If you type the words “Bandcamp Philippines” in google and click it, you’ll find 400+ titles containing homegrown singles, EPs, and albums released within the time frame of February 2015 to December 2015. Add to the equation the total number of current releases from Soundcloud, Spotify.ph, Beatport, iTunes and various streaming and downloading sites (amplify.ph) that have mushroomed in recent years, you might get overwhelmed by how productive Filipinos are in terms of the stuff they put online, bare and subject to judgment. Everybody wants to rule the music world, apparently.
The internet is a landfill and a forest, depending on how you look at it. But the real challenge here is how to separate the trash from the decent, the decent from the good, the good from the gods—a common practice that most music blogs do in every waking day of their lives in the attempt to keep the interest burning. Come December, it’s culmination time—the last stretch of the year when we break down our coverage to the barest best, throwing accolades to the releases that left us in gleeful celebration and awe, all-year round. Given the overwhelming number of releases this year, it’s comforting to know that everyone is invested in the passion that is making music, and that no amount of criticisms or economic hindrances can take it away from them. We can toss around our favorites and shove it down your throats, but at the end of the day it’s the public that gets to decide what they want to listen to. Our lists are nothing but guides, not rules for you to follow and break.
Special thanks to our panelists who took the challenge seriously despite their very busy schedule: Ian Urrutia and Mary Christine Galang of The Rest Is Noise/Vandals On The Wall, Itos Ledesma and Klaris Chua of Vandals On The Wall, Mariusz Herma of beehy.pe, Camille Castillo of Bandwagon.asia, Roy Oliver Macasaet of Mow’s, Jeremy Lopez of Intramuros Rising, Jethro Sandico of Listen Baguio, Jam Lorenzo of Alternatrip, Milley Habito of Gabi Na Naman Productions, Ajie Recto of Green Apple Productions, Archie Del Mundo of Dlist.ph, Erick Antonio Fabian Sr. of TicTiger! Productions/Opinyon, Jay Rosas of New Durian Cinema, Ren Aguila of Art+Magazine, and Nestor Domingo of Slick Master Files.
80. Drip – Rupture
214 points, 4 mentions
Radical reinventions in terms of style and sound have made Drip a fascinating case of longevity. 2005’s Far Side of The World introduced a soulful trip-hop band with a forward-thinking vision while 2008’s Identity Theft saw the band perfectly at home with brooding electronic pop affectations, running straight into the eerie corners of urban dread. Fast forward to 2015: Drip returns to the local music scene with Beng Calma-Alcazaren on vocals and Ian Magbanua on sound design and samples. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that Drip offers a musical enigma that sounds current in today’s taste-making idiom.
Their new single “Rupture” is defined by deep, organic textures and emotional torch singing, the kind that immerses you into a deep reverie. It’s a somber ambient affair that shows melancholic displacement at its finest, suggesting introspection instead of gloom. Few electronic artists have put premium on authentic emotional investment, and Drip, with their far more cryptic elan, knows how to turn a permanently fractured heart into a subject worth exploring even in the digital age. “Rupture” sounds like a place you don’t necessarily want to be, but Beng’s aching timbre just draws you in, giving you a reason to stay not just for voyeuristic reasons. From there, things are rarely what they seem on the surface. At the heart of “Rupture” lies calm, the sound of negativity emptying out.
