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20 Essential Filipino EPs of 2015

January 1, 2016 5:10 am by: Category: Features, Lists Leave a comment

James Reid

The EP format is a tricky subject for year-end lists. It’s usually too short to qualify for a traditional full-length album and too lengthy to get lumped in the singles category. But with more music acts leaning towards using the platform to showcase their debut material or to test uncharted territories before deciding to put out an LP, the Extended Play has become a staple for independent and mainstream releases.

Below is a summary of the 20 Essential Filipino EPs that served its worth as great companions, as cultural markers of a wonderful year in local independent and mainstream music. Vandals On The Wall’s Ian Urrutia scoured 40+ shortlisted EP releases from different backgrounds and genres, and came up with a list that sums up the best releases of 2015.

20. Bennybunnyband – Nagma(ma)mahal, BennyBunnyBand
Release Date: 9/11/15
Where to find: Gigs, iTunes, Spotify

BennyBunnyBenny

While their contemporaries seek validation through mimicking the trendiest music they could find on the internet, BennyBunnyBand settles for a shot of serotonin rush this side of local pop, unafraid to milk the catchiest of chorus and the most charming of hooks in ways that don’t sacrifice the band’s quirky appeal. Songs like “Dear Laarni” and “Ikaw Na” are potential hits that embrace the spirit of fun and starry-eyed romance, straying just enough from the stripped-down formula with infectious playfulness that won’t leave your skin for days.



19. Leo and the Tolstoys – Anna Loves Karenina
Release Date: 11/11/15
Where to find: Soundcloud

Leo and the Tolstoys

For all the relentless film connoisseur references and timely political discourse surrounding their sophomore EP Anna Loves Karenina, it’s worth noting how Leo and the Tolstoys have articulated such resonant kind of songwriting that appeals to the disenfranchised, giving them a sense of refuge, a glimmer of hope. On Anna Loves Karenina, it’s okay to own up to your sexuality, be different, and not seek validation through material things. This aspect of Leo and the Tolstoy’s vision is what makes the EP interesting, steering clear of ambition for a more colorful narrative.



18. Nanay Mo – Medyo Wakwak
Release Date: 07/25/15
Where to find: Gigs, The Four Strings Cubao

NanayMo

Nanay Mo love their garage-rock scruffy and dirty, and Medyo Wakwak takes this preference into an entirely different level of effortless cool. They sound like they’re having fun here, from the self-titled track’s post-punk primacy to Over The Tree’s weathered blues downer. There’s comfort in knowing that rock n’ roll has outlived all of us, with Medyo Wakwak being one of its many recognized trails.



17. Yassi Pressman – Yassi
Release Date: 07/12/2015
Where to find: Major record bars nationwide, Spotify, iTunes

Yassi

It bothers me how the outsized pop euphoria of Yassi hasn’t really translated well to chart success or pop culture relevance, given how infinitely repeatable and immaculate the music is, thanks to the incredible partnership between producer Jumbo De Belen and singer-songwriter Nica Del Rosario. Yassi is in fact, a total jam: a swoon-worthy collection of female-empowering songs in the mold of Icona Pop or Tove Lo, with actress-singer Yassi Pressman turning up the volume with pitch-shifted sass straight from the ‘90s girl band era.



16. Tall Ice Lung – Balang Araw, Mamamatay Ka Rin
Release Date: 02/28/15
Where to find: Bandcamp

Tall Ice Lung

Vandals On The Writer contributor/writer Itos Ledesma said it best: Balang Araw, Mamamatay Ka Rin is “a triumph of form, function, and substance, and one that merits a handful of listens.” It’s Francis Maria Regalado excising his lo-fi indie-rock fetishisms in nostalgia gazes and cheap memories, and it’s a good one at that.



15. Some Gorgeous Accident – Winter Evergreen
Release Date: 12/01/16
Where to find: Bandcamp

Some Gorgeous Accident

There’s more to Winter Evergreen than being served as the best testament to Dale Marquez’s staying power. It threads a confident stylistic approach within the realm of dream-pop and indie, often marked by melancholy and distance, swept away in the biting cold of winter.



14. Chairman Mouse – Chairman Mouse
Release Date: 09/18/15
Where to find: Gigs

Chairman Mouse

I’ve said it once and a fucking thousand times: Chaiman Mouse were “a bunch of self-loathing punks whose abrasiveness makes for a fair trade.” Their debut EP serves as signpost of a troubled, whiny youth—a wasteland filled with littered beer cans and broken glass windows, a noise-rock record that dwells on the emptiness that comes after waking up in the morning, nursing a bad hangover and shit.



