breaking bad, heisenberg

the top ten long-playing musical recordings of 2015

OH MY GOD THANK YOU 2015 FOR TAKING MUSIC OUT OF THE RUT IT’S BEEN IN FOR THE PAST FIVE YEARS.

An unfair statement, yes, considering that 2013 was pretty good. Still, 2015 was phenomenal. I’d choose any album from the top five on this list over last year’s number one, and I feel that I’m not even through listening to the good stuff that came out this year.

This is the year all the greats seemed to return with a vengeance. Most of my list is populated by old favorites, and most of the first-timers are artists whose previous albums should have been included (*cough*Kendrick*cough*). There are major returns as well, including a reunion from one of my favorite bands of all time and the follow-up to my favorite album of all time. One of them is a dud, while one of them ends up at the top spot. Let’s do this.

10.Disclosure – Caracal This could actually be a pity vote, or a guilt vote, because I didn’t include Disclosure’s brilliant debut album Settle in my 2013 list. Since then "Latch" has become my favorite song of the decade (so far), I’ve become a fan of the Lawrence brothers, and I even co-promoted their DJ set in Manila. Caracal is honestly more of the same, just with bigger collaborators including The Weeknd, Lorde and a post-Latch Sam Smith. Still, there’s no doubt that Disclosure is the real deal, and they prove it by producing, performing and singing Jaded, the album’s best single.
9.BP Valenzuela – The Neon Hour
FRIEND: Any good new local artists you can recommend?
ME: BP Valenzuela. She’s fantastic.
FRIEND: Really? What does she sound like?
ME: Hmmm. Parang… Debbie Gibson.
FRIEND: …
ME: What?
FRIEND: Fuck you.
ME: No! I’m serious!

The irony of it all is that I meant what I said wholeheartedly. There is a lot of Debbie Gibson in BP Valenzuela’s work. And Janet Jackson, and Mary J. Blige, and Grimes, and CHVRCHES, and Prefuse 73 and a plethora of the most interesting pop musicians of the past two decades. It takes a lot of discipline and talent to not only combine those influences, but sift through their idiosyncrasies and come out with something uniquely your own. At the age of 20, BP has already evolved so much from her days as the nervous, awkward garage musician.  Kid’s got a bright future, and I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

8.Colleen Green – I Want to Grow Up This year two of my favorite 90s Alternachick acts, Veruca Salt and The Juliana Hatfield Three, came out with albums that were…OK. I almost gave up until I discovered someone who packed the punch they did in the 90s and was probably only in her tweens when it all happened: Colleen Green. The crunchy guitars, the dissonant double tracking, the adolescent angst are all present in catchy pop ditties like "I Want To Grow Up", "Wild One"  and "Things That Are Bad for Me". Sometimes I wonder if my love for 90s girl-fronted alternative music was just a teenage phase. I’m glad Colleen Green exists to remind me that it wasn’t.
7.CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye
For their sophomore effort Every Open Eye, CHVRCHES does everything that worked with their phenomenal first record The Bones of What You Believe (still easily my favorite album of the decade): simple structures, catchy choruses, upbeat mini-anthems. Why, then, is it not the masterpiece TBoWYB was? My guess is that the trio is aiming for profundity while staying on safe musical ground, thus losing simple-but-fun songs like "Lungs" or electronic jamfests like "Tether". In other words, they’re treading dangerous Coldplay ground. They still are CHVRCHES, after all is said and done, and their uncanny gift of combining bad vintage pop and punk rock sensibilities to make great music is still heavily felt in songs like "Leave a Trace" and "Rise Above". Especially of note is "High Enough to Carry You Over", Martin Doherty’s best song yet.


6.Grimes – Art Angels Last year Grimes released a collaboration with Blood Diamond called "Go". It was horrible: a weird, try-hard single that tried to keep the Grimes aesthetic but incorporate dubstep and EDM. At that point I pretty much gave up on Grimes, figuring she’d go the Avril/Jewel route and water down her music to get a bigger audience. My bad. Art Angels is definitely a more audience-friendly album than 2012’s Visions, but is totally, completely, 100% Grimes. It’s also a different side of the artist – instead of the ethereal soprano we’re used to, we see the videogame playing, cosplaying, Game of Thrones fangirl she so often appears as on social media. The coup-de-grace comes in the song "Realiti', when she starts using THE SYNTH THAT WAS USED IN ALICE DEEJAY’S “BETTER OFF ALONE”. Grimes aka Claire Boucher is the most talented troll I know, and I will forever love her for it.

