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20 Essential Filipino Albums of 2015

January 29, 2016 8:56 am by: Category: Features, Lists Leave a comment

20. Rico Blanco :: Dating Gawi
Universal Records Philippines
Where To Find: All record bars nationwide.

Rico Blanco - Dating Gawi'

Rico sidesteps his David Bowie impressions for a stab at good ol’ rock n’ roll. It turns out, hooking up with ½ of The Eraserheads would mean going back to the Rico everyone loved, minus the ambition and Space oddity weirdness.

19. Miles and Mot :: Island View
Independently Released
Where To Find: Facebook Account, Bandcamp

Miles and Mot

Charming, lo-fi indie-pop cut in the same fabric as Alvvays, Camera Obscura and The Cults. Get yourself into this lo-fi treat and blast it through your headphones to hear the record in its infectious glory.

18. Jensen and the Flips :: Honeymoon
Yellow Room Music Philippines | MCA Records
Where To Find: Select record bars nationwide, Gigs, Facebook

Jensen and the Flips - Honeymoon

As mentioned in my recent review, Jensen and the Flips’ recent crop of alternative soul tracks delivers on the promise of maginoo-pero-medyo-bastos seduction: guilt-free Motown impressions backed by a solid rhythm n’ horn section, caressing your ears with sweet, delicate sounds and hypnotic grooves. Honeymoon licks on this aesthetic punch without skipping the fun part. It indulges on the band’s playful sonic banter with a little Bruno Mars, Rico J. Puno and Marvin Gaye on the side, giving us some of the finest Pinoy pop songs of recent memory.

17. Reese Lansangan :: Arigato, Internet!
Independently Released
Where To Find: Gigs, Facebook

Reese - Arigato, Internet

Arigato, Internet! is more than just a testament to Reese Lansangan’s confident and compelling songwriting style. Stripped to its bare essentials, it’s a record that puts her persona to work, making us love her even more—whether she’s waxing break-up confessionals on “Bleed” or whipping up her inner snob on “Grammar Nazi.”

16. Zaito :: Ganti Ng Patay
Uprising Records Philippines
Where To Find: Gigs, Bandcamp


Zaito is a beast of rapper whose street cred can’t be faked. Yet he’s so much more—a poet who plays on the outskirts of life with a skeptical eye, a potent talent who knows when to make a quick left turn when delivering something that’s worth quoting and believing. Ganti Ng Patay recognizes these strengths, all out in nurturing his talent but also giving himself a room to showcase his distinct style.

15. Moonwlk :: Of The Bed
Independently Released
Where To Find: Gigs, Facebook

Moonwlk - of the bed

Nicholas Lazaro is a thespian, and he probably doesn’t know it yet. Aside from cranking out a variety of music projects with contrasting sounds and moods, Nick has singularly produced some of the finest records in recent memory, from Oh, Flamingo’s self-titled debut to Ourselves The Elves’ lush, soulful sophomore album. His work on Moonwlk might lack the charismatic otherness of his previously churned releases, but it stands its ground as trend-eschewing dance-pop record offering a slice of euphoria when you need it the most. The production is pristine and transformative here, almost rendering blockbuster-like impulsiveness that has the potential to crossover top 40 radio had programming been more open-minded.

14. Pupil :: Zilch
MCA Music
Where To Find: All record store nationwide.


Pupil plays it sophisticatedly heavy on Zilch, their latest album following 2010’s Limiters of the Infinity Pool. Unlike previous stylistic excursions into post-punk, new wave, and indie-rock, Zilch pulls the punches on the merits of craft and vigor alone. It’s not ashamed in its straightforwardness, in its indelible display of guitar furor and jolting fuzz. Zilch isn’t the best Pupil album by a wide margin, but it’s a bracing diversion from anything that they’ve done in the past.

13. Glaiza De Castro – Synthesis
Homeworkz Entertainment
Where To Find: All record bars nationwide


Synthesis is a proper showcase of Glaiza De Castro outside of the public’s prying eyes: characteristically flawed, emotionally unguarded, earnest as it gets. Its beauty lies not so much on the extraneous experiments and subtle production touches, but on how persistent the actress-singer is to break out from celebritydom and deliver a captivating alt-pop album that puts premium on her talent. Here, she hops seamlessly from saccharine indie-pop to downtempo electronica, from sunset chillout to confessional folk, delivering on the promise of music as a vessel of escape, as an outlet of creativity that speaks straight to the emotion. Synthesis is a work in progress, but one that has shown restraint and character in daring strides.

12. Sandwich:: Debris
Polyeast Records
Where To Find: All record bars nationwide

sandwich-debris_0 (1)

No mainstream band in the last two decades has delivered the consistency that Sandwich albums offer in their lifetime. Debris proves that they have no reason at all to stay in the sidelines and slow down. It’s a rock record by all means: charged with frenetic energy, high on crunch and rawness, but one that has punk rock vigor to the core. Like the previous releases, Debris sounds exactly what it is when played live. No frills, no necessary production tweaks, just pure rock n’ roll in its menacing and captivating form.

11. Tether :: Breaker Breaker / Blessed Are The Forgetful
Independently Released
Where To Find: Gigs, Facebook

Tether comes out in the open with two albums that anchor fuzzy indie-pop tunes of the lo-fi kind. There’s ragged, uneasy quality to it that refuses to relent, but that’s basically the appeal of Breaker Breaker and Blessed Are The Forgetful: tightly written songs that envelope on raw music forms, turning noise into pure, blissful ear confections.

