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 15 Essential Filipino EPs from January to June 2016 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 the internet and the underground to come up with a list that sums up the year’s best so far.
15. Cheap Vision – The Buzzing Foam!
Release Date: 2015
An intriguing, bedroom spun release that finds no-nonsense delight in lo-fi hisses and grime.
An arrestingly smooth R&B record that paints a portrait of the singer-songwriter’s romantic laments.
Produced by Justin De Guzman, this collection of ethereal, jazzy hip-hop anthems about the spiritual transcendence one gets from the herb asserts Raw Meta Fuego’s presence as one of local hip-hop’s most promising rap acts.
Miles and Mot’s Ocerulean Blue has the balmy feel of a summery indie-pop record, with engaging guitar chords, boy-girl harmonies and earworm melodies that get stuck in your head for days.
Gnarrate claims his spot in the local rap game with the release of Koronasyon—a visceral, unrelenting ode to the workforce that not only incites a call to action, but one that equates championing of the cause to a personal crusade, a way of life.
Iego Tan chronicles his emotional struggles on Dalum at Hibas, his independently produced debut EP. The singer-songwriter behind Shirebound and Busking gets his defenses down with acoustic ditties that carve out a space in the heartbreak hotel songbook, transporting listeners to a comforting place where sadness, in the words of Lykke Li, is considered a blessing.
9. Local Disk (C:) – Dyson
Release Date: June 2016
Electronic producer Local Disk (C:) marks a step forward with Dyson—a minimalist ambient piece whose sound design is seismic in its smallness and frequency interference. It’s a challenging record in terms of scope, of how we often perceive the uncanny sonic phenomena of noise as an outsider force, an uncomfy background hiss caught up in haze.
8. Tropical Parts – Against Better Judgment
Release Date: March 2016
Outside of modern rock’s macho posturing is a band called Tropical Parts whose uncompromised vision and instrumental proficiency put peers in their music circle to shame. Against Better Judgment, their self-released EP, is rendered stunningly raw and berserk, sticking to the devil they know while pulling us closer to their fragile, angsty state.
7. Curtismith – Failing Forward
Release Date: February 2016
“In a span of six months since his first mixtape, IDEAL, was released, Curtismith dropped his follow-up eight-track Failing Forward EP, which is hardly a concept album. His song structures are characteristically liberal non-sequiturs, and there’s a different cadence in his voice – his flow – that doesn’t quite blend with the beat, but has a tone of its own. It’s not melodic, is monotonous even, but almost always conversational, colloquial.” (MC Galang)
6. Cigarettegirls – Deadringer
Release Date: January 2016
Availability: Bandcamp, Soundcloud
Cigarettegirls doesn’t deviate much from the vitriol-spewing, riot grrrl themes of Le Tigre or Bikini Kill, but its pro-woman message isn’t confined to empowerment and flag-bearing alone. Her songs are achingly personal and gloomy, drowned by a cacophony of electronic bleeps and clubby, post-apocalyptic dirges.
5. Loba Y Lobos – Panahon Ng Ulan
Release Date: April 2016
Availability: Bandcamp, Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud
We have little reason to doubt Loba y Lobos’ sincerity, even if his songs are often couched in fragmented memories. His work, set to bare, acoustic guitar arrangements and rife with sepia-tinted richness, elevates that vagueness into a work of introspection. It’s extremely rare to find a singer-songwriter capable of documenting his own fragility without the need to completely lay everything else in the table. Panahon Ng Ulan is a testament of that gift.
Expansion Pack gravitates towards celebrating the purest joys of fanboy geekdom. Shadow Moses’ shared love for sci-fi, comic books, obscure pop culture references, and video games proves to be an interesting thematic crux that allows them to experiment outside the rigidity of the format. MCs Ninno and Chyrho trade bars over Six’s plush, velvety beats, flossing their pedigree for a star-making debut.
3. Big Hat Gang – “5”
Release Date: 2016
Availability: iTunes, Spotify
Blending a subtle hint of ‘80s fetishism with big serving of cinematic soundscapes, Big Hat Gang manages to make a surprising record that pays off in spades. Despite its pleasure-loaded center, Mario Consunji’s latest record, “5” keeps the emotional momentum up, pulsing with relentless rhythmic pulse, euphoric synths and retro-futurist arrangements to achieve its blissed out purpose. This work of genius refuses to be contained.
2. Eggboy – The Spotlight Effect
Release Date: June 2016
The Spotlight Effect is a glorious document of Diego Mapa finally coming into his own as a producer, vocalist and songwriter. This low-key gem finds solace in stripped-down but deceptively simple details, an insistence in creating undulating ambient sounds out of sparse and analog instrumentation. Here, Eggboy re-records old tunes he’s written for his other music projects into fuzzy, minimalist psych-pop songsm enabling appreciation of atomic-level intricacies.
1. Beast Jesus – In Various States of Disassembly
Release Date: April 2016
Beast Jesus arrives at a time when most heavy-sounding rock bands in the internet era suffer from misplaced conviction and creative drought. Their new album, In Various States of Disassembly is a savior in disguise, a genre-bending rock opus that operates at peak strength. It explores a brooding, muscular sound that isn’t all volume and aggression, and dismantles conventional tricks with heavenly punching riffs, colossal surges and inventive arrangements. Paired with Francis Maria Regalado’s beautifully doomed lyrics, the music leaves you breathlessly wanting for more.