13. No Rome – Hurry Home and Rest
Release Date: 07/15/16
Where to find: Bandcamp

No Rome

What made Hurry Home and Rest stand out from the string of border-defying bedroom pop efforts released this year wasn’t just the inventive production he has cultivated through years of making music, but how emotionally invested he is with the songs. It’s impossible to resist tracks such as “Adore” and “Rest_less” whose brand of jittery electro-R&B futurism recalls nothing else on pop radio now, but skirts the line of accessibility even when it settles for offbeat tricks. Give this record a chance and sulk in one corner to absorb it.



12. Yuji – Wayward Soyuz
Release Date: 11/28/15
Where to find: Soundcloud

Yuji
Here’s something difficult to digest but definitely deserves critical praise: Yuji’s Wayward Soyuz. It’s a dark, unsettling piece of lo-fi psychedelic rock by way of Xiu Xiu and Deerhunter, fully committed with the antagonism and unabashed sadness of his writing. Yuji’s idiosyncratic embrace of the weird and twisted makes the EP quite unlistenable, but at its core is a warm sensibility cut adrift from the world, a record comfortable in its skin—damaged and blistered it may be.



11. Hey! It’s Your Birthday – Hey! It’s Your Birthday
Release Date: 8/7/15
Where to find: Bomba Press

Hey It's Your Birthday
The occasional discord and gauzy atmosphere that spill over Hey! It’s Your Birthday’s 5-track EP transcends its tone of scarred beauty and aching memories, obscuring the message in sobering cold. The Cebu-based art-pop troubadours walk through a world many of us tried avoiding, with no destination in sight, but their eccentric albeit trippy take on pop music somehow allows them to move past the fog and darkness, finding meaningful ways to tell a story even at the expense of being lost, broken, and helplessly in love.



10. Clara Benin – Riverchild
Release Date: 11/26/15
Where to find: Gigs, iTunes, Spotify

Clara Benin

We’ve got more than enough subdued, guitar-pop music that could soundtrack an entire legion of sad bastard movies filed under relatable rom-com or quirky indie. Riverchild, despite being cut from the same cloth, has this striking sentimentality that pulls you closer to something all at once familiar and strange. Benin doesn’t need to inhabit a persona twice or thrice her age. She writes what she knows, at the vantage point of her young but colorful life experiences, transcending self-consciousness with raw emotions and authenticity.



9. Love In Athens – Anatomical Venus
Release Date: 03/20/15
Where to find: Bandcamp

Love In Athens
Love In Athens has the singular creative vision that could put its contemporaries into shame. And on Anatomical Venus, Francis explores the grittier, more roughly hewn edges of shoegaze, electronic music and indie-rock with faint glimmers of beauty and despair.



8. James Reid – Reid Alert
Release Date: 02/14/15
Where to find: All record bars nationwide, iTunes, Spotify

James Reid

Reid Alert not only positions James Reid as a credible popstar whose effortless cool and confidence fume in infectious amounts, but it also speaks volumes of how good pop music can turn out to be, as a ‘form’ freed from its limitations and sugary trappings. Composers Thyro and Yumi rewrite the rules of homegrown pop with sparkly audacity that is often desired but rarely achieved, and with Reid Alert, they were able to harness significant flashes of greatness with contemporary urban appeal.



7. Read Between The Lions – Pride
Release Date: 10/29/15
Where to find: Gigs, iTunes, Spotify

Read Between The Lions

To dismiss Read Between The Lions’ Pride as just another stab at alt-rock revival would be a disservice to what it is: a consistently enjoyable record whose earnest simplicity and intelligible pop songcraft are by far, its greatest strengths. Throughout Pride, RBTL offers something vital other than conventional wisdom, wringing remarkable things outside of the form, while documenting in the most beautiful of ways, the ebb and flow of adolescent romance, its ups and downs.