10. Bombo Pluto Ova :: Ouvre
Bomba Press
Where To Find: Bomba Press official site

Bombo Pluto Ova_Oeuvre

Oeuvre feels more like a study in experimental noise rather than a fully-functioning compositional form. Its shapeless pursuit comes from dissonant textures and drugged-out soundscapes, eliciting a complex range of emotions that stick with you immediately after repeated listens.

9. Hannah+Gabi – Years Gone
Independently Released
Where To Find: Bandcamp, Gigs, Facebook

Hannah Gabi_Years Gone

Sadness is a blessing, and to Hannah+Gabi’s credit, a focal point that is too beautiful to cause grief and depression, but melancholic enough to put you in dazed silence. Years Gone offers home to these songs, borderline hopeless in theme and mournful in tone. Here, Mikey Amistoso articulates the specifity of these feelings with lush calm, opening old wounds and healing it at the same time.

8. Basement Lung :: Candelaria
Locked Down Entertainment
Where To Find:Team Manila outlets, Gigs, Facebook

Basement Lung_Candelaria

Simplicity and eloquence are two things that matter to Basement Lung’s Candelaria. Those crisp sonic details warrant attention, never rendered in flashy executions to prove a point. Its tone is clear, vibrant and wrapped in warm reverb. In its attempt to convey nostalgia in effortless doses, Candelaria rewrites rock music’s slack with tasteful guitar riffs, subtle but skillful drumming, and striking minimalism.

7. BP Valenzuela :: The Neon Hour
Independently Released
Where To Find: Team Manila outlets, Gigs, Facebook, Bandcamp

BP Valenzuela_NeonHour

Cracking the millennial morse code has always been BP Valenzuela’s strongest suit, echoing the collective sentiments of a generation stuck in meme, hugot culture, and minimalist aesthetic. But her songwriting on The Neon Hour, confessional in nature and strikingly relatable in every way, is top-notch. She minces no words about the feeling of being lonely, romantically pissed and vulnerable. She writes what she knows from her own experiences and heartbreaks, without having to please any particular demographic or sensibility. Add to that pivotal engagement her unmistakable sonic palette that refuses to succumb to trends, because it comes from genuine craft explored in her younger years of making music.

6. Pastilan Dong! :: Every Step Is Backward
Beat The Robot Recordings
Where To Find: Gigs, Bandcamp, Facebook, Select Team Manila outlets

Pastilan Dong

Behind Every Step Is Backward’s fuzzy exterior lies a melodic pop sensibility that doesn’t seem to compromise Pastilan Dong’s artistic direction. Noise still remains a virtue, but so as their obsessive grasp of psychedelic ambiance and punk rock, pulling off a sonic trickery that easily propels them as one of the most original-sounding indie rock bands of the last two years.

5. Tide/edit :: Lightfoot
A Spur of The Moment Project
Where To Find: Gigs, Facebook, Bandcamp

Lightfoot follows in the footsteps of highly acclaimed Foreign Languages: an instrumental record filled with intricately sharp arrangements that suggest open-endedness into the picture, without a cliff to hang on. Even with its conventionally short running time, the songs hum with endless possibilities, never reaching its summit because it just suspends in the air, dazed in its trademarked unsteadiness. Having said that, Lightfoot is a satisfying testament to Tide/edit’s legacy in the local math/post-rock community. It’s beautiful, calm and unpredictable, but it certainly has its much-welcomed flaws.

4. Assembly Generals :: Assembly Generals
Locked Down Entertainment
Where To Find: Team Manila Stores, Gigs, Facebook

Assembly Generals’ self-titled debut album arrives at a time when Filipino hip-hop continues to spread its artistic renaissance despite the obvious commercial slump. There is no question that it’s a game-changer, flushing away excess and braggadocio in favor of pushing hip-hop to a bolder, more sonically challenging front.

3. Cheats :: Cheats
Locked Down Entertainment
Where To Find: The Four Strings, FMCC Stores, Gigs


There is more to Cheats’ big, infectious indie-rock sound than meets the ears. Their debut album takes risk in terms of production and arrangement, made all the more charming when it’s about to bust out in the open with sweet, fuzzy noise and power-pop come-ons. For fans of The New Pornographers, Los Campesinos!, and Broken Social Scene, this is your jam.

2. Dragonfly Collector :: The World Is Your Oyster
Lilystars Records
Where To Find: Gigs, Facebook, iTunes

Dragonfly Collector

The World Is Your Oyster is a delight in every way, a triumph of pop ambition rendered in lushly orchestrated arrangements and panoramic quality. It’s Clem Castro at his most imaginative and sonically cutting yet, bearing the hallmarks of a pop craftsman who knows that the way to a listener’s heart isn’t an easy one, but a task that requires patience, creativity and personal vision.

1. BLKD x Umph :: Gatilyo
Uprising Records
Where To Find: Facebook, Gigs


Not a lot has been said about Gatilyo and how its radical commentary on Philippine society not only gave the disenfranchised a voice, but also advocated political resistance when others simply don’t give a fuck. It’s one of the few releases whose commitment to the modern revolution comes to terms with our collective yearning for genuine change, not afraid to criticize the prevailing conditions of the country with words razor-sharp enough to scar. Gatilyo knows its strength comes from mobility, and this record holds the power to confront and challenge the status quo, expressing rage and discontent in the most beautiful of ways.

Honorable Mention:

Curtismith – Ideal
Japsuki – Pinoy Pop
Stereodeal – Singularity
Clara Benin – Human Eyes
Chocolate Grass – Magic Hour

Our 2015 Year-End Lists:
100 Essential Filipino Tracks of 2015 (#20 – 1)
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

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