Pinoy albums that shaped the 2010s

Paolo Abad
Pinoy albums that shaped the 2010s
Singers, producers, band members, music video directors, journalists pitch in to identify the albums that defined the Pinoy music of the 2010s.

MANILA, Philippines – At the beginning of the 2010s, the “country’s loudest and proudest radio station,” NU 107, signed off the air for the last time. It’s not the singular turning point, but it can remind you of the tectonic shifts that the local music industry would have to ride out in the last decade.

Airtime no longer spelled out what made a hit song. The iPod (and mp3 downloads) died a slow death, as on-demand streaming came to the fore. The once-antiquated vinyl medium experienced a resurgence. 

Independent labels and artists became empowered by accessible tools and platforms. Music festivals sprung up everywhere, giving musicians bigger stages to show their chops.

As the geography came to be increasingly democratized, the soundscape also morphed into a bustling cacophony of rock, folk, hip-hop, R&B, electronica, and more. 

Pop sensibilities crossed over to shatter the mainstream-indie dichotomy. Entire albums harkened back to the sound of decades past without being crippled by nostalgia. Songs reached anthemic heights and even gained virality on social media. So-called “bedroom producers” found an audience in something as big as Coachella

Pinoy music joined a global conversation, maybe even reflecting what’s going on in other parts of the planet.

Instead of simply wrapping up on the decade’s (2010-2019) music ourselves, we polled musicians and industry insiders with one simple (but somehow tough) question: what do you think was/were the Filipino record/s of the 2010s which mattered?

We only asked that for obvious reasons, the artists couldn’t choose their own work. Here are their picks:

 

Photo courtesy of Careless Music

Nadine Lustre
Careless Music

Up Dharma Down – Capacities (2012)

“They were the first ones to release an album like this. The music and lyrics also speak to me in a way that I can never explain. Until now, I still listen to the whole album and it always feels like the first time listening to it.”

 


 

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Raymund Marasigan
Sandwich / Pedicab / Cambio / Assembly Generals / Squid 9

Raymund Marasigan, all-around musician and stalwart of the Pinoy rock scene, requested that he choose an artist instead. It just so happens that it’s a band that started and rose to prominence in the middle part of the 2010s: Cheats.

“There are artists who are great to listen to but are just okay live and some artists exciting to watch live but don’t translate well on record,” he told Rappler via text message.

“My constant favorite of this past decade is the band Cheats because their recordings and live shows never fail to entertain and inspire me – and as a bonus they’re cool folks too.”

 


 

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Diego Mapa
Pedicab / Cambio / Tarsius / Monsterbot / Eggboy

Big Hat Gang – For The Love Of Things, Vol. 4 (2016)

“One of the best and underrated electronic artists in the city, and this EP is my favorite.”

Grows – Go Glow Grows (2016)

“I love the vocal melodies and guitar work. They have a straight-up attack on alternative music but they are doing something original and unique.”

The Buildings – Cell-O-Phane (2016)

“One of the best singles of the decade is ‘Different Shades of Blue.’ Reminds me why I love indie rock.”

 


 

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Samantha Nicole
DJ / Co-founder & Production Director, CC:Concepts

Tarsius – Primate (2011)

“Primate to me is a strong example of what Filipino electronic music is – forward-thinking and deserving of global audience.”

“There’s always a different way to appreciate the record, whether your listen to it at home or hear the boys tweak the tracks each time they play it live. Plus, It’s among the very first local albums released on vinyl in today’s digital age, which inspired more Filipino artists to do the same. If you ask me, that’s the kind of impact that makes for timelessness.”


 

Photo courtesy of Careless Musix

Curtismith
Careless Music

Bullet Dumas – USISA (2018)

“The album is dense with cultural context and wisdom, grief and love. It is proudly Filipino and is world class in showing how beautiful the Filipino language can be.”


 

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Pat Sarabia
Oh, Flamingo! / Apartel / A&R Director, Offshore Music

Tarsius – Primate (2011)

“Diego and Jay are immensely talented individually and to put them together is kind of that ‘match made in heaven’ sort of collaboration (not to sound cheesy). It’s electronic and organic at the same time, forward-thinking, one-of-a-kind. Their live sets require your attention and presence.”

“There will only be one Tarsius in the history of Filipino music, I feel. Truly original, no need for the hype or the frills, confident in their craft.”