5.Tame Impala – Currents Tame Impala’s album Lonerism was another unfortunate omission from my 2012 top ten list. Over the years I’ve come to really appreciate that album and its psychedelic Beatles-esque vibe. Imagine, then, my disappointment when I first heard Currents – an album that leans more towards disco and soul than the crunchy classic rock the band is beloved for. I didn’t want to let another possible gem pass me by, however, and decided to give it a chance. Sure enough, much like Lonerism, Currents is one of those albums that just grows on you. Plus, despite its retro feel, there are touches of cutting-edge genius, like the filter/looping combo towards the instrumental of carrier single "Let it Happen" and the multitude of instruments at work in the simple-seeming romantic masterpiece "Eventually".

4. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly In the wake of Trayvon Martin, Ferguson and #blacklivesmatter, it feels like rapping about bitches and guns simply isn’t enough anymore. Enter Kendrick Lamar, who wowed the world with his sophomore album Good Kid M.A.A.D City: an earnest, real and heartbreaking account of growing up in Compton. He follows this up with To Pimp A Butterfly: more experimental in style and grander in scope. With lyrics like “ 2015—Niggas tired of playin victim, dog … the history books overlook the word and hide it, America tried to make it to a house divided”, Kendrick is the rapper Hip Hop needs right now—a man who is not afraid to take today's issues head on and digs through the history of black music to create a stunning and game changing opus.  And hey, the bitches and hos are still there, but at least he raps about that spoken-word style accompanied by an awesome jazz soundtrack.

3.Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell Sufjan Stevens can get really epic and experimental, and when he does he just gets annoying. After the last two albums, 2009’sThe BQE and 2010’s The Age of Adz, I was ready to forget about my favorite living folk singer completely. And then came Carrie and Lowell, an intensely personal album about Stevens’s mother, her boyfriend post-divorce, and eventual death. Its sparse, minimalist tone echoes my favorite Sufjan Stevens album Seven Swans, but has enough electronic undertones to be more than just a throwback. Stevens also proves that he is still one of the best lyricists working today, with lines like “Spirit of my silence I can hear you, But I’m afraid to be near you, and I don’t know where to begin” or “Tell me what did you learn from the Tilamook burn, or the Fourth of July? We’re all gonna die,” repeating the phrase more and more somberly until the very end of the song Fourth of July.  Carrie and Lowell is that rare record that speaks about faith and family, mortality and death; and leaves you kind of just sitting there, thinking about the bigger questions in life.
2.Jamie xx – In Colour The xx’s debut came out in 2009, and their follow up Coexist came out in 2012. Following that pattern, this year should have been the year the London trio released a third album. Instead, we get something even better in the form of member Jamie xx’s first solo record, In Colour. Being the only one who doesn’t sing, Jamie Smith is usually the most underappreciated member of the band, but in this record his musical genius shines. A big reason is that Jamie xx is allowed to veer away form the minimalist arrangements that the xx is known for, and play around with house, garage, trance, hip hop and even reggae. Plus, you have "Loud Places" sung by The xx’s Romy Madley-Croft, which is not only my single of the year but the best song The xx members have released since their first album six years ago.

1.Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love Almost ten years ago, when Sleater-Kinney broke up, I wrote an essay about how much I love the band and how influential they were to me not only as a musician, but as a person. When they announced their return and released their 8th album No Cities to Love last January, everyone knew that I already had my album of the year.  I’m relieved to say that almost a year later I still can’t stop listening to it, and it still is my album of the year. No Cities to Love is far from the best of S-K’s catalog, but it is a formidable addition. It’s interesting to see how the dynamic has changed after Corin Tucker became a folk singer and full-time mom, Janet Weiss became the most in-demand indie rock drummer working today, and Carrie Brownstein became a radio host/actress/rockstar/novelist/Portlandian. There is a lot of looking back, as befits a band aware of their legacy and importance, but there is also a certain humbling and acceptance of age. “We win, we lose, only together do we break the rules,” Tucker sings in “Surface Envy”, while Brownstein acknowledges the importance of friendship and camaraderie over genres and movements in “A New Wave”:  “No one here is taking notice, no outline will ever hold us; it’s not a new wave it’s just you and me.”