6. Yūrei – How to Deal with Boredom and Other Stories, or Memoirs of My Nervous Condition, or The Navel-Gazer’s Guide to Confronting the Self, or Meditations on Life and Death in Metro Manila
Release Date: 10/31/15
Where to find: Gigs

Yurei_The Problem of Grunge in 2015

Did grunge really matter? That was the question raised by the folks of A.V. Club, and one that struck the deepest in our search for what remains the hermetically sealed, dirty, rugged rock n’ roll spirit. Now here comes a young band called Yūrei whose latest EP, How to Deal with Boredom and Other Stories, or Memoirs of My Nervous Condition, or The Navel-Gazer’s Guide to Confronting the Self, or Meditations on Life and Death in Metro Manila reminds us of the days when In Utero and Vanishing Point were all the rage, far removed from the gloss, obscurity and aesthetic swag of what passes off as rock music these days. Their work channels grunge music’s conflicted, angry lyrics and inherent cynicism, filtered through the lens of youthful excitement and pop vigor.



5. CRWN and Jess Connelly – How I Love
Release Date: 12/20/15
Where to find: Soundcloud

CRWN x Jess
Jess Connelly has always been a compelling presence in CRWN’s sensually smoldering production, taking cues from the likes of Tinashe and Cassie, while finding impressive ways on how to give sparseness some emotional lifting. On How I Love, Jess turns pain and breakup into a cause for celebration; her voice navigating the quiet storm beats with ease and icy directness, but not without a hint of foreboding melancholy. CRWN flirts with nuanced minimalism here, meditating through the radar of sample-based music, hip-hop, bass and abstract electronics to foster cosmos of sounds all his own.



4. Fools and Foes – Underneath The Roots
Release Date: 12/04/15
Where to find: Gigs, Spotify, Bandcamp
Fools and Foes

Rhythmically perplexing, math-rock arrangements in local indie hit a lavish peak with bands such as Fools and Foes reigning supreme in silence, infusing crystal-clear guitar tones and intricate sonics with stripped-down intimacy. In fact, their debut EP Underneath The Roots follows this approach from front to back, with Isabelle Romualdez’s saccharine vocals framed squarely at the center, serenading listeners with songs of introversion, unemployment and adolescent angst.



3. The Gory Orgies – Gonzo Blitz
Release Date: 05/01/15
Where to find: Soundcloud, Youtube

The Gory Orgies
On Gonzo Blitz, it becomes immediately clear who The Gory Orgies are as a band: They’re young, fucked up and crazy, but underneath the surface is a creative force whose gift for extracting substance and humor out of the mundane seems obviously ripe for picking.



2. Oh, Flamingo! – Oh, Flamingo!
Release Date: 11/14/15
Where to find: Gigs, Wide Eyed Records Manila

OhFlamingo_OhFlamingo

Oh, Flamingo’s self-titled debut is a solid attempt at exoticizing indie-rock with elements mined from far-flung corners of the world, sometimes nurtured with psychedelic gaze, Afro-pop blend and bubblegum wrap, but gifted with a sound so strikingly catchy and iridescent it will instantly make you feel ecstatic about life. What you’ll hear on their new EP is Graceland on millennial high, never showing any signs of collapse even on its moments of vulnerability.



1. Ourselves The Elves – Geography Lessons
Release Date: 10/10/15
Where to find: Gigs, Bandcamp, Spotify, iTunes

OurselvesTheElves_GeographyLessons
Hushed and small like the most intimate of conversations, Geography Lessons rings so much of the past, of memories that create ripples no matter how we try to forget them, of romantic sentiments that ignite fireworks in our dreams. It’s a huge step forward in terms of musicality and songwriting, making a fascinating vehicle for lush, ornate music landscape to flourish and drown listeners in charm. “Baby I Love You So” revels in haunting specifity with its waltz-time nostalgia and warmth, “Longing For” and “Uncertainty” feel more timeless than retro, and “Cincinnati Clocks” swells over lovesick melodies and rich, opulent guitar-work. Everything here is a dialogue with time, playing in perpetual motion backwards. But there’s also a lot of room for pleading, for trying to make the clock stop, for starting a clean slate. Geography Lessons takes comfort in these thoughts, no matter how remotely impossible, depressing and intense they are.

Honorable Mention:

Ivan Theory – Caprice
Snubear – Anecdotes
SkinxBones – All Gallows Eve
Paola Mauricio – Testing The Waters
Ian Penn – Wild Abandon
June Marieezy – Throwaway Love Songs
Between Archery and The Olympic – One Morning Dream
Slow Sink – Broken Songs
Napoleon Boulevard – Words
Procopio Kills All – Behold :: Beloved
Sawdust – Casa
Motto Stella – Mottofuckingstella

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

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