up Dharma Down is one of those bands with keen perceptiveness on things, ranging from trivial to overwhelming. They have an ability to capture moments (their somber instrumentals on Fragmented and Bipolar) and memories (all of their songs that relive stories of heartbreaks and infidelities) and preserve it as chronic reminders of what make us human. Some of us were gravely attached to the pains of “Oo” and the sacred promises of “Tadhana” that sometimes, it made us forget that life is as breathlessly beautiful as it can be unfair. For 10 years now, Up Dharma Down has been a crying shoulder, a force of nature, a confidante, a friend – personifying complicated feelings we deal with when it comes to love.

“New World”, however, is a song that takes you to life and love’s happier dimensions. Love can make you weep, but it can also make you dance. It can get you hurt, but it also allows you to hope if you “open up your eyes and see.” While Armi Millare’s vocals and keyboards float like a languid stream of water, the song’s bodywork bursts of sonic palettes: its synthwork and percussions most defining, then tightened with well-placed guitar-spun melodies. If this song has a physical form, it’ll take your hand as you roll away into the sunset. (MC Galang)

8. The Eraserheads - 1995
401 points, 7 mentions

The most iconic band of the ’90s has reunited, and although their sound is now informed and influenced by a handful of years spent apart, “1995” still manages to pull you back in time and situate you in the very heart of the band’s rise. “1995” is not just another light-hearted nostalgic romp; this track finds The Eraserheads attempting to dig up their own bones but finding chests of treasure instead. (Itos Ledesma)

7. Wilderness – Pasaway
404 points, 9 mentions

The first time Wilderness posted their single “Pasaway” off their album Ballroom Dancing, my friends and I promptly lost our shit. It’s traditional, ethnic, heavy on the kundiman vibes, but at the very same time it is also so forward thinking, it boggles the mind how it was thought up only now. The answer is easy. Because Wilderness are shamans from the future and they’re merely sharing their travels with us. (Tomi Uysingco)

6. Bullet Dumas – Pssst!
410 points, 8 mentions

Not since Cynthia Alexander have we heard a solo artist command such reverent silence in a musical performance, one that carries a spiritual outburst of energy unbound by formula and tradition. His name is Bullet Dumas, a young folkie discovered at the first Elements National Camp in 2010. To some degree though, Dumas bears a striking resemblance to the weathered and intensely organic folk sound of Joey Ayala and Gary Granada, but fosters a style all his own—an oddly syncopated and rhythmically challenging aesthetic built on voice and acoustic guitar. It’s quite intriguing how Bullet makes a simple setup sound complex and rich, yet beautifully nuanced.

This gutsy display of musicality, rooted in bohemianism and improvisational tricks, is what makes his new single “Pssst” an interesting piece of work that doesn’t fall under the lame excuse of curiosity or trend worships. The disparity in its sound, the wildly expressive instrument that is Bullet’s voice, operates outside the typical paradigm of confessional folk. But it’s in this unconventional delivery that we hear music at its most primal mode of expression, almost like a statement that relates to common human experience despite its risky musical structures and indecipherable phrasings. Here, Bullet raises the stakes of how acoustic music forms, regardless of its lack of commercial viability, can sometimes bring a sense of familiarity that can only be felt when you’re home.

For a first single brimming with such promise, Bullet’s place in Filipino music history is all set. (IECU)

5. Cheats – Accidents
423 points, 8 mentions

Some accidents are happy ones. In the case of Cheats’ gorgeously upbeat “Accidents,” you get a near-perfect, riotous indie-pop sound that is packed into a derelict yet tantalizing end product. It’s like drowning yourself, not in a bottomless body of water, but in a sea of velvety Swiss chocolate. Like having your car break down in the middle of nowhere, only to find out you’re just meters away from the wildest summer party imaginable. Don’t forget to headbang or air guitar while “calling out the animal, the animal, inside of you.” It’s a good exercise for letting loose. (Klaris Chua)

4. Sarah Geronimo – Kilometro
442 points, 7 mentions

Sarah Geronimo’s chops as a vocal talent and performer are undisputed. But the demand for tried and tested pop material tends to limit the range of work she’s expected to present. This track however crosses conventional boundaries, delivering something fresh, edgy, and sophisticated, while still having an almighty hook. R&B fans, or music fans in general will have their hats off for this one. (Carlos Magno)

3. Fools and Foes – Blindfolded
476 points, 9 mentions

The gentle, euphonic melody combined with mathy progressions and effortless boy-girl harmony is what’s most endearing in “Blindfolded”. Fools and Foes croon with simplistic, unabashed beauty that zeroes in on innocent charm. (MC Galang)

2. Tide/Edit – Odd & Even
541 points, 11 mentions

2014 marked a year, a sort of movement for the local post-rock scene and tide/edit rise above the genre with its heartfelt style. Post-rock is today’s emotional ballad sans the vocals. “Odd & Even,” came to me as a triumphant song, a reverend anthem of struggle and success. The emotional chord progression transcends feelings of conquering defeat. What sets apart “Odd & Even” with the other tracks in Foreign Languages is the empowering chords that leave you inspired. This could be a soundtrack to fuel up your morning drive to work or for that long flight to a place you’ve never been to. (Derek Tvmala)

1. The Purplechickens – Dayami
561 points, 9 mentions

The opening riff of “Dayami” already sets up an emotionally complex odyssey, one that is simultaneously calculated, resonant, and ultimately heart-rending; and its ingenious instrumentation works perfectly with the overarching narrative poetry of the lyrics. “Dayami” is a true testament to The Purplechickens’ mastery of the poetics of songcraft. (Itos Ledesma)

Other Year-End Lists for 2014:

20 Essential Filipino Albums of 2014
100 Essential Filipino Tracks of 2014, #20-1
100 Essential Filipino Tracks of 2014, #40-21
100 Essential Filipino Tracks of 2014, #60-41
100 Essential Filipino Tracks of 2014, #80-61
100 Essential Filipino Tracks of 2014, #100-81
20 Essential Filipino EPs of 2014
30 Essential Filipino Music Videos of 2014
30 Essential Filipino Album Covers of 2014
20 Essential Homegrown Remixes of 2014

THE YEAR IN PINOY POP: On Embracing Change One Step at a Time
My Ass Hurts: Francis Maria and his Year in Pinoy Hardcore Punk

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