79. The After-School Special – Meet Me At Battery Park
215 points, 6 mentions
Some months ago, Anton Salvador tweeted a link to a 34-second beat titled ‘SEX’ – it had that wobbly thing in it on loop that sounded so smooth and even put-together. Now, heard in its entirety, there’s no question: it’s dripping with suave. But as far as his work as The After-School Special goes, the involvement (or rather, representation) of emotions, in what is otherwise still categorized as electronic music, is rudimentary. His use of soundbites serves as a precept, but always complementary to the direction and texture of his beats – how he makes them fit the narrative, but not overkill it. If emotions have a body of its own, he surely knows how to dress them. And dress them well. (MC Galang)
78. Identikit – Untitled
215.5 points, 4 mentions
It has been quite a while since we last heard from Identikit, and their latest offering still has the sense of freshness that “Weird Just Friends” or “Peach” had a handful of years ago. “Untitled” exposes a much softer and more vulnerable side, but it is not a far cry from their previous works; the dreary lullaby is prefixed by dissonance that lingers throughout the entire track and threatens to consume the song with a sweeping crescendo. Expectations, however, are completely thwarted, and the crescendo never comes, and the threat is never realized. “Untitled” retreats within itself and revels in its immensely personal silence. (Itos Ledesma)
77. Lyrically Deranged Poets - Resonate (Prod. by Similarobjects)
217 points, 5 mentions
Local hip-hop is enjoying a creative renaissance, with Assembly Generals and Zaito dropping what could be the strongest urban releases in recent years. But let’s not forget Lyrically Deranged Poets in the equation. “Resonate”, a track produced by the ever-prolific Similar Objects, stakes its place amongst the titans, turning psychedelic cheekiness into a compelling, forward-thinking art. More than the expansive production that tackles the cosmic possibilities of sonic layers and beats in stretches, the song bears testament to the mad skills of the individual members: Abra as usual, is a mad ball of energy ready to explode in forward motion. Alex is the group’s Danny Brown—throwing lines like he’s snorted a crushed pill. R-Jay fizzes around the space with a nuanced performance, but still very much street-like. Leave it to Similarobjects to pull everything together in one transcendent joint, keeping the track’s berserk originality while also darting it into astonishing sonic terrain left unexplored by the rap trio in their previous releases.
76. Tall Ice Lung – God With Vanilla
218.5 points, 4 mentions
Tall Ice Lung is one of the most consistently great acts that the country has produced, and the tastefully curated Diagnostic Records has produced yet another gem in “God With Vanilla”. “God With Vanilla” situates The Beach Boys within an area saturated with nostalgic haze, transplanting a timeless sound and making it undeniably timely. The track catches on like an infection, refusing to leave the brain and the body.
75. KaapiN – Heights
218.5 points, 6 mentions
KaapiN’s “Heights” gets straight to the point. Its heavy, repetitive beat and roaring industrial pulse immediately take you to electronic dark-wave goodness as it supplements the rest of the song’s elements. The track’s warm synth melody balances the track’s eeriness, complementing Kel’s far-away, dreamlike vocals. Albeit lo-fi and less complicated as compared to their early releases, it borders on psychedelic, sharing aesthetic kinship with Youth Lagoon’s Wondrous Bughouse album. But unlike Trevor Powers’ light melancholic melodies, “Heights” gives you a darker vibe. (IR)
74. Half-Lit – The Great Divide
220 points, 4 mentions
Karen O’s “The Moon Song” is heartbreakingly beautiful in its earnestness and unadulterated hope. It brings the promise of indefinite tomorrows in almost sugar-coated bliss. And its vulnerability echoes similarly with “The Great Divide,” the latest effort from Half-Lit, BP Valenzuela’s ‘post-midnight’ side project.
Chronicling the ghost of a relationship that is riddled with ‘what ifs’ and ‘could have beens’, there’s a sense of lingering in those six-plus minutes, easing up the pace, and finally ending this chapter. This feels like BP Valenzuela’s attempts to convey her message, a fragment of herself, in a manner and execution that is no less personal in her work in The Neon Hour and be/ep, but in a form of susceptibility that befits Half-Lit as how she means it. “The Great Divide” is a pensive kind of sadness that already has depth and weight, without the need for elaborate arrangement or emphasis. (Mary Christine Galang)
73. James Reid – Huwag Ka Nang Humirit
222 points, 4 mentions
Luck is on James Reid’s side. After scoring a string of #1 hits, the teen heartthrob starts the year on a roll with another Thyro and Yumi-assisted track “Huwag Ka Nang Humirit.” It looks like James has clearly found his groove on this hook-slinging fodder that seems slightly at odds with his more pop-informed songs. Of course, it helps that the song benefits from the charm and cocksure swagger he brings to the table. Ladies swoon over his Aussie accent and looks, but outside of that manufactured image is a tasteful R&B smash that just shows how well James can adapt to a material filled with fresh ideas and concentrated sunshine.
