MANILA -- This year, we saw old favorites release new albums, some even make surprise comebacks. And there were some indie/underground scorchers that had folks talking.
Here is my list for the top alternative-independent releases for 2017.
"Remuda Triangle" by Pedicab. We haven’t seen a concept album in a while but the country’s most dangerous band blazed new frontiers with this one – a sci-fi/alien abduction/takeover story. Plus, the album art and those alien-type headgear! Wunderbar!
"Echoes from the Quondam" by Bad Omen. These '90s punk rockers came up with two releases in 2017 -- this seven-inch extended play album featuring six songs of Pinoy punk classics as the band pays tribute to their heroes and initially a digital release of Christmas songs given the Bad Omen treatment. Either should make the list with the latter given a heaping dose of fun. But "Echoes of the Quondam" is a teaser for a full-length album where these best-selling and hard-working punks look back at what got them going.
"Favorite" by Ang Bandang Shirley. This is probably their best album. Bright and eloquent tunesmiths with a knack for hummable melodies. Three albums in and Ang Bandang Shirley just gets better with every release. Favorite is indeed right.
"Plagues" by Taken By Cars. Talk about a change in direction. From new wave to dream pop. I love the more mature sound and this change in sound. And you have to love the simplicity of their album art.
"Lutang/Pariwara" by Ely Buendia & the Itchyworms. This Record Store Day offering features a double A-side seven-inch single. Two top songs in one cool collaboration. This one stays in the rotation for a long time.
"Roach Motel" by Flying Ipis. I always thought that Flying Ipis is an acquired taste. In my case, I always found myself entranced by their music or even stage presence. Behind the “fun-ness” of their debut “Give Ipis A Chance” there’s a sensuous side to them with a hint of danger. That’s their sophomore release, "Roach Motel." You can check in anytime but you can never leave their clutches.
"Cheats" by Cheats. A beautiful pensive debut from these indie rockers. As they say in the vernacular, walang tapon dito.
"Humanidad" by Dong Abay Music Organization. The street poet of our generation is back with his latest treatise on life in these islands. Read between the lines and hear those jabs at society’s ills.
"Residuals" by Tiger Pussy. One of Cebu’s best imports alongside lechon, mangoes, and top-class point guards. Punch the air raid siren! There’s an urgency to Tiger Pussy’s music. Melodic punk from this livewire act.
"Horrors" by Yomi No Kuni. Last year, we were treated to the day-glo sunshine of Tom’s Story. This year, when the lights go down, the world belong to the horrific black prog metal of Yomi No Kuni.
"Atake" by Slapshock. Time has not dulled the fire of these metal icons. Since "Night Owls," their production has been slicker, melodic, but no less fiery. Their 20th anniversary release is a message – onwards and attack to the next 20 years.
"Closure" by Sugar Hiccup. These local shoegazer pioneers are back with their swan song. An achingly beautiful and pensive release. And the first single, “Saturnine Nevermore” is an instant classic that sticks in your mind for days and weeks. What a way to go out.
Also making this year-end list are some offerings from outside the country by Pinoy artists.
"The Ghost of Manong" by various artists. Available as an import from the United States. This 10-song vinyl release captures the Fil-Am music scene from Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. Lots of good stuff here. It is good to see there are releases from Pinoy acts out there.
"Malaya" by The Seeker. Available as an import from Italy. Angry hardcore from this multi-ethnic band from Italy (featuring two Pinoys). They may be oceans apart but this band takes shots even at the ills of Philippine society including the EJKs.
"Chasing Frequency" by Chasing Frequency. Available as an import from Singapore. Ever wonder what a band influenced by the Eraserheads and Oasis sounds like? That’s Chasing Frequency. An interesting listen. Has potential.
There are also re-issues to pick up.
"Another Destructive Century" by IOV. This album by these Pinoy punks first came out in the 1980s in cassette form. It was re-issued this year on vinyl. And outside the Urban Bandits’ re-release also on vinyl (it came out the other year), this is something you should get. The sings will sound eerily on point and timely some 20 years after they first came out.
"Ella" by Ella. The one and only solo album from Ella del Rosario, the former vocalist of Manila Sound pioneers Hotdog. Contains the OPM classics – Pinoy disco, too – “Mr. Disco,” “Sabik na Sabik,” and “Ako’y Litong-lito”. A must-have!