HONORABLE MENTION
Hannah and Gabi’s Years Gone is sweet and melancholic and wistful. My only problem with it is that it’s too short and leaves you wanting more. Purity Ring’s Another Eternity almost made it to the list, but I got tired of it as fast as I fell in love with it.

There are two more albums that should be in Honorable Mention, but considering how much I love the artists they are now delegated to…

DISAPPOINTMENTS OF THE YEAR
Despite all the great albums we saw this year, 2015 was also the year for major disappointments. After 21 years The Juliana Hatfield Three have finally released a follow-up to my favorite album of all time, and it doesn’t even make the top 10 of  2015.

Also of note is the absence of Death Cab for Cutie, one of my favorite bands OAT. Their albums usually end up at the number one or two spot of the year (and even number one of the last decade), and this year’s Kintsugi is their first album that doesn’t see the list. Ah, well. Wala na si Wallah, so it's fine.

TRACKS OF THE YEAR
Oh, God. I’ve become one of those “hey OK ang mga kanta ni Justin Bieber ngayon ha” people, and it shows with the presence of “Where Are You Now” and  “What Do You Mean” on my top tracks of the year. In fairness to me, my list  is the most eclectic it’s ever been, littered with indie rock (Sleater-Kinney, Grimes), dance (Jack Ü, Jamie xx), hip hop (Drake, Kendrick) and pop (Taylor Swift, Carly Rae). My single of the year is Jamie xx’s “Loud Places”, which is beautiful and worth putting on repeat if you haven’t yet.



MUSIC VIDEOS OF THE YEAR
The less you know about Tame Impala's video for  "The Less I Know The Better", the better. Just watch it and let it happen. Also, good stuff on the urban front like Vince Staples' video for Señorita and my fave, Rihanna's Bitch Better Have My Money <3 <3 <3


BEST LIVE BAND
St. Vincent. Oh my God St. Vincent.

I was able to catch Sleater-Kinney at the Palladium last year, and that show was amazing. They did “One More Hour”, and I shed quite a few tears that night.

Tame Impala was great. They make you feel like you're on drugs even though you're not on drugs. Also, that chick from Sylvan Esso can really dance.


2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
The 00s
breaking bad, heisenberg

the top ten long-playing musical recordings of 2014

Wow. What a sucky year in music.

This year I found myself Spotifying the albums in every “best of” list because I couldn’t find the ten I was happy with. You know things are bad when you’re stressing over who gets the last three spots instead of the first three. This might be the worst year in this list’s history, and the first time I’ve put an album in number one I wasn’t completely in love with. Or maybe I’m just getting old.

2014 was the year of the singer songwriter. Half of this list (and four of the top 5) is comprised by old solo favorites, old favorites who went solo, new solo musicians, or, in the case of number 1, a solo musician who’s been around but who I never really gave love to. Maybe it’s why these ten stand out—because of the singular vision they carry. Or maybe it’s because singer/songwriters are an old person thing.

So here’s my 2014 list, also known as the few souls who actually made good music this year.

10.Spoon – They Want My Soul Oh Spoon. Always in my top ten, never really making it to the top top. I was afraid they wouldn’t make this list for a while there, but in the end they edged out Sylvan Esso and Ex Hex to get to number 10 by the skin of their teeth. Many are lauding They Want My Soul as a return to form for Britt Daniels and team, but really—did they ever go out of form? As far as I’m concerned this 8th album is the 8th in a line of great albums by the most consistent rock band this century.

9.+/-  –  Jumping The Tracks I’ve been thinking a lot about the 2000s indie scene lately; how many of the bands were eclipsed by garage, dancepunk and emo; how so many of them simply dropped out of the conversation. Bands like Masters of The Hemisphere, Mates of State, True Love Always and Aden were legion, and they were amazing. +/- is one of those bands, and their latest album Jumping The Tracks is solid. So how come websites like Pitchfork and Stereogum, who used to champion the band, didn’t even bother giving them a review? Maybe that’s what happens when you disappear for six years, or when you have other things to worry about like career or family. I’m overjoyed that James Baluyut, Patrick Ramos and Chris Deaner decided to pick up their instruments once again despite all that, and am a fan for life.

8.Real Estate- Atlas Real Estate’s 2011 album Days was a complete revelation—a layered, contemplative masterwork; it’s what Adult-Oriented Indie would sound like if such a thing existed. Their follow up album Atlas is more of the same, but in a year like this that’s not such a bad thing. Martin Courtney and Matt Mondanile play some of the most intricately impressive guitarwork in a year where guitars take a back seat, and the song “Crime” is the best they’ve ever written.

7.Beck – Morning Phase I love “Loser” and “Devil’s Haircut” as much as the next guy, but let’s face it: Beck is best when he’s depressed. Morning Phase is a spiritual sequel to Beck’s 2002 masterpiece Sea Change, and while it’s nothing new or groundbreaking, there’s a certain warmth to it. It’s familiar and comfortable, the kind of record you go back to because it fits perfectly with the state you’re in. This is also the album where Beck actually sings, and when the king of the melodic drawl gathers enough courage to belt out “I’m so tired of being alone” at the beginning of “Blue Moon”, the ironic cool of Beck’s 20-year career just dissipates.

6.Phantogram – Voices One of the reasons Phantogram may not get the respect they deserve is that their music isn’t anything new.  Take a listen to their 2010 debut Eyelid Movies and you can easily throw them in with secondary 90s trip hop acts like Mono, Ruby and Hooverphonic. Sophomore effort Voices is no take off, but the songs are so good. Take the time to listen to one-two punch singles Black Out Days and Fall In Love, and you can easily imagine this duo joining the ranks of Massive Attack and Portishead. Alas, Trip Hop really isn’t a thing anymore, but with the 90s coming back maybe the genre will get some sort of revival, and expect Phantogram to be at the fore.

5.Kevin Drew – Darlings Back in the noughties Broken Social Scene was the band to watch—a Canadian supergroup that sounded as if they were destined for superstardom. The amount of talent eventually proved to be the downfall of the band, with members like Feist, Emily Haines and Amy Millan taking off on their own respective careers, leaving founder and lead vocalist Kevin Drew a musical orphan. Drew spent the rest of the decade trying to keep BSS’s legacy alive, entitling subsequent solo projects of its different members “Broken Social Scene presents…” and even trying to get the band back together with new female vocalist Lisa Lobsinger. That failed, and Darlings is the sound of Kevin Drew finally letting go. With this album, all the ambition has finally faded away, and what’s left is simple, nuanced songwriting. Drew puts it best in the chorus of Good Sex: “but I’m still breathing with you, baby. Yeah I’m still breathing with you babe.”

4. Mac DeMarco – Salad Days Mac DeMarco is one of those musicians I love to hate: a too-cool-for-school gap-toothed ironic hipster who actually grew up in Canada and moved to Brooklyn. And yet, his album Salad Days is irresistible. Wispy and dreamy, the record is perfect for lazy Sundays reading books by the couch, and DeMarco (not even his real name, tsss) is probably the first guy to get slacker right since Pavement.

3.Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2 Back in June I happened onto Run The Jewels’ set at The Honda Stage in Governor’s Ball. I had no idea who this group was but the crowd was supercharged, like they were waiting for someone to poke them so they could tear shit apart. Five months later they release Run The Jewels 2, and the album feels exactly the same. Listen to “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck “ and you’ll know what I mean. Plus, it’s so great hearing Zack De La Rocha rap again.

2.Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots On the flipside of the aforementioned Kevin Drew you have Damon Albarn, the reluctant genius who hides his singular brilliance behind his many bands (Blur, Gorillaz, The Good The Bad and The Queen) but never seems to allow credit for himself. Finally, for the first time in over two decades, he puts his name to a record. The result is not what you’d expect—Everyday Robots is solemn, quiet, reflective. No trace of masterful pop collages like “Feel Good Inc.” or even dumb fun songs like “Boys and Girls” here, just melancholy and solitude. Albarn said that unlike many of his albums that were put together swiftly, a lot of thought and time was put into Everyday Robots. This is very apparent and very sad, considering the loneliness that fills this record (look at the cover, for God’s sake).

1.St .Vincent – St. Vincent I was never a big fan of St. Vincent. Sure, I’d buy the occasional Polyphonic Spree album and I liked her second solo record, but not enough to go get the other albums, or even her collaboration with David Byrne. This is why no one’s more surprised than me that she’s at the top of this list. Upon first listen, you know that St. Vincent’s self-titled album is important, whether you like what you’re hearing or not. There’s just something about the way she deftly plays the guitar that makes it not sound like a guitar, or how she’s able to sing lyrics like “oh what an ordinary day, take out the garbage, masturbate” or “I prefer your love to Jesus” and make it sound profound. I stand behind my blahness at making St. Vincent number one of  2014, but the genius is undeniable.

HONORABLE MENTION
The three albums that almost made it were FKA TWIGS, SYLVAN ESSO and EX HEX – all new bands, all self-titled. It was a bit hard taking Mary Timony’s Ex Hex out of this list because I love her so much. And Twigs has the best PMC (Poor Mouth Closure) I’ve seen in my lfe, beating out even Adele Exarchopoulous.

TRACKS OF THE YEAR
Funnily enough the song I listened to the most by a landslide was last year’s “Latch” by Disclosure. I’m sure the song I listened to second most was something by CHVRCHES, also last year. No real singles stood out for me this year, but I made a playlist of the ones I liked and it’s on Spotify. Featuring stuff by the guys on this list along with Wye Oak, Courtney Barnett, Movement, Little Dragon, Grouper, Yumi Zouma and more.

MUSIC VIDEOS OF THE YEAR
Locally, this video for Peso Movement by King Palisoc is just so great. The concept is simple and brilliant, and when you start getting tired of it King and editor Maui Mauricio do things that make you go “woooooahhhhhh”. On the flipside there's also this video by Keith Deligero for Bombo Pluta Ova. WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SO AMAZING. And the name of the song is "God-Damned Bomb", hahahaha. This reminds me of the late 80s Mowelfund experimental films by people like Tad Ermitanio and Noel Lim. If they were, you know, on heroin.

Stateside: this video for Flying Lotus’ “Never Catch Me” is beautiful and affecting. What is it about kids dancing this year? Here's another one. The best music videos are the ones that make you like a song you otherwise never liked. That was the case this year, with Sia’s "Chandeliers".
There is no bigger example of “the video made me like the song” than my favorite vid this year: DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down For What” video by DANIELS. What. Exactly.

DISAPPOINTMENTS OF THE YEAR
I’d say Interpol was a disappointment, but they haven’t had a decent album in ten years. Can I say Weezer was a disappointment because they actually put out a good album for once? Haha.

BEST LIVE BAND
I went to Bootleg Theater once and told the bouncer: “how much for Perfect Pussy?” He told me, “$20. That’s a pretty good deal.” We both had a laugh, but he was more right than he knew. Perfect Pussy the band was the performance equivalent of a heart attack.

Interpol may have a sucky new album, but they’re still so amazing live. I saw them in Governor’s Ball, along with The Strokes, who drove everyone mad when they did Reptilia. I was able to catch a little of that craziness on video.

And of course, one of the best experiences of the year and an awesome band nonetheless was CHVRCHES. I’m almost getting over #CHVRCHESmanila. Almost.

2013
2012
2011
2010
The 00s
breaking bad, heisenberg

the top ten long-playing musical recordings of 2013

Musical trends return every 20 years, we know this. The 80s had us sentimental for The Wonder Years, the 90s had showbands reviving every horrible disco/senti/crossover song ever written, and the 00s saw the return of shoulder pads and synthesizers. As a 90s kid, I was eagerly awaiting its return this decade. I thought to myself, “OMG here we go grunge is gonna come back and everyone’s gonna sound like Sleater-Kinney and Pavement I’m so excited!”

And so this year the 90s did come back, but definitely not in the way I expected it to. Instead of dirty lo-fi indierock and angsty female-fronted alternative music, we get a revival of the cheesy 90s pop I thought everyone locked up, threw away and pretended never existed.

It was even better than I hoped, and I fucking loved it.

Sky Ferreira and her Debbie Gibson handclapped percussions, I Break Horses and their Martika-smooth vocals, Haim and their insane mishmash of 90s heroes from Wilson Phillips to Sheryl Crow, Chvrches and their EMF-inspired synth-programmed “oh oh ohs” ,Charli XCX and her attempts at becoming all The Spice Girls rolled into one, Solange and her unabashed Janet Jacksonness, even Lorde and… whatever 90s artist Lorde sounds like. This past year 90s pop was pervasive, and, it seemed, completely unplanned.

The theme of this year’s list is nostalgia—whether it’s the aforementioned 90s pop revival or the return of beloved artists who haven’t been around in decades or new projects from all-time faves, my 2013 looks like a collaboration between a Grantland rock journalist in their 40s and a pre-teenage girl. What is happening to me.

