MANILA -- In 2013, local OPM releases have been reduced significantly such that this column found it difficult to review no more than one album by a mainstream act per week.
Despite the dearth of local recordings, there was enough reason to still toast the ten albums that made a bigger bang than the rest, including most of the hard-to-find indie releases that seemed to exist in a parallel universe of its own myth-making.
In no particular order, here are the top 10 OPM albums of 2013:
"Never the Strangers" (Never the Strangers): There’s power pop, there’s air guitar work-out and there are slick ballads. What’s not to like? Every home should give a warm welcome to these new kids in town.
"Pinoy Blues Jam" (Various artists): The triumph of the gifted Bleu Rascals trio at the International Blues Competition in Memphis in 2011 ushered in a blues revival locally and this compilation features the best of the old and the new breeds in the likes of Dr. Crowley, Ian Lofamia Band, The Tarantulas and Plug.
"Homegrown Hiphop" (Various artists): Another compilation, this time from a major label argues that there’s a groundswell of vital new hip hop. The music goes pretty cerebral and dance-friendly at the same time, while the assorted players sharpen gutter emotions into battle rhymes.
"Electric Sala" (Electric Sala): Last year’s youth entry to the Memphis Blues Competition takes rootsy blues via Juan de la Cruz Band to its louder, harder progenies, and the five-piece combo brings in socially-aware lyrics that should matter in the year of pork barrel scam and super-typhoon Yolanda.
"Esoteric" (Urbandub): On their sixth studio album in a decade as a band, Cebu’s fantastic four unwrap 10 new tracks of sufficiently melodic and disarmingly catchy emo-metal to reel in both long–time fans and newbies to their cathedral of monster sound.
"Only In The Philippines" (Banda Ni Kleggy): “Discolamon” plugs ‘70s disco beat to the descent of a heartbroken man’s from dancefloor king to a food-tripping glutton, “Bawal Sa Gamot” turns table on the usual parental sermonizing on addiction, while “Darating” is an empowerment song on success in attractive pop-rock and rap. Welcome the latest disciples of Parokya Ni Edgar.
"Sunday Kodama" (Gaijin): The simplicity of the songs can be deceptive. Listen closer and you’ll hear weird couplets about “the fork and the knife dancing with all their might” (dinner table blues?), or “I don’t want to be your disease” (suicidal tendencies?). This Gaijin sends signals from some strange frequency.
"Fat Salt & Flame" (Sandwich): In celebration of Sandwich’s 15th anniversary in the music biz, this is not exactly a summation of a musical life well-lived. Rather, it’s a self-congratulation that the band has what it takes to carve out its own future and take us along to a wondrous carnival ride each time out.
"Liham at Lihim" (Gloc-9): For his seventh release, Gloc’s got stellar collaborators in Rico Blanco and Regine Velasquez at the top of the list. Still "Liham at Lihim" is all about the music and lyrical content and overall, lesser-known contributors Denise Barbacena, Quest and Marc Abaya stand just as tall as the A-grade music makers.
"Malaya" (Kitchie Nadal): The comeback album of the year sees erstwhile acoustic pop maiden Kitchie Nadal singing of freedom from distress, hope for lost children, a saving kingdom and the killing of the Biblical Isaac. There is a quasi-religious undertone to the lyrics without the preachy aggravation and the remarkable music mixes the electronic with the organic, principally Nadal’s voice pitched down to pop and ballad narratives.