72. Wilderness – Mirror Image
226.5 points, 6 mentions
Radical stylistic shifts may be overrated, but Wilderness proves that structures are only what we make them—a limitation, a conformity that hinders exploration outside of form and content. Their latest single “Mirror Image” is a piercing avant-rock experiment of grandiose proportions. It has that beastly intensity that peers out from your speakers. The song it seems, is a hodgepodge of influences: there’s prog-rock, metal, reggae, ethnic, noise, indie rock and a host of other elements that blaze beneath its surface. But the music is so much bigger that it doesn’t want to be tied to a particular aesthetic. It’s a confident move that only a few can manage to pull off.
71. Maude – Takda
228.5 points, 6 mentions
“Ang pagmamahal nga ba’y naghihintay? / Hindi ba’t tulad nating tumatanda’t namamatay,” Luiz Azcona tears up on the heartbreak anthem “Takda.” If you’ve been through romantic slips and stumbles, Maude’s gospel truth may have rung a bell somewhere deep down. Their songwriting approach has always strived for universal sentiments meant to be shared rather than owned, but eloquently structured that it feels driven by a legitimate inspiration. “Takda” fits perfectly into Maude’s familiar mold: cutting lyrics, delectably full-bodied arrangements, nice-guy earnestness. It’s evocative enough to win you over, but it also zooms on specifics that never hurt more than it does right after listening to the track.
70. A Problem Like Maria - Sea and Saltwater
228 points, 6 mentions
A Problem Like Maria first piqued the music blogland’s interest with the mint-fresh earworm “When You’re Sober”, a collaboration with Berlin-based producer Mattir. “Behind the perky and lively exterior, though, the song reflects talented pop songwriting and real lyrical skill,” Vandals On The Wall’s Joey Gutierrez once wrote in his review of the APLM track.
Beyond that, there’s undeniable chemistry between the muse and the enabler. Maria shows that her brush with pop euphoria is just as strong as her more vulnerably naked material, while Mattir’s melodic punch comes from a place of sincerity. This is also palpable on “Sea and Saltwater”, APLM’s latest partnership with the eccentric beatmaker. But unlike “When You’re Sober”, it’s a track of irreparably damaged beauty: sparkly, PC Music-inspired melodies crashing into stuttering textures, served to highlight A Problem Like Maria’s infectious pipes with shards of glass. Mattir turns into sonic tapestry for inspiration, but careful not to steer clear of the song’s bouncy moments. Maria on the other hand, moves at her own pace, which happens to be more graceful and less conscious than ever. With all that going on, I don’t see any reason why you would want to unhear something as infectiously good as this.
69. Memory Drawers – For Any of This
232 points, 4 mentions
The greatest reward that Memory Drawers’ “For Any of This” gave us aside from coming out of nowhere, is that it taps into a vein of lo-fi indie-pop that’s completely devoid of sunshine and turned inside out. And yet, not even its oddly stoic presence can take away the indescribable high you get from listening to the track, right to the point of breaking you into pieces after hearing the crushing lines, “let’s end it just like the stars.” As tough as it may be to find an obscure gem hiding in the forest of internet, discovering something as distinctively charming and heartbreaking as this track is just worth the time.
68. Dayaw – Essence of Life
233 points, 4 mentions
I have an image in my mind of Dayaw as fearless worldbeat revivalists whose unorthodox interpretation of what qualifies as primal and pure pay little heed to what Pinikpikan, Imago circa Probably Not But Most Definitely and Grace Nono were doing past their prime. Sure, they channel the same verve, the same ethnic lust, the exotica from an adventurous musical standpoint, but Dayaw is stylistically non-committal and less otherworldly. What they lack in the purely technical sense they make up for passion and feel. “Essence of Life” represents this knack for rhythmic luminosity straight out of a rustic, spiritual experience somewhere in the mountains. It starts with an operatic vocal firework from Sensi Oñate and leads into a long, drawn-out meltdown that sounds semi-improvisatory in nature, developing into a head-nodding jazz-rock fusion over time. There is so much fire, so many possibilities in the direction of Dayaw’s music, and all it takes for them to deliver this kind of affective artistry is to be able to control the virtuosity to breathtaking effect. And they’re almost there, so watch out.
