From obscure indie titles to pop blockbusters, 2017 saw local artists step up their creativity and vision. Calix, Apoc The Death Architect, and Dong Abay raged against the establishment with socially compelling anthems, Flying Ipis and Tiger Pussy captured the spirit of feminism in an age when sexual offenders and predators sparked global conversation, and industry veterans Pedicab and Taken by Cars made a splashing return to the music scene with intriguing follow-ups.
In a year filled with political and socio-economic instability, a lot of us turned to records for escape and inspiration. Thanks to local acts who continue to elevate music to a genuine level of craft, 2017 has brought us game-changing releases that we can all be proud of. Get your ears ready for a sonic feast.
40) LONER – Blue Rare
Release date: May 11, 2017
Genre: Indie rock, Lo-fi
Outside of his daydream odysseys and digital bangers, Lean Ordinario moonlights as LONER—an indie rock project whose confessional retelling of a life about to fall apart, shows enough character and promise. His new EP, Blue Rare, presents Lean as a captivating young voice capable of writing effortlessly catchy songs about romantic foibles and longing. It’s a promising debut that captures the recklessness that comes with being young, sad, and carefree.
39) Asch – For Two
Release date: January 7, 2017
Electronic producer Asch explores the thrills and pitfalls of adolescent love on For Two, his 5-track instrumental EP. There are certain elements that dial down jazzy chords, wistful synth stabs, and smooth beats in the service of the record’s overall vibe, but it’s when Asch switches from subscribing to the format to flipping it to an entirely different beast that we get to hear its unguarded moments of beauty.
38) Mirror Masks - Please Get Out of My Head
Release date: February 12, 2017
Genre: Bedroom pop, Lo-fi
Please Get Out of My Head only contains 3 songs, but what a solid collection of fuzzy indie-pop it is. Angie Pablo’s poetic manifesto has always been about capturing love in its complicated glory, written as if it were a confession that matters to her and the invisible listeners. Backed by Jam Lorenzo’s merry-go-round guitars and Josh Crae’s sun-kissed production, her songs hit the bright and sweet spots effortlessly.
37) Plazma – The Impaler
Release date: April 24, 2017
Genre: Hip-hop, Rap
“This EP is for the heads who are down with that dark and gritty sound,” greets the listeners on the liner notes of The Impaler EP. True to its core, Plazma’s new record is a diarist observation on street violence, mental illness, and personal struggles. There’s emotional honesty in the delivery that gives the songs a more vulnerable touch. When Plazma raps about the woman that made his life a living hell on “7-16-11,” you can hear his voice break with spitefulness and sorrow, it’s as if his life is on the line.
36) Honeydrop – Signs
Release date: June 2, 2017
Genre: Indie pop, Math rock, Folk
Signs may have lacked the starry-eyed straightforwardness of Honeydrop’s debut album Prelude, but it shows remarkable improvement in all aspects. This collection of dreamy pop tunes acknowledges the intricate subtleties of the band’s combined music influences. From math-rock (“Set Apart” and “Mood/Swings”) to singer-songwriter folk (“Once” and “Mirage”), Honeydrop renders a variety of emotions in technicolor, capturing quite well a voice close to a calming whisper.
35) Holokids - 23 is As Good an Age As Any
Release date: April 7, 2017
Genre: Indie rock, Noise pop, Shoegaze
On 23 is As Good an Age As Any, Holokids reckons with the ghosts that haunt her emotional state. She is brave enough to find comfort in writing about depression, self-worth, and insecurities even at the expense of being exposed, and amplify the frailty that comes from the darker corners of her mind with an achingly powerful set of songs. It’s rare to find a record whose portrayal of pain is communicated exquisitely in a confession, and 23 is As Good an Age As Any excels in that department: a crushing indie-rock debut that navigates the path to healing, hoping to find meaningful connections with listeners who happen to share the same struggles and fears.
34) GYHT – Maybe In Another Universe I Deserve You
Release date: April 17, 2017
Genre: Electronic, Dream pop, Indie rock
There’s no indication that artists have found their real sound other than their last. Taking into consideration GYHT’s latest release Maybe In Another Universe I Deserve You, it’s refreshing to hear the band morph into a kaleidoscopic act capable of confronting their fears with bolder ambitions and a more sonically challenging front. Liberated from the confines of industrial noise and bombastic soundscapes, GYHT wakes up from a midnight nap and finds itself enamored with the hazier, more narcotic side of pop music.
