Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — The last two months saw an established icon produce a pop song for the daughter of a Megastar, a seasoned band cradle ‘80s nostalgia with zero apprehensions, and a producer turn up the jam for the wallflower types.
The flow of interesting local releases is limitless that we’re forced to cut a few favorites. In rounding up the best local songs from the last two months, we made sure to include tracks that have the potential to become a time capsule of a particular generation or movement, and groundbreaking releases that defy the mold.
Here’s a guide for your listening pleasure.
“tyl” by Kakie
What’s with all these ‘90s icons producing cutting-edge songs for teen pop celebrities? Earlier this year, Rico Blanco teamed up with “Pinoy Big Brother” star Maris Racal on “Abot Langit,” a lilting ditty inspired by the duo’s professed love for ‘80s city pop. And then there’s Ely Buendia taking his producer role seriously with Kakie a.k.a. Frankie Pangilinan’s debut single “tyl.” While both songs deliver naiveté and carefree attitude in its most inspired moments, there’s noticeable contrast in terms of appeal and presentation: Maris Racal being the sweetheart archetype, plays up to her strengths without alienating her fan base. Frankie Pangilinan, on the other hand, delivers no signs of crossing over.
Frankie shows more promise in finding her own sound with her reserved demeanor and distinct sensibility. On “tyl,” Kakie paints herself as an introspective young artist cut in the same fabric as Lorde or Billie Eilish, articulating her feelings on love lost and found. With Ely Buendia’s guidance, the song soars as it lulls, giving Kakie the space she needs to document the nuances of her private life.
“On Your Left” by Kubra Commander
Cebu City has been churning out solid and unadulterated rock releases for the most part of the decade, rewarding us with Tiger Pussy’s riot grrrl anthems, Bombo Pluto Ova’s noise rock experiments, and Psychomonkey’s psychedelic jams. Then there’s Kubra Commander, making the most of four minutes and 23 seconds with their latest single “On Your Left.” There is an undercurrent of Britpop sensibilities beneath all that garage stomper, picking up in both pacing and energy, and wielding its range at no-frills rate. But it’s also the kind of sound that doesn’t give an F about prevailing trends: dated, confrontational, as if running through empty streets with no direction in mind. Its charm lies in not knowing when to stop.
“Imposible” by KZ Tandingan x Shanti Dope
No one could have delivered the “ayoko na ata / ayoko na nga” hook with the same suave and effortlessness that KZ Tandingan brings to the table. She is the only muse who deserves to interpret “Imposible,” a funky jam that needs more than just a sassy personality to work.
Her latest collaboration with rapper Shanti Dope is obviously engineered to top the summit of the charts, but neither does it need to indulge in hugot sentiments nor pander into streaming algorithm to gain attention. Its playful explorations of urban music — the right feet soaked into funk and classic soul, the other one tapped happily into Thyro and Yumi’s brand of R&B/pop hits — dispel any notion of blandness and mediocrity. Add KZ and Shanti Dope into the mix, and you have the perfect soundtrack to end the summer of 2019.
“Ikaw Ang Melody” by MNL48
“Ikaw Ang Melody” won’t go down in history as MNL48’s most successful chart-topper, but its reimagining of Japanese city pop with Filipino lyrics, maximalist sonic ideas, and titanic choruses still holds up as one of the better-sounding productions this side of the top 40. The resulting aesthetic finds new ways to combine contrasting cultural touchstones and turn it into a genuine phenom deserving of a massive following. While a lot can be said about the product being an industry plant, a polarizing one to be exact, MNL48 has established themselves as one of the most fun and interesting pop groups since the SexBomb Girls’ dominated the pop zeitgeist in the early ‘00s. And with “Ikaw Ang Melody” slowly climbing the charts, we can only hope for the best.
“Sinigang Na Hipon” by Pamcy
Pamcy’s “Sinigang Na Hipon” is that fine little earworm that randomly sneaks up on you past midnight, when you’re thinking of going to the club in your pajamas, but your body just won’t give in to the feeling. Its insular house beats and tinkering grooves build up and blossom into a thumping bop, peeling open into a world where awkward, imperfect moves make dance music all the more fascinating, and where it’s comforting to know that being alone sometimes gives you the unexpected possibilities of discovering something new about yourself.
“Showtime, Baby” by The Stray Mullets
The Stray Mullet’s self-proclaimed “horror-fashion” video for “Showtime, Baby” pulls all the stops just to give us the meme party that we need: a faceless mannequin in white gown, sashaying in the bustling streets of Metro Manila while taking selfies and strutting her best Instagram pose for the entire world to see. It’s a visual satire that pokes fun at this generation’s embrace of social media validation and narcissism, made even more evocative by the song’s menacing punk sound.
“Never” by UDD
How could anything possibly measure up to Armi Millare’s ‘80s glam moment on “Never”? Strip away the retro sheen and bombastic synths, all that’s left is a soul-rocking dynamo that amplifies moments of empowerment and independence to powerful effect. Armi Millare’s vocal showcase on “Never” straddles between Ann Wilson’s howling riffs and Mariah Carey’s versatile pipes, brimming with the soulful delivery of a singer on top of her game. It’s one of her finest vocal performances yet, a proof that it is possible to channel one’s undeniable flair for the dramatic without sacrificing the message of the song.
“Bukod-Tangi” by Unique
On “Bukod-Tangi,” Unique tackles the pressure of dealing with newfound fame and public attention. He turns confessional as he basks in the discomfort of solitude, seemingly lost and struggling to find his way home. “Ang pagkakakilanlan; unti-unting naglalaho / muli pa ba akong mabubuo,” the eclectic artist laments over infectiously whistled hooks and summery melodies that bring to mind a slacker update on Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place.” The contrast between the gloomy sentiments and immediately inviting pop soundscapes are palpable, but it’s helmed with a production that packs a punch. Stuff of pure genius I dare say.