67. No Rome – Weekend Girl
“Weekend Girl” is what you’d normally expect from No Rome—a low-lit, spacey slow jam that makes the unfamiliar feel endearingly relatable. He lets his guard down completely here, drawing much of the song’s power on the woozy, hushed moments that work nicely in conjunction with his vulnerable lyrics. The emotional clarity is something considering how modestly it was produced, with the sensually coiffed beats and textures taking the sentiments to a place that is cold, hurting and irreparably damaged. But there’s a nugget of distorted sunshine somewhere near the final chorus, where Rome Gomez dissolves into a head-spinning sonic breakdown that recalls the outro of Kanye West’s Runaway—a song that stands out because it leaves little space between the listener and the musician, an intimacy shared by Rome effortlessly. “Weekend Girl” displays such strengths that come breathtakingly close to perfection. It’s also his best work since 2012’s “Dance With Me”, so that says a lot.
66. Honeydrop – Set Apart
233.5 points, 5 mentions
There’s something effortlessly gorgeous about the way Honeydrop approaches “Set Apart.” Their brand of wistful indie-pop weaves through gentle, intricate guitar work and stop-start rhythms, but never flashy as a whole. Most notably, “Set Apart” gives you the impression that Honeydrop is more than capable of pulling off an inspiringly competent material that gets better with every other release.
65. Chairman Mouse – Me and My Cliché
237.5 points, 4 mentions
Indie-rock outfit Chairman Mouse are all set to release their debut EP this month. The record’s carrier single “Me and My Cliché” is capable of knocking down walls without surrendering to cheesiness. It’s unabashedly youthful, earnest and fascinating—qualities that pack plenty of feel-good fuzziness and charm. Although it sounds quite rough on the edges, “Me and My Cliché” still makes for one hell of an introduction to Chairman Mouse’s brand.
64. Qelle – Brunch
242, 2 points
Qelle’s newest track, the Sia-sampling “Brunch” is a fusion of different sounds. Its ambiance gives you hints of an “Oriental” or Tokyo-wave feel. Consistent, likewise versatile, its melody allows you to coast through an atmospheric mix of tunes and feelings. Its soft delicate piano notes and well-placed bass licks give you a sexy, soothing vibe. Qelle was also able to craft the song in swing timing and jazzy beats, which is inimitable for electronic music. Unlike Qelle’s previous tracks, “Brunch” has a more picturesque vibe: less dancey, but more invested in #feels. (IR)
63. Mark Redito – 3 AM Apologies
242.5, 6 mentions
“3 AM Apologies” marks a solid transition from Spazzkid’s bouncy electro-pop affectations to a moodier, more vulnerable music persona. This midnight jam is everything you need to cry on.
62. Hey, It’s Your Birthday – Dead Cat
248 points, 4 mentions
Hey! It’s Your Birthday’s latest outing, “Dead Cat”, released under Bomba Press, is another spectacular track from this criminally underrated outfit. Their newest track makes an intriguing mixture of textures taken from numerous, multifaceted sources: sounds pioneered by artists like Polvo and Helium are positioned alongside the likes of Spiritualized (without the space-ward expansiveness) and Portishead, bleeding into a darkly intimate, strangely sultry song. Its intricacies are what draw the listener into the experience; the unpredictable guitar line that hovers above the mix, the subtle variations on the established beat, and the almost confessional lyrics are all equally attention-grabbing, almost begging you to listen to the track over and over again. (Itos Ledesma)
61. Good Knife – Rotten Tattoos
256 points, 4 mentions
Good Knife’s “Rotten Tattoos” might be a great place to start if you’re looking for a craftily subdued alt-country song that represents a shift back to a rootsy, organic sound. Good Knife’s sentiment of newfound happiness conveys a specific perspective—an unapologetic straightforwardness that resonates well with stripped down twangy guitars and soft-rock melodies. When Mariah sings, “I got no money in my pocket, but at least I got you,” you get a taste of quiet moments that ring deeper with a sentiment you can relate to. Its words refuse to leave your head for weeks on end, without warning.
Our 2015 Year-End Lists:
100 Essential Filipino Tracks of 2015 (#40 – 21)
100 Essential Filipino Tracks of 2015 (#60 – 41)
100 Essential Filipino Tracks of 2015 (#80 – 61)
100 Essential Filipino Tracks of 2015 (#100 – 81)
20 Essential Filipino Music Videos of 2015
20 Essential Filipino EPs of 2015