33) Ian Penn – Water From The Creek
Release date: July 1, 2017
Genre: Alt-Country, Folk
When Ian Penn pares everything down to essentials and bares his soul uncompromisingly, it’s almost as if he’s giving a warm blanket to a body in need of one, reassuring comfort and safety. Water From The Creek, his debut full-length record, is filled with such moments: heart-tugging lyrics over lush folk and alt-country instrumentation, taking a step back toward simpler times. A deep, resigned intimacy runs through the songs, as if Ian developed a richer tapestry of experiences to draw from. It’s good to hear his lyrical exploration grow over time, working on a smaller scale yet filling the center with the gift of sophistication and earnestness.
32) Flying Ipis – Roach Motel
Release: March 3, 2017
Genre: Punk, Garage rock
In their attempt to capture the spirit of female power albeit sifted through Deng Garcia’s lens, Flying Ipis upholds the punk virtues of its debut while also acknowledging the fissures and cracks that come with its package. Roach Motel is the result of this imperfect but masterful undertaking, a strong follow up that forges an uncharted path, lyrics- and sonic-wise.
31) Scriva – A Space Pristine
Release date: June 24, 2017
Genre: Folk, Indie Rock, Experimental
A Space Pristine is a rich, moving work that blends folk-pop instrumentation with synthetic textures and ethereal harmonies, reshaping its very sonic landscape with subtle experimentation. Singer-songwriter Ryan Jacob recruits his frequent collaborators and bandmates from his other band, The Fly Trap Habits, to create a string of compelling songs whose raw emotional power grows with each listen. In pursuit or artistry and self-expression, he pushes forward with an impressionistic record that lilts and soars atop sparse sonic details.
30) Munimuni – Simula
Release date: March 17, 2017
Genre: Folk, World
While most indie-folk luminaries would rather court millennial music tastes with a smattering of artificial quirkiness, Muni-muni ditches the trend as they take their listeners to a place of comforting warmth. Breaking through the glass ceiling with mystical edge and simplicity, their debut EP Simula has a haunting ambience that extends beyond the instrumentation, living proof that you don’t have to adhere to a specific demographic to redefine “feel good.”
29) Ruru – Sleep
Release date: January 1, 2017
Genre: Bedroom pop, Lo-fi, Alt-R&B
Comparisons to BP Valenzuela, Hana ACBD and Clara Benin are inevitable, but Ruru’s Sleep shows she’s primed for prominence, ready to share her outsider perspectives on teenage life and give every discerning wallflower a story they can relate to. Never straying from her diarist internet persona, Ruru dishes out home-recorded pop intimacy that finds its pulse on all things sweet, confusing, and seventeen.
28) James Reid – Palm Dreams
Release date: July 8, 2018
Genre: Pop, R&B, Hip-hop
As far as local pop records are concerned, James Reid’s Palm Dreams has opened up the possibilities for celebrities to record music that they actually like. It’s a statement of creative vision and authority, a bold move that allows the singer-actor to have direct control over the material that he puts out in public. Lushly produced, and processed with a synthesis of electronic, R&B and trap sounds, Palm Dreams registers as a version of James’ own fantasia: a world outside of expectations and paparazzi, a place where he can be the best version of himself. It’s a record that offers a glimpse to his thoughts and fears, unfiltered and stripped off its gleaming predictability.
27) La Loba Negra – Natural Selection
Release date: August 5, 2017
Genre: Reggae, World, Blues, Soul
There’s something about Bea Fabros’ vocal presence that makes it easier for listeners to get lost in: an earthy instrument devoid of theatrics and affectation, but one that pumps with life and color, escape and wonder. On Natural Selection, Bea sings over blues-and-reggae jams with the optimism and confidence of Badu, the organic sultriness of Lolita Carbon, and the refreshingly unpolished grit of Patti Smith. In method and intent, her brand of soul adds spunk to the band’s remarkable playfulness, elevating the record into a more sonically adventurous beast that it already is.