Ang Bandang Shirley – Favorite (2017)

“Eclectic as an album in truly Shirley fashion! Some of the best songwriting of this decade.”

Ourselves The Elves – Geography Lessons (2015)

“Tasteful, thoughtful, honest and sincere songwriting. ‘Uncertainly’ is a really underrated love song/ballad.”


 

Photo courtesy of King Puentespina

CRWN 
a.k.a. King Puentespina, She’s Only Sixteen

Up Dharma Down – Capacities (2012)

“I think Capacities by Up Dharma Down was one of the best albums that came out of the Philippines this decade. Sonically and lyrically, it changed the trajectory of a lot of Filipinos that wanted more from their local artists. At least for me, after hearing that album, I really thought that it was possible for us artists to step up and make projects as beautiful and as well thought of as Capacities.”

“It was a project that could break the mold, rebuild it and, turn it well. It did just that.”

Photo from Instagram/@quarkhenares

Quark Henares
Filmmaker / Head, Globe Studios

Taken by Cars – Dualist (2012)

“The answer is a clear one for me — Taken By Cars’ Dualist, my best album of 2012 and the only OPM record in the top 10 of the decade for me. There’s just something about how Taken By Cars grew as a band— how their sound matured, how they became tighter, the arrival of Issa Garcia as their new bassist and how Sarah Marco matured as a singer/songwriter, that made this the defining album of the band this decade. Soon after new blood like Reese [Lansangan] and Ben&Ben arrived, and so Dualist dually (pun intended) served as the perfect document of TBC’s generation of Pinoy Indie.”


 

Photo by Ryo Yoshiya/courtesy of Jorge Wieneke

similarobjects
a.k.a. Jorge Wieneke V / Darker Than Wax / BuwanBuwan Collective / Red Bull Music Academy 2018 – Berlin

No Rome – Crying in the Prettiest Places (2019)

“I know this might come off as an obvious choice for me because of how Rome [Gomez] and I go way back but I feel like Ii have reasons that go beyond just that bias, I honestly feel like Rome represents a new generation of pop as he represents a strong sense of musical evolution, mutation, rebellion and mastery.”

“His work is addicting, fresh yet complex it its own mystical ways that might not be obvious upon the first few listens. His work for me paves the way and pushes the envelope in so many ways as his music represents breaking barriers and undoing old structures while giving way to something.” 

“There’s a freedom in his expression that is infectious. i believe his work is a proper representation of what it feels like to live in the ‘now.’ This is definitely what NOW sounds like.”

“Aside from putting the Philippines back on the musical map, I think the beauty is in his masterful execution of his ideas. To me, he is more than just a great musician at this point. He, to me, is a master of manifestation.”


 

Photo from Instagram/@djjoeysantos

Joey Santos
DJ / Producer / Halik ni Gringo / Managing Editor, Digital DJ Tips

Various Artists – Diary ng Panget OST (2014)

“There are a lot of influential artist-led albums this past decade, but it’s rare to find one that puts the songwriter and producer on the same level as the interpreters. This 2014 collection of tracks, mostly sung by power couple James Reid and Nadine Lustre, was a pivotal moment in local pop R&B because it cemented Thyro & Yumi as OPM’s next big songwriting duo (they also happened to write Sarah G’s ‘Kilometro,’ Philpop 2015 winning track ‘Triangulo,’ among others). 

“The productions were helmed by Jumbo De Belen, himself a luminary in Pinoy hip hop and R&B who co-owns hit factory Flipmusic with Jeli Mateo.”

“If that wasn’t enough, the album also featured what might be my favourite OPM track of the 2010s: Donnalyn Bartolome’s ‘Kakaibabe,’ which helped catapult her to mega-influencer status.”

“I can’t say enough good things about this album – just one of those rare LPs that hits the spot in terms of production, songwriting, and relevance at the time.”


 


 

Photo by Everywhere We Shoot/courtesy of Careless Music

KingwAw
a.k.a. Bret Jackson / A&R Director, Careless Music

Oh, Flamingo! – Oh, Flamingo! (2015)

“The songwriting in this project is top notch. So many risks taken in each track to create a sound that is truly Oh, Flamingo!. Also ‘Inconsistencies’ has one of the best instrumental breaks of all time.”


