10 remarkable Filipino songs of 2017

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Music fans always express the desire to end the year in lists, and here is one to catalogue a handful of notable songs from 2017.

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — I predict that 2017 will go down as a year characterized by crippling absurdity. It has been a monumental clusterfuck of a calendar year as grotesque figures hiding behind the pristine façade of most (if not all) institutions have been exposed and established patterns are continually being disrupted by those that are meant to keep them in motion. The world feels practically post-apocalyptic, as though it has already collapsed upon itself. It’s frightening and unfamiliar, but perhaps it always has been; we just seem to be paying a lot more attention.

Given the slew of sexual misconduct allegations made against several notable artists, the music scene appears to be slowly unraveling. It has been difficult to listen, and it has become almost impossible to consider music in a vacuum of neutrality. The audience has been betrayed and disenchanted, and something has to change. Local music appears to be at a point where it has to reflect on its internal structure and current modes of production, distribution, and reception.

It must be more critical of itself, more conscientious, and less forgiving, to avoid the risk of reaching a point wherein it becomes utterly disappointing and ultimately irrelevant. A space for nuanced discourse must be generated after the dust settles to reevaluate the situation of the local music scene. We cannot sit out the nightmare; we have to face it head on.

There appears to be very little to praise without a lingering feeling of guilt; listening for pleasure is almost frivolous within these dire circumstances, but we must still celebrate what we can, while we can. Music fans always express the desire to end the year in lists, and here is one, in no particular order, to catalogue a handful of remarkable songs from 2017.

“Minimize” by BP Valenzuela feat. Nick Lazaro

“Minimize” is a feast of sounds that glisten, slide, and coalesce, foregrounding infectious melodies and rhythms that exemplify BP Valenzuela’s impeccable songwriting. Lazaro’s production shines and thickens with texture and significance as Valenzuela weaves in and out of the track, playing off the exciting instrumentation. As expected, it is as wistful as wistful gets, but “Minimize” also imbues itself with a celebratory spirit, inhabiting the bewildering space of unfulfilled desire.

 

 

“Executive Order” by Calix

“Executive Order” may as well be an analogy for the year; an attempt to reason with the oppressive system of governance in the country is interrupted by the most elementary of curses. Calix’s voice takes on great significance in this stellar Duterte diss track; his disillusioned snarl seems to stand in for the collective groan of the people, a groan of both agony and lament, still making noise in spite of everything.

 

 

 

 

“Kidnap” by Joee & I

“Kidnap” finds Joee Mejias and company working with and against lush, expansive atmospherics and a rich narrative backdrop that merges the acoustic with the electronic, the tactile with the virtual, and the classical with the contemporary. “Kidnap” feels like a decontextualized folktale, symbolic and surreal, hovering above ingeniously manipulated textures that contest one another, producing sublimity from contradiction and indeterminacy.

 

 

Pag-agos” by Kampon

The music of Kampon is epic in scale and absolutely punishing, but the band makes use of violence associated with divinity. Remember Christ on the cross, Odin on the World Tree, the sacrifice of the body for the attainment of enlightenment. “Pag-agos” is powerful, anarchic, and ultimately transcendent, working with a total commitment to the structural and philosophical tenets of metal, sound, fury, and anguish.

 

 

 

“Bird Watching” by Musical O 

The sound of Musical O has been shaped by years of investigating the interstices between divergent genres. “Bird Watching” — the penultimate track off their self-titled 2017 opus — contains meandering, labyrinthine bass and guitar lines that intersect and bifurcate, an agile and endlessly surprising beat, and vibrant, foreboding images, relayed by voices that harmonize wonderfully with the imaginative instrumentation. “Bird Watching” is testament to a craft that has been perfected by years of experience and a song that feels fresh and vital, providing potential trajectories for a band whose music is perennially emergent, always becoming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Glossolalia” by Teenage Granny

Teenage Granny’s “Glossolalia” is a nightmarish tour of the age of information; it is cold and unforgiving, bombarding the listener with a barrage of multimedia refuse. “Glossolalia” investigates and casts doubt upon text, the currency of the internet, by bending data to draft incomprehensible, polyphonic streams of simultaneous consciousnesses all vying for attention. It is a dark mirror held up to our disrupted, delirious mode of communication, the sound image of everything all at once.

 

 

 

“Bheybi Pa-shembot Gang” by Yuji de Torres 

It takes a lot of gall to write a song like “Bheybi Pa-shembot Gang.” On the surface, it appears to be a lumbering mess of a track that primarily relies on an odd sense of humor and an overt foray into pastiche, but Yuji de Torres is in full control of his dizzying conception of contemporary indie rock. “Bheybi Pa-shembot Gang” is deliberately lackadaisical and completely unpredictable, never fully capitulating into the tropes of a genre. Instead, it finds ways to adapt them to mesh with his confounding, cluttered aesthetic.

“Sweet Chimera” by Eazyhead

Eazyhead is probably the most confusing artist of his generation. The project deliberately refuses to commit to any genre, effortlessly gliding from aggressive, trap-inspired hip-hop to slimy, delirious lo-fi pop, which ironically enough achieves a semblance of aesthetic cohesion by revolving around similar thematic concerns. Eazyhead’s music generates its own context, builds its own world through the pitiless deconstruction of conventional songwriting and an imaginative reconfiguration of it. He has released a rich catalogue of material this year, but his multifaceted, dystopian vision is most fully embodied in “Sweet Chimera,” a melting pot of genres suffused with both calm and chaos.

“I Will Bury All of You” by Grandi Oso

Grandi Oso’s “The Outside Man” is one of the most intriguing releases of the year, combining the lethargic, whiskey-stained drawl of the likes of Leonard Cohen with a paranoid, gothic reimagining of Americana. “I Will Bury All of You” finds Eros and Thanatos mentioned in the same breath. It is lovelorn and nihilistic, sardonic and cold, delivered with vitriolic humor and a stoic glare.

“A Reclining Landscape” by Smalltown Press

Smalltown Press creates engrossing, exuberant, improvised collages of sound produced by a toy piano, feedback, and swelling delays with a lively experimental spirit bent on exploring the innumerable possibilities of the interactions among adventurous polyrhythms, minimalist patterns, and electronic noise. “A Reclining Landscape” is a landscape in and of itself, sound becoming visual and tactile, populated by irregular shapes and vivid colors that build up and disappear, collide, and collapse.