26) The Geeks - The Double Sided Sophomore Slump
Release date: January 7, 2017
Genre: Indie rock, Garage rock
The Geeks have always felt like a younger version of Ciudad. Their debut record is basically Is That Ciudad, Yes Son It’s Me for millennials: a collection of slacker pop songs brimming with self-deprecating humor, meme-ready sarcasm, and ironic wit. Somehow, the parallelism thins out on The Double Sided Sophomore Slump, where The Geeks take pleasure in transcending the mundane and the nonsense into living, breathing adolescent anthems. It’s as if they’ve come of age, wiser and more experienced than ever, hanging on for dear life despite adjustments in adulting.
25) Tradecraft – Randomness and Order
Release date: October 11, 2017
Genre: Indie rock, Dream pop, Shoegaze
Instead of pulling you into the broad strokes of pop effervescence, Tradecraft’s Randomness and Order keeps you sedated with their washed-out blend of ‘80s indie-rock, Britpop, and dream pop. The songs are intricately produced while holding tight to the melancholic simplicity of the band’s sound. There’s sleek elegance to it that comes with maturity.
24) Big Hat Gang – How I Am At Home
Release date: May 22, 2017
Genre: Electronic, IDM, Indie house, Synth pop
Mario Consunji follows up the incredibly underrated “5” with another banging release that dives deep into a new level of curiosity and exploration. Everything on How I Am At Home is a cinematic trip; its elements integrated seamlessly to create moods and emotional blocks, its overall aesthetic never lacking in variation and inspiration. Listen to the lead track “Hotel Love” for some tender warmth, immerse yourself in the brooding synth-pop of “Ha” for those Drive soundtrack feels, and get cozy over “Roboto’s Disco Masterpiece” for a retreat in ‘70s pop fantasia.
23) Limbs – Body Without
Release date: November 7, 2017
Genre: Black metal, Dream pop, Experimental, Hardcore, Indie rock
Body Without is rife with fascinating contradictions: dream-pop jams fused with black metal sensibilities, eclectic guitar tones colliding with blast beats and sludge, hazy vocals dissolving in a warm blur of noise. Unpredictability is part of the drama, a cinematic venture that not only impresses you with its enormous ambition, but also captures a visceral experience that’s hard to pin down in words.
22) Illustrado – Illustrado
Release date: March 3, 2017
Genre: Hip-hop, Rap
Underground hip-hop label UPRISING has not only introduced the most original voices of Fliptop Battle into the recording platform, but it also brought us some of the most groundbreaking releases of the last three years. Seated comfortably on this triumphant streak is Illustrado’s self-titled record. Determined to push local hip-hop to exciting, thought-provoking places, the hip-hop collective dissects the social fiber at large with compelling hits and misses. And when it darts straight to the target, their willingness to shock your system, even when it’s doomed to falter, remains stronger and more incisive than ever.
21) Eazyhead – Void Lord
Release date: June 20, 2017
Genre: Experimental, Pyschedelic rock, Hip-hop, Indie rock
Eazyhead comes swinging out of the gate with a more experimental spin on hip-hop. No Face Records’ latest recruit is no stranger to unleashing torrents of barbed verses and savage punchlines, but Void Lord takes his talent to a new level of whack with unprecedented oddity and left-field choices employed in the production. Even the last three songs blur the hip-hop influences with a cacophony of psychedelic soundscapes arranged in disconcertingly abstract forms and shapes. Predictability doesn’t exist here.
20) 0belisc – Edikt
Release date: February 22, 2017
Genre: Ambient, Experimental, Glitch, Downtempo
Over the past 16 years, Juan Miguel Sobrepena has been unearthing experimental tunes from strange sources, subverting creative methods in electronic and ambient music while also creating a lane for local musicians to transform the vague and the abstract into a new kind of pleasure you can dance to. His latest release under the moniker 0belisc is a testament to his gift as a pioneering electronic artist: delving into moods, noise, glitch, and sound space, and opening up a new world out of the alchemy. The listening experience he provides in his new record, Edikt is the kind that propels you into an apocalyptic acid trip.