 

Photo by JL Javier

Apa Agbayani
Filmmaker / Music Video Director

Kate Torralba – Long Overdue (2013)

“In 2013, singer-songwriter Kate Torralba released her long-overdue debut Long Overdue. I consider it extremely important because there isn’t much else like it in the landscape of local music over the last decade.”

“Wistful, cheeky piano-and-vocal music is in such short supply and Kate has these wondrous moments on the record—whether it’s the alternatingly funny and pained breakup track ‘Pictures’ or ghosting anthem ‘Northfleet’ (my personal favorite KT track).”

“Kate’s classical piano training and her pop sensibilities meld together throughout the record. She’s yet to release an album since this one but I’m always begging her for new music, I swear.”

half-lit – paradigm shift (2019)

“half-lit’s paradigm shift is a late entry but I think it’s the perfect six-track EP that strips back BP Valenzuela’s pop songwriting to its guitar-and-vocal roots. It’s an EP she says she wrote for her younger self. paradigm shift is an ode to the aughts, tapping into adult fears but covering everything in an adolescent sheen.”

“‘23 mistakes’ is three minutes of pop-rock perfection and ‘constantly’ closes the record on such a bittersweet note. It is a wondrous piece of work, possibly BP’s most emotionally honest yet.”


 

Photo courtesy of Camille Castillo

Camille Castillo
Editorial Director and Philippines Representative, Bandwagon

Up Dharma Down – Capacities (2012)

“The album that brought Up Dharma Down to mainstream consciousness. Thanks, ‘Tadhana.’ Capacities came out when I was living in Singapore and desperate for all forms of connection to the motherland. I would listen to ‘Night Drops’ before and during flights back home and to Manila.”

Rico Blanco – Dating Gawi (2015)

“Rico Blanco’s return to simpler things from 2012’s avant garde Galacktik Fiestamatik. Underrated album. Also features an all-star band with Raymund Marasigan on drums, Buddy Zabala on bass, and Roll Martinez on guitars.”

half-lit – paradigm shift (2019)

“BP Valenzuela’s alter-ego half-lit takes you back to your adolescence (which let’s be honest, sometimes it feels like you never left) with questions like ‘Does getting old mean making good decisions?’ (Spoiler: The answer’s no.)”


 

Photo courtesy of MC Galang

MC Galang
Co-founder & Creative Director, The Rest is Noise

Kolateral – KOLATERAL (2019)

“This decade’s rap music – which included other prominent releases such as Gatilyo (BLKD), The Lesser of Your Greater Friends (Calix), Manila Circle Jerk (Den Sy Ty), Third Culture Kid (NINNO), The Pharmer’s Guide To Higher Ground (The Pharm), The Distinktive Sounds of Pasta Groove (Pasta Groove), Circa91 (Ruby Ibarra), Assembly Generals (Assembly Generals), and Mind The Now (Mindanao Writers’ Block) – has articulated publicly the beliefs, ills, fears, frustrations, and essence of a society that painfully begets its failures of remembering.”

“It has assumed the critical task of questioning and defining rap’s role and potential for social change as much as it is a cultural movement.”

“In KOLATERAL, a singular 12-track release in the tail end of the 2010s, hip-hop artists BLKD and Calix and their collaborators tell the story of the nation’s drug war’s dead and those who bury them.”

“It is urgent and necessary, as it attempts to extract the motives and interests of the war’s architects, institutions and individuals alike, and equally examines the people who put them there in the first place. It’s a rare account that treads the fatal distance between poverty and privilege, confronting the latter at the bloody expense of the former.”


 

Photo courtesy of Ian Urrutia

Ian Urrutia
Co-founder, Head Curator, Artist & Media Relations Director, The Rest Is Noise

Ang Bandang Shirley – Tama Na Ang Drama (2012)

“Those of us who grew up with Ang Bandang Shirley knew that life, even in its most complicated and loneliest moments, deserve to be celebrated. For most of the decade, their songs reflect the messy spectrum of our romantic and personal lives, sometimes to a devastating effect. But most of the time, it brings sunshine to cover most of the moroseness, even evolving to a nugget of wisdom to help us screw the pain away. Tama Na Ang Drama, the indie rock outfit’s sophomore album, operates on this level of life-affirming importance.”

“To fans, it’s more than just a rulebook; the songs speak on an intimate level, the soaring guitars and sugar-coated noise transform anger, indifference and frustration into catharsis, and the lyrics mirror familiar experiences that you’d wish to go away or keep for as long as you can: a fading memory, an old Tumblr entry, or a piece of writing on the wall.”