10.The National – Trouble Will Find Me
This record almost didn’t make it to the list, having been locked in a three-way battle with Luscious Jackson and Toro Y Moi. In the end, the boys of Brooklyn-via-Cincinatti win out with another record best enjoyed drinking Scotch in an empty, dingy bar. The sixth National album is another exercise in conveying Midwestern isolation and emptiness set to excellently crafted melodies, but with groupies in every city and sold out shows at the Greek, it’s getting harder to take their word for it.  In the song Pink Rabbits Matt Berninger sings that he’s “a television version of a person with a broken heart”.  There’s some truth there, and at least they’re honest about it.

9.Minor Alps – Get There
If you’ve seen anything I’ve ever posted in my life you might know that Juliana Hatfield is my favorite musician of all time. What you might not know is that I’ve hated her past few albums; so you might imagine how good it feels to finally have something this decade worth putting on the top ten list. Minor Alps is Hatfield’s collaboration with Matthew Caws of Nada Surf, and while you can definitely feel the presence of both 90s heroes, the record is also distinct enough to be its own entity. Unlike her many collaborations with men (John Strohm in the Blake Babies, The Lemonheads’ Evan Dando, Frank Smith), Juliana sings every single word of every song (except one) with Caws. The result is a weird minimalist electronic reimagining of the type of folk act you’d see referenced to in A Mighty Wind.

8. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
When it was announced that James Murphy (aka LCD Soundsystem) was going to produce the new Arcade Fire album, you could hear every hipster in America scream in delight before stopping themselves as they realized they should be beyond feeling enthusiasm. Alas, Reflektor was neither as mindblowing nor gamechanging as everyone hoped it would be, but it still is an excellent (double) record nonetheless. Many prefer the poppier, more upbeat first disc; dismissing the second as long, indulgent and boring. It is disc two that is ultimately rewarding, however, with the experimentation between Murphy and the band finally paying off. This all comes to a climax with the album’s best song: Afterlife, THE break up song of 2013. In it, Win Butler sounds increasingly and increasingly desperate every time he goes to chorus: “can we work it out? we scream and shout, til we work it out”, until finally there is resignation, and what is left is the question: “when love is gone, where does it go?”

7. Yo La Tengo - Fade
This is the first time since 2000’s classic And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out that Yo La Tengo’s appearing on my top ten list, but their absence by no means means that their subsequent releases haven’t been good; it just means that Yo La Tengo have always been so reliable that you sometimes forget they’re around. Fade is a quiet, reflective collection of songs written by artists who have achieved so much they no longer have anything to prove, and is a perfect album for those moments when you simply want to exist. The two best songs in the album, funnily enough, are entitled “I’ll Be Around” and “Is That Enough?” It sure is, YLT.

6. Charli XCX – True Romance
One of the most memorable hits of the past year was Iconapop’s I Don’t Care, and yet when you listen to their album none of the songs are as clever or catchy as that one hit. You might decide, then, to look for the album of that song’s writer, and that’s where you’ll hit gold. Charli XCX is a genius at pop everything; she knows how to arrange the best beats (Nuclear Season), knows the exact number of times to repeat a chorus before overkill (Take My Hand, Stay Away) and even uses “hahahaha” in a chorus in a way that makes complete sense(You(Hahaha)). In an era of music where the geniuses are hailed because of the postmodern way they throw all the songwriting rules out the window (read: Grimes) it’s good to know there’s someone new out there dedicating herself to mastering the old ways.


5.Haim – Days Are Gone
Haim’s debut album Days are Gone begins with a rumbling; a deep echoing percussion that seems to warn us that something big is about to happen. And it does. Danielle Haim’s voice comes in, and before you know it the masterpiece Falling is in full swing. Like a smarter, more talented Hanson, Haim expertly takes from the history of pop: Michael Jackson’s primal expressions, Miami Sound Machine’s too-good-to-be-true instrumentation, Janis Joplin’s brash guitarwork, Stevie Nicks’ sensuality.  The result is an album so self-assured and so technically brilliant that there’s no question these former teen pop stars are destined for bigger and better things. I say bigger than Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Phoenix, eventually. We can only wait and see.

4. Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob
Many people tell me that after the occasional flirtation with pop music, Tegan and Sara Quinn have finally gone full sellout with Heartthrob. To that, I say “Hallelujah”! Deep, introspective writing has never really been a strength of this duo, and the fact that they’re focusing on their core competency – unapologetically pop love songs that are one endless amalgamation of teenage heartbreak, is cause for celebration. Of course the fact that these are lesbian twins singing juvenile lyrics like “Goodbye goodbye goodbye goodbye like the first time. You never really knew me , never really saw me like they did” just adds to the intertextual fun!

3.Atoms for Peace - AMOK
It’s getting increasingly and increasingly harder to tolerate Thom Yorke : that larger than life sense of self, that I’m-reclusive-but-really-I’m-not personality, those dance moves. And yet, amidst all this, it’s easy to forget how brilliant he actually is. I’d put Amok up there amongst the better Thom Yorke albums of the 21st century, and while it very much seems like the follow-up to his solo record The Eraser (which AfP was originally meant to be a touring band for), the genius of Nigel Godrich and skills of Flea demand you to take notice. The weirdest yet most welcome quality of this album, however, is how it feels celebratory—something the Radiohead albums don’t have.

2. My Bloody Valentine – mbv
I’d like to say I was one of those people who waited 22 years for My Bloody Valentine’s follow-up to their classic Loveless, but the truth is when that album came out I was playing agawan base in the Montessori playground, eagerly awaiting Hammer’s 2 Legit 2 Quit. I got into MBV around 1997, and by then it was clear to everyone that the band had broken up. I, along with a whole generation of people who grew up Valentine-less, was happy enough waiting for the occasional Kevin Shields tune in random soundtracks; until finally, without warning the very controversial mbv was dropped. Comprised of three vintage-MBV songs, three sweet and poppy songs, and three bloody and f’d up tunes, the very aptly titled mbv simultaneously feels like a strange new world and home.

1. CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe
The first time I saw CHVRCHES they played in The Echo, a venue as small as Saguijo. The next time I saw them was at the Henry Fonda Theater, playing in a similarly awkward manner to a crowd of maybe 900 people. The last time I saw them they had a crazy light show, expert stage banter, and actual stage presence at the 1,500++ capacitied Wiltern. This kind of growth would be expected of a band as talented as Glasgow’s CHVRCHES, except it all happened within only nine months. Much like Haim, by the end of the year everyone knew how to pronounce this band’s name, and all the teenyboppers with their Native American Headdresses were storming twitter begging promoters to bring the trio over. The Bones of What You Believe is thankfully bigger than all this, with Lauren Mayberry’s relatable yet ambiguous lyrics (their biggest hit has a chorus that starts with “I'm in misery where you can seem as old as your omens”) and solid technical production care of Martin Doherty and Iain Cook. As if that weren't enough, CHVRCHES has to go and be so goshdarn lovable, winning over fans with their social media, intelligent and honest essays, and down-to-Earth personalities.

HONORABLE MENTION: As mentioned above, Luscious Jackson's Magic Hour and Toro y Moi’s Anything in Return almost made it, but I realized I may just have missed LJ too much. After that Kanye West and Vampire Weekend were next in line.

EP OF THE YEAR: A tie between Wild Nothing’s Empty Estate and the return of The Pixies with EP-1. And yes, that choice has more to do with the Pixies returning than with the EP being of considerable merit.

SINGLES OF THE YEAR: I made a playlist. It’s on Spotify. Aside from the guys mentioned above we also have Frankie Rose, Cults, Grizzly Bear, Wild Nothing, Daft Punk, A$AP Rocky, San Fermin’s masterpiece “Sonsick”, and more!

DISAPPOINTMENTS OF THE YEAR: Good year for music, but the disappointments were a shocker. Three bands who not only regularly appear on the top 10 but the top of the top 10 are nowhere to be found. Foals (who were actually #1 in 2010) at least made a halfway decent album, but Phoenix and Yeah Yeah Yeahs just came out with crap.  On a side note, it's funny how no one mentions MGMT and the Strokes no mo, because everyone just expects them to suck.

VIDEOS OF THE YEAR: What does it say about the music video industry that my favorite video of the year is a parody of a Kanye West video featuring James Franco and Seth Rogen? This live performance for Arcade Fire's Afterlife directed by Spike Jonze would definitely be at the top of the list too, except it's a live performance and feels like cheating. The only real music vid that deserves any sort of mention is Eric Wareheim's promo for Beach House’s Wishes, mostly due to Leland Palmer's magnificent performance on a horse. On the local front, I liked this trippy video from Similar Objects a lot.

BEST LIVE BANDS: This is the first year in the list's history that I've actually been lucky enough to see every band on the top 10 live. Strangely enough only one act crosses over with this list. That band is Haim, ​who I liked until I saