Best Tracks of 2016
selected by Ian Urrutia of Vandals on the Wall

Ang Bandang Shirley

A sunny video, time-reversed in the second half, accompanies an equally romantic song composed by the band’s main writer, Ean Aguila. In “Umaapaw”, he managed to encompass all the features that made Ang Bandang Shirley’s decade-long career so remarkable.

The video was directed by The Strangeness’ Shinji Manlangit and the band’s manager Kathy Gener. Airy atmosphere, multi-layered but thick sound, and just-enough haunting motifs will keep you engaged at least for a couple of listenes.

Ang Bandang Shirley on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter.


Anything Autotelic touches turns into a communal sing-along. They’re capable of narrating the trajectory and pitfalls of romantic love in the most skillful, imaginative and relatable way possible.

“Laro” doesn’t waste a second in giving us that synth-sparkly, wide-screen pop that we are familiar with, except that beneath the surface flourish is a heartbreak lament whose unique take on love and loss illuminates a sobering truth that a lot of people can relate to.

Autotelic on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter.

Beast Jesus <br>“Double Tuck”

Beast Jesus
“Double Tuck”

How do you follow up the astounding ambition of “Scoliosis Backbrace” and not make it sound like a failure or a poor copy? Enter “Double Tuck”—an aural curiosity built around the shadows of Kevin Shields.

Another landmark is around the corner with this shoegaze affair that draws its strength from swaths of reverb and noise, yet insists on not forgoing the human element that makes the track otherworldly but relatable.

Listen here.

Beast Jesus on Bandcamp, Facebook.


The incisive anthem finds the celebrated street poet BLKD at the peak of his creativity, penning an incisive observation on power struggle and backstabbing.

BLKD raps over nightmarish, minimalist beats. He burns us in our collective complacency, but he also invokes a sense of alarm that is somewhat triggered by the spate of killings hounding the country in the past few months.

BLKD x UMPH on Bandcamp.

Bubble Economy
“On A Rainy Day”

You cannot discuss Bubble Economy’s “On A Rainy Day” without talking about soft-rock. Every corner of the song contains a frothy, melt-on-your-tongue groove that draws heavily from bands such as The Alan Parsons Project, Hall and Oates and Chicago.

But there’s something about the songcraft that makes it stand out from the revival pack. What Bubble Economy has delivered is a straight-up confessional about being uncertain in life, about struggling to cope up with everyday changes, about being stuck in a rot.

Bubble Economy on Soundcloud, Facebook.


Never to be outdone, Cheats’ “Drunk” keeps you on your toes with its honeycombed harmonies and left-of-center midtempo ruminations, an aural ride so comfy you would think you’re in a cooled-down afterparty.

The hooks give it life, but the deftly layered guitars, colorful arrangements, and understated yet triumphant performance serve as the omnipresent element that ties everything together, never failing to stir our hearts the way a Cheats song does.

Cheats on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter.

Coeli ft. Miguel Guico
“Magkaibigan o Magka-ibigan”

Set in the forest reserve at the Makiling Botanical Garden, one hour south of Manila, the debut video from Filipino singer-songwriter and cellist Coeli was an irresistible piece of music, dance and nature.

The song features the guitar work and voice of Miguel Guico, next to Coeli’s vocals and her cello. And in the video, they’re accompanied by a pair of young dancers, Bea Lorenzo and Jarrel Yecyec.

Coeli on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud.

“Yours (Hold Me)”

Musically, Dearest, represent the most energetic side of alternative pop/rock with spectacular vocal harmonies and often euphoric choruses, just like in the case of the memorable single “Yours (Hold Me)”.

After three years of playing together, the Manila-based quintet finally released their self-titled debut LP at the end of February last year where “every song is a moment expressed in words, sounds, and silences.”

Dearest, on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter.

Disquiet Apartment
“Everything Will Go Wrong”

Put together by their shared affinity for noisy but saccharine indie-pop, Mirror Mask’s Angie Pablo and Beast Jesus’ Josh Crae recently collaborated on a completely new music project they’ve called Disquiet Apartment.

Their debut single, entitled “Everything Will Go Wrong”, isn’t steeped in sepia tones or lilting, folksy aesthetic. The song thrives on thick layers of jangly guitars, scuzzy atmospherics and manic drums, punctuated by a driving rhythm that takes the main melody to skyscraping heights.

Disquiet Apartment on Bandcamp.

Manila Magic
“In the Night”

Filtered through the lens of nostalgia, Manila Magic’s debut single “In The Night” pushes forward with minimalist pop experiments that echo the soundtrack to an ‘80s prom night.

With every subsequent listen, you can feel their heart beating in the right place, with neon synths and insular psychedelics making every moment of the track worthwhile and engaging.

Manila Magic on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Soundcloud.

Memory Drawers
“Lovingly, Leaving Me”

For a band who has quietly built its reputation with the release of enjoyable jangle-pop singles “Hart” and “For Any of This,” Memory Drawers remain relatively unknown in the local indie circles.

“Lovingly, Leaving Me,” their third single, offers a recommended dose of sunshine pop, but it’s Memory Drawers unlike you’ve never heard before: upbeat, exuberant, and sweet, with blissed-out guitars cutting through humid air.

Memory Drawers on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud.

Miles and Mot

Less than a year after their terrific first full-length, “Island View“, Filipino indie-pop group Miles and Mot gave us a new EP “Ocerulean Blue“, where they continue their devotion to glistening melodies and shiny arrangements.

These four new tracks lasting just about a quarter might be their most laidback material yet, with the exception of “Odysseys”. In the middle of the song, the sparkling main theme is fantastically interrupted by a shower of shredded vocals, and that’s one of our very favourite moments of 2016.

