YEAR-ENDER: The Top Ten Albums/EPs of 2018

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Our resident Music critic, Yanan Melo, returns with his Top Ten Albums and EPs for 2018. Read on and see if your favorite made his list.

10. “las drogas son (no) buenas para ti” by savedhistory

From the heavy beats to the heartwarming textures that define this 6 minute experience, savedhistory’s unique EP, which seemingly explores the harmful effects of drug use (the EP’s title in English is “drugs are (not) good for you”), is a soporific experience that expresses a myriad of emotions that I never thought a short, fundamentally ambient EP could make you feel in just 6 minutes.

9. “Night In” by Jason Dhakal

“Night In” is a beautifully crafted 6-track EP by Jason Dhakal and producer dot.jaime. Each track is an emotional journey through a tightly-woven narrative that analyzes the beauty and loss of young love. Jason Dhakal has indeed proven to be an artistic virtuoso who, at such a young age, has already mastered his craft. From here, Jason has nowhere else to go but up.

8. “Full Flood” by Apartel

Two years after the release of their debut album “Inner Play,” Apartel continues to be one of the lead innovators of the Filipino music scene. Their sophomore LP “Full Flood” is a genre-blending experience that is built upon the foundation of creative insanity. It is apparent that Ely Buendia and co. just want to have fun without compromising the artistic emotion behind the album’s catchy bops.

7. “Piso Isa” by Pamcy

Two songs, endless replays, and I give you “Piso Isa.” Booming and intimate, the two tracks of this captivating double A-side single are intricately designed in their arrangement, synth work, mixing, use of foley, etc. Pamcy is the rising phoenix of the Filipino electronic underground, and I can not wait for what the future holds for this gem of a DJ.

6. “RIP Indo Hisashi” by No Rome

No Rome is more than just another young pop artist making hits for the sake of it. His debut EP “RIP Indo Hisashi,” with all its emotional vulnerability and well-developed production, is one that I never expected to get this year. From the stardom, to the recognition, and the collaboration with the one-and-only The 1975, Rome Gomez has made a name for himself – it is a name that will get bigger in the days to come. And that name is No Rome.

5. “Mobius” by Asch

Previously, I gave electronic act Asch’s debut album “Mobius” a great review, calling their work “a poetic movement.” All those words remain true today as the album continues to be one of my most listened-to albums of 2018. And, guess what? It will still be one of the albums I am going to come back to in 2019, 2020, 2021, and beyond. Asch is just that good! “Mobius” has brought something so fresh and inventive to the Filipino music scene, especially the electronic music scene, that it deserves all the praise that it deserves.

4. “TIM AWA” by TIM AWA

TIM AWA, also known as Zephra Lagos from South Luzon, is an artist I was not expecting to discover this year and an artist I would appreciate so much. Her self-titled EP is a self-produced, independently-borne, 18-minute universe of splendor and adventure. Also, knowing that this 5-track EP took three long years to make, I praise Zephra for all the hard work she has put and the many human hours she toiled. Every song blew my mind, and her genius touch is present in every aspect of the post- and math-rock soundscape of this EP. I hope to hear more from her, and I hope it takes less than three years this time.

3. “Grandma” by Unique

Early this year, after the big news that former IV of Spades frontman Unique Salonga has gone solo, I had some idea about what UNIQUE was planning to do next. Little did I know, it was a full-length LP that, not only blends genres but destroys genre in doing so. Unique does not care about genre; Unique wants nothing to do with mainstream pop. With the poetic lyrics and masterful songwriting, Unique has become the artist he’s always wanted to be. His name is, now, more than just a name his parents gave him. It describes his artistry, his creativity, his craft – Unique – it’s who he is. This first album, the beginning of the journey, is one impactful work that will undoubtedly stand the test of time. “Grandma” is chilling to the bone as it is restful for the soul.

2. “Vacation” by Outerhope

What has the dream pop, sibling duo Outerhope been up to since their last EP in 2013? A hiatus and their latest album “Vacation.” The new album finds comfort in and embraces its dream pop roots, but also expands on the genre and even contributes to a sound we’ve already heard. This album is more than just an adventure – it is full of ambition, a dream for hope, and a retrospective tragedy, all at the same time. The lyrics ponder the reality of human existence; the synths take us through heaven, then hell, and back again; the beats make our feet move and numb us in grief. “Vacation” by Outerhope is one poignant piece of work that surely wasn’t an easy feat.

1. “USISA” by Bullet Dumas (Our Album of the Year)

Bullet Dumas’ debut full-length album is one that was long-awaited and highly-anticipated. Hear us now. The wait was worth it because USISA is definitely the album Filipinos needed the most in 2018. Following are my thoughts as to why this album deserves the #1 spot on my list:

Bullet Dumas’ first album is more than just love songs and more than just another romantic’s spill on heartbreak. Through “USISA,” Bullet observes social issues in a way that makes his audiences think – it is apparent from the very title of this album “USISA” which means “to investigate.” Using themes such as love, heartbreak, and hate, Bullet brings these concepts together and blends them so masterfully to create a musical masterpiece that addresses the mere individual’s place in the greater Filipino community.

Bullet Dumas is a true modern Filipino poet, a makata ripped straight out of the pages, who knows how to compose music in a way so compellingly, so poignantly, and so effectively that literally every lyric and strum in this album is never wasted. Every word spoken is essential to the story and every strike of the guitar to the message that he conveys: “Know. Observe. Think, think, think.” The instrumentation imparts a sense of urgency, a sense of desperation, stressing his listeners to listen ever so carefully and ever so actively into what he has to sing about. His vocals – the sentimental singing, emotional rapping, and occasional beatboxing – are so creatively used to enthrall listeners and further emphasize the significance of his storytelling.

“USISA” is a wake-up call for the modern Filipino, especially with the backdrop of our tensely divisive political and social atmosphere. It is a call to love, and to keep loving despite hate and animosity. It is a call to stand firm in what you believe in, and to keep standing despite the tumultuous waves of culture. It is a call to think, and to keep thinking despite every day’s seeming hopelessness. At the end of the day, at the very end of the day, hate never wins because something else, something greater will. This “greater” thing is a spiritual force that transcends beyond the physical – love. Yet, we won’t be able to realize how powerful love could be if we cease to think, observe, and be present in life’s every moment. So, we must wake up and begin to think.

Though all of the albums on this list are amazing, and they all do deserve our utmost respect and praise. Bullet Dumas has done something extraordinary. He has delivered an album so brutally-honest that, to be totally honest, not only Filipinos but everyone in the world needs to hear.

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ABOUT THE REVIEWER: 

Yanan Melo is a Filipino writer, artist, musician, and producer. Hailing from Chicago, he continues to reach his audiences in the Philippines through social media and other means. He hopes to inspire others to use their gifts and talents, especially creatively, as to not put them to waste.
 
Melo has always been a music buff and is deeply in love with the Filipino indie music scene. This is why he chose to write for Indie Manila which is a community that he believes could make an impact locally and internationally through promoting the creative and artistic prowess of the Filipino.

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