19) Mellow Fellow – Jazzie Robinson
Release date: July 19, 2017
Genre: Lo-fi, Indie pop, Indie folk
Mellow Fellow’s knack for penning sun-kissed confessionals is generously documented on Jazzie Robinson—a collection of songs from 2016 that offers little glimpses to Polo Reyes’ heartbreaks and everyday struggles, joy and emotional contradictions. As an oddball savant capable of tugging hearts through a bedroom-pop filter, Polo refuses to indulge in vanilla tricks for aesthetic options. His brand of introspection isn’t forced and lacking in wisdom; rather, it feels more like scribbled thoughts on a notebook—random, personal, born out of valid experiences.
18) Sound Architects – In Time of Need
Release date: June 3, 2017
Nothing prepares you for doom than Sound Architects’ achingly beautiful work on In Time Of Need. With an elegiac sound that doesn’t come off as overly dramatic and contrived, the post-rock outfit’s latest release explores ethereal darkness with a glint of hope, where you can find refuge from decay and loss, where the textural contrast between the heavy and subtle creates a rewarding effect. Considering that it’s just 6 tracks, you won’t find any throwaway moment on In Time of Need. Every silence speaks volumes, every cinematic swell changes the way you see things. No details should be spared from your ears with Sound Architects’ spectacular debut.
17) She’s Only Sixteen – Whatever That Was
Release date: September 30, 2017
Genre: Indie rock, Alternative
It’s hard to think of an album this year that’s packed with anthemic hooks and instantly hummable moments, and still sweeps us off our feet with surprising elements and twists. Thank goodness for She’s Only Sixteen’s Whatever That Was, it was possible to merge pop sensibilities with sonic ambition, and sound current and fresh while wandering off into unexpected places. From the psych-pop swirls of Sheep to the Mac De Marco-sampling stunts of Sweden, their full-length record illustrates the complex experience of adolescent life with a rare balance of recklessness and newfound wisdom.
16) Dosage – Sansinukob
Release date: February 28, 2017
Genre: Hip-hop, Rap
Socially aware, poetic, and oddly observant in the same breadth, Davao-based rapper Dosage spits street wisdom and lackadaisical energy at every turn. He’s not much of an infectious jammer, but what he lacks in relatability he makes up for with skill and vision. Sansinukob, the second in a trilogy of albums he released this year, is a masterstroke in urban poetry—his best to date. Dosage arrives in the game sprinting off with the hearts of his people, defacing oppressors with razor-sharp words and turning years of obscurity into discovery gold.
15) Percentius - 0%
Release date: October 1, 2017
Genre: Juke, Footwork, Electronic, Ambient
Who knew retooling Chicago’s leftover club culture with lo-fi smudges of juke and hip-hop could sound this incredibly refreshing? Percentius explores the beauty and grime of footwork on his debut record, 0%. Straining against the conventions of dance music structures yet sticking to its principle of bodily escapism, Percentius’ latest offering is a confident work of an electronic musician who has grown accustomed to the chaos of the wild. Every twist of a knob pushes intricacy at the forefront, every sense of adventurousness is met with a balance of subtlety and precision. There is nothing else like it out there right now—at least on our local shores.
14) KZ Tandingan – Soul Supremacy
Release date: April 27, 2017
Genre: Neo-soul, Pop, R&B, Hip-hop
This year’s biggest surprise comes in the form of KZ Tandingan’s Soul Supremacy—a confident record honed with a remarkably consistent sound and top-notch production. Most commercial releases tank on the artistic front, but KZ’s 13-track album scores big with stylistic leaps and edgy showstoppers that utilize her strength as a vocalist. She can pretty much whip up everything and play any role: whether it’s the sassy vixen on “Labo,” the classy ‘90s R&B revivalist on “Imposible,” or the torch songstress on “Sa Aking Mga Kamay,” KZ succeeds as a character ready to put on a hell of a show in the name of quality entertainment.