Miles and Mot on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Twitter, Facebook.

“Again” feat. Teenage Granny

“Again” feels like that warm ray of sunshine brushing against your face: a near-perfect electro-pop opus whose slinky synth chords and endearingly carefree melodies bubble to the surface with summery goodness.

Outside of its form is a different matter: a sad breakup song wrapped in earwormy prettiness. Zion and Aly seem drawn to the melancholic sentiments of the song, allowing their personalities to blend and get lost in the shuffle.

Moonmask on Soundcloud, Twitter, Facebook.

Musical O
“House Tea”

There appears to be a consensus about the palpable influence of Musical O among the batch of post-millennial bands who have found refuge in blending twinkly, mathy pop-rock with indie sensibilities.

“House Tea” is a proof of their mastery. On surface, it sounds like a hushed meditation, pulling their weight to achieve a lightheartedness that doesn’t usually come with the kind of music they play.

There’s something bold about the degree of restraint inscribed on Musical O’s musicality, and “House Tea” takes this principle to heart.

Musical O on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter.


“TCK” surprises with a grand entrance. The manic beats and Oriental-sounding sample aim for something as massive and cutting as life, a device to stir one’s emotion.

Ninno spits rapid-fire poetry that calls attention to itself. He keeps giving birth to one idea to another, and proceeds with setting expectations about himself, his work, his methodology as a rapper, producer and spoken-word artist.

Ninno on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud.


Since his earliest releases, alternative R&B singer and producer Jorge Wieneke has been feeding us with nostalgia for computer screen as you might remember it from the late 90s and early 00s.

“Plié” blends old school ambient electronics with digitized vocals and a sparse beat into an otherworldly exploration of memories, dreams and the infinite possibilities of Office 97 text formatting.

Nouvul on Soundcloud, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.

“Nothing Wrong”

You might have already heard Anica Feliciano’s laid-back, oneiric vocals in the works of fellow Filipino sound makers Aries and CRWN. She’s also been a member of a Manila producers collective Logiclub.

Her debut single, a captivating and otherworldly take on R&B, is “about the kind of love from the past that didn’t flourish and no matter how hard you try to run away from it, the memory is still there to haunt you”.

Olympia on Soundcloud, Facebook, Instagram.

Reese Lansangan
“Exploration No. 5”

Despite the absence of a full band, Reese Lansangan manages to broaden her minimal setup with songs that tackle a wide range of subjects: grammar misuse, space geekery, stalkers, smooth talkers, name it—it’s in her area of expertise.

Reese’s versatility as a songwriter is an asset, a lilting texture that complements the nakedness of her sonic palette. It’s when she writes songs as raw and honest as “Exploration No. 5” that you can see a side of her outside of her music’s intrinsic sweetnes.

Reese Lansangan on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud.

Ryoku x Clara Benin
“Here Comes The Feeling”

Electronic producer Ryoku and singer-songwriter Clara Benin inaugurated their collaboration in 2015 with a catchy track called “Windows Seat”. The single “Here Comes The Feeling” was, above all, a demonstration of self-restraint.

Dreamy and nostalgic, cool but emotional, “Here Comes The Feeling” is also a perfect example of how real singer-producer partnership sounds like – which is when you’re unable to tell who put down the first note on the clean page.

Ryoku on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, www.


Half a decade after she made herself heard for the first time, the Davao-based singer, songwriter and producer Skymarines last year released her debut full-length, “Flight“, helmed under the guidance of The Ringmaster’s Francis Lorenzo.

If Skymarines’ early demos were an example of fragile bedroom music, her new material comes from a self-confident producer for whom melancholy is an artistic choice. The beautiful for “Oasis” was directed by Augustine Paredes and animated by Megan Palero.

Skymarines on SoundcloudFacebook, Twitter.

The Ransom Collective

Islands of Philippines and Nepal. China and and South Korea. Norway, the Netherlands and California. The Ransom Collective’s joyous video “Settled” is a magnificent document of a travel around the world.

The band’s original drummer Hunny Lee has spent three years on the road together with and his girlfriend Charlie. The music clip documents their breathtaking trip and is a perfect illustration to The Ransom Collective’s upbeat, cheerful song.

The Ransom Collective on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter.

Tom’s Story <BR>“Mugatu”

Tom’s Story

Tom’s Story’s self-titled album marks a step forward in many ways, capturing the brilliance of their live shows into recording. Perhaps nothing hits harder on the album than “Mugatu” — a dynamic beast of an anthem that sounds like you’re embarking on an adventure into the urban wild.

You’ll hear the band expand their twinkly, guitar-driven instrumental and push it into more rhythmically challenging places. The vocal hook near the end is shouted with gusto, amplifying the relentless nature of the track and coaxing the listeners to join the massive sing-along.

Listen here.

Tom’s Story on Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter.

Toni B.
“Bang! Bang!”

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned in the video of Toni Brillantes’s “Bang! Bang!”.

The clip takes a stab at an enigmatic femme fatale played by Toni B. herself who gets herself in serious trouble after murdering the guy she used to love.

Helmed by J. Rodriguez, it is a showcase of revenge that pays off in spades, a twisty pulp entertainment in Gone Girl fashion, minus the gore.

Toni B. on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

“Everything Visible Is Made of Gold”

“Everything Visible Is Made of Gold” operates in a universe of seemingly endless drifting. Its easygoing guitar flourishes and catchy basslines seem to find acquiescence in sepia-toned nostalgia.

The melodies are warm and transluscent, awash in subtle intricacies. The mood captures a lightweight and joyful vibe—not flashy, not complicated, but just enough to stir up good old memories of your laid-back summer.

Yūrei on Soundcloud, Facebook.