“Then you kept telling yourself repeatedly: ‘Mamaya na daw lumimot sa maalamat na pag-ibig,’ to quote one of the lines in the self-titled track. Because love, in any form or weight, has always been immortalized in anthems. And when it’s rewritten to hold on tight to a specific narrative or when it’s given a new life as a rough draft, there’s a big chance that you’ll hear the same theme with a different perspective or an entirely new meaning.”

“Tama Na Ang Drama works wonders with its mix of relatability and fundamental sense of otherness, but its indelibly memorable pop songs are sometimes conceived for what it is: art imitating life, and the only way to deal with it, is to close your eyes, sing the songs, and join the chorus. It’s a feeling worth losing to.”

UDD – Capacities (2012)

“After exploring a more sonically complex landscape filled with experiments and genre-hopping moments on Bipolar—the band’s sophomore album, UDD decided to keep things warm and intimate on the critically acclaimed third album, Capacities. With songs like ‘Luna,’ ‘Parks,’ ‘Indak,’ ‘Feeling,’ and ‘Thinker,’ the Terno Recordings band sticks to writing subtle, melancholic pop songs that evoke the feeling of walking in the rain alone at midnight or watching the quiet skies fade by the hour – the visuals repeated in your brain like a loop, a very familiar one.”

“There’s still a hint of eclecticism in the choice of song form and fillers: from the sparse electronic subtleties to the moody textures that characterize the song structure, from the extended clubby edit of Night Drops to the throbbing synths that open ‘Turn It Well.’ It’s as if UDD wouldn’t be UDD without their unique ventures that turn confessionals into art-rock binges or an obscure ’80s song that no one knew about – and for music fans and critics who have been familiar with their work, these elements are what makes the quartet a dream team.”

“It’s always about accessibility, but it’s also about breaking boundaries and surprising listeners with a new twist or vibe in every release. With Capacities, they seem to have embraced restraint and a quieter pace in sound. At its core, it’s an album that not only anoints them as masters of pop songcraft, but also consistent innovators who know how to rewrite the mundane into a sparkling, sprawling piece of gem.”

BLKD x Umph – Gatilyo (2015)

“There’s no escaping the gospel of BLKD. Whether he preaches against class struggle or contractualization, Marcosian excesses, or corrupt government officials, the rapper-activist turns his attention to accessible storytelling – the language clear but incisively sharp, and the delivery prepared to stride past the obstacles and stand out in a battle of brevity and wit. In a decade of turbulent politics and distorted conflicts, it was a timely push for someone to fight for the underprivileged and discomforted through protest songs disguised as catchy hip-hop anthems with top-notch production. This is where Gatilyo, BLKD’s debut full-length record, comes in.”

“The progressive album sets the stage for silent voices and hushed stories to be heard, rewriting history while soulfully dissecting modern Philippine society through the lens of someone who has struggled and immersed himself in impoverished urban and rural communities. This is an important cultural work that will stand the test of time with its powerful voice and inherent ability to cut across generations.”

“True to its core, Gatilyo promotes wider appreciation for bold, envelope-pushing Filipino hip-hop, speaking straight from a place of empathy and experience. For all its intents and purposes, to quote the great Bobby Balingit, it is also “the eyes, ears, and voice of our times.”


Photo courtesy of Make Good

Ebe Dancel
formerly Sugarfree

Ben&Ben – Ben&Ben EP (2016)

“This for me, really signalled that the younger generation has taken over the scene. I couldn’t be happier for all these young acts.”

 

Unique – Grandma (2018)

“I listened to it from start to finish and was totally impressed. I honestly don’t know what I was doing when i was his age, but his vision and storytelling is amazing.”

“It’s a reflection of how technology and music streaming have helped the young minds tremendously. They’re exposed to a lot of things that are going on in the world. All they have to do is click on a song, a link, and they’re there. There’s so much life, so much energy into the songs.”

“These two records stand out to me because all these guys did was be themselves, write honest songs and let the music speak for itself. The music is from the heart, and that’s how everyone should make and appreciate songs.”

 

– Rappler.com

 

Paolo Abad is a film/television editor and motion graphic designer. He is also a self-confessed concert junkie.

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Paolo Abad

Paolo Abad writes, edits, and shoots for a living. He is one of the founding partners of the online radio platform Manila Community Radio.