13) Taken by Cars – Plagues
Release date: March 3, 2017
Genre: Dream pop, Indie rock, Shoegaze
Leaving dance-punk rot in its dated mess seems to be the wisest decision Taken By Cars has made. Anyone who had the chance of downloading their third album Plagues in digital format knows that it is by far their boldest and most intimate record yet. Breathtakingly pastoral and dreamy, Plagues tells stories of resilience and possibilities in the aftermath of an emotional unrest, each song forcing you to unplug from the world and embrace the beauty of solitude. Veteran bands attempting to make a glorious comeback should learn a thing or two from Taken By Cars, whose newfound appreciation for introspective songwriting and pop songcraft will most likely turn naysayers into converts.
12) The Strangeness – Scorned as Timber, Beloved as the Sky
Release date: November 24, 2017
Genre: Alt-Country, Folk, Indie pop
On Scorned as Timber, Beloved as the Sky, The Strangeness finds comfort in retracing their vintage influences with a more understated approach in production. The more intriguing parts of the record are tucked in the second half, with the poignant guitar-pop jam “Maybe That’s Just Love,” alt-country rocker “Trouble,” soulful ballad “Liliw,” and Southern elegy “Empty Caskets” opening up new music possibilities for the band.
11) Joee & I – To The End of the World
Release date: February 24, 2017
Genre: Art pop, Electronic, World, Experimental
Joee Mejias assumes the role of a wayward pop figure on her debut album, To The End of the World. With its earthy rhythms, trippy electronic arrangements, and jagged beats, Joee and I’s latest release embraces the unconventional instincts of Kate Bush and Bjork, while cracking open a free-spirited personality devoid of pageantry.
10) Kampon – Sa Lumang Daan
Release date: November 4, 2017
Genre: Black/death metal
It’s extremely heartening to discover heavy-hitting metal acts employ tricks outside the usual and come up with a monumental record that pulls us closer to the fascinating underworld. Kampon’s Sa Lumang Daan belongs to this category—an album filled with surprises and rewards. With astounding musicianship, unconventional aesthetic choices, post-apocalyptic riffs, and elegant songwriting, Kampon’s latest album explores black metal’s murkier edges with bombastic results. It comes to life with an illuminating showcase of poetry and doom.
9) Pedicab – Remuda Triangle
Release date: February 25, 2017
Genre: Post punk, Indie rock, New Wave, Synth pop
In the great tradition of canonical releases inspired by sci-fi films and conspiracy theories, Pedicab’s Remuda Triangle ranks as one of the most interesting to date. The record’s striking maximalism somehow adds value to Diego Mapa’s alien invasion narrative, complementing the details with theatrical splendor and dystopian atmosphere. But more than the spectacle that it presents, Remuda Triangle is at its core, an expertly crafted punk record that sways you into believing Pedicab is here to stay. They’re the indie OGs that will keep on churning out the good stuff.
8) Apoc The Death Architect – Loob Ng Kabaong
Release date: September 29, 2017
Genre: Hip-hop, Rap
Through philosophical and sometimes diarist dissection of politics, social injustice and ego, Apoc carves his own lane with Loob Ng Kabaong—his latest album under Uprising Records. Not only is he a prodigious wordsmith who spends a great deal of time deconstructing conventions, he also provides thought-provoking critiques on relevant issues that shape the country’s bleak present. Against a backdrop of jazzy chords, classic samples, and organic production, Apoc speaks out about toppling various forms of oppression, cutting through the booming noise with rallying sentiments of social change.
7) Musical O – Musical O
Release date: January 23, 2017
Genre: Math rock, Dream pop, Indie rock
There’s quiet confidence ingrained in Musical O’s brand of twinkly, lush math-rock—a distinct stamp that somehow shaped the sound of today’s local indie-rock acts: from Run Dorothy, Tom’s Story, and Fools and Foes.t. They continue to carry on with the familiar sonic motif on their self-titled album, employing a balance between technical prowess and tasteful subtlety. Songs like “House Tea,” “Quatro Quatro,” and “Gerry” are intricately arranged numbers with sophisticated textures and introspective lyricism cutting through the mix, while “Lorax” and “Straddling The Fence” exhibit a more understated kind of beauty that’s been absent in most modern rock releases of the current mold.
6) Cowboy Country Club – Out The Water / On The Way
Release date: August 27, 2017
Genre: Indie rock, Psychedelic rock, Folk
Occupying a unique position in the local indie-rock firmament, Cowboy Country Club reimagines the harmony-laden pop songcraft of The Beach Boys and the folk psychedelia of Animal Collective with a lo-fi makeover. Their stylistic excursions offer a level of curiosity that burrows deep into the canonical and experimental, resulting into an expansiveness that brings hazy melancholy to prominence.
5) Cheats – Before The Babies
Release date: December 8, 2017
Genre: Indie rock, Alternative, Power pop
There’s been a lot of records this year that explores the challenges of adult life, but nothing on the current crop of local releases is at par with Cheats’ new album, Before The Babies. Their sophomore album is filled with beautiful observations on the intricacies of adulthood and responsibilities, seamlessly zooming in and out of the band’s collective experiences. Gliding with a modern power-pop sheen and dreamy arrangements, Before The Babies retains the earnestness of Bacarro’s songwriting, while turning the raw, relentless energy of their music into world-conquering anthems that we can mosh and sing along to. There isn’t one song in the album that feels inferior. Everything about it is inherently striking in its own way, a quality that adds up to the sheer power and lasting impact of the album.
4) Tiger Pussy – Residuals
Release date: November 11, 2017
Genre: Punk, Indie rock
Ruthless in its urgency, Tiger Pussy’s Residuals wastes no time in capturing the spirit of punk as both a feminist expression and a rallying cry to crush stereotypes. With a looser but more sophisticated take on ‘90s riot grrrl, the Cebu-based quartet rumbles to a rewarding chaos of blistering guitar riffs, infectious energy and incredible playfulness. And that’s what Residuals is all about: furious, excited, and liberated, it’s the sound of angry women torching the rock n’ roll establishment with all their might.
3) Calix – The Lesser of Your Greater Friends
Release date: August 18, 2017
Genre: Rap, Hip-hop
Calix doesn’t know when to shut his mouth. But it’s a weapon born out of frustration and anger, an act of rebellion that serves as direct response to the crimes of humanity committed by dictators, corrupt officials, and the ruling elite. The rapper-producer’s debut album, The Lesser of Your Greater Friends takes no prisoners in parsing the prejudice aimed at society’s marginalized sectors. With confrontational lyrics and unrelenting angst, he condemns the policies of the Duterte administration, rails against institutional violence committed by the state, and keeps his beef game intact. When local rap music took a sharp turn to a more progressive canon, Calix was in front of the picket, turning his focus on perpetrators responsible for the systemic oppression of the poor and the discomforted, preaching his own vitriol-fueled gospel. Even when the majority chose to turn a blind eye on important issues halting the country’s progress for decades, he takes it upon himself to pave the way for contemporary protest music to be relevant in these trying times.
2) Ang Bandang Shirley – Favorite
Release date: March 25, 2017
Genre: Indie rock
There are a handful of local recordings that skillfully marry sonic ambition with compelling pop smarts. From The Eraserheads’ Cutterpillow to Sugarfree’s Sa Wakas, we never run out of anthems engineered to capture the zeitgeist, but also filled to the brim with winsome experiments that defy songwriting conventions. This is where Ang Bandang Shirley’s Favorite comes in. On surface-level judgment, it’s a charming record wrapped in pure pop perfection. But from the inside, it reveals a realm of possibilities that none of its size and sparkle could limit. Whether it’s an anti-love song from the perspective of a heartbreaker (“Ilang Ilang”) or a 9-minute epic that excavates wounded feelings from the past (“Ono”), Ang Bandang Shirley harnesses uncomfortably familiar experiences with wisdom beyond years.
1) Dong Abay – Humanidad
Release date: October 3, 2017
Genre: Folk, Punk, Alternative
D.A.M.O.’s Humanidad is more than just an honest exploration of what it feels to be human. Unsparing of his feelings, Dong Abay reflects on contemporary social issues with the unassuming wisdom and wit characteristic of his previous solo releases. There are raw, fragile moments in the album that highlight Dong’s knack for exquisite songwriting and warm melodies, with the more tender numbers packing more punch than its upbeat counterparts. But on riotous punk ditties such as “Porky” and “Oligarkiya,” the ‘90s rock icon smashes steel pipes at everything in sight, reasserting his position on hard-hitting issues that continue to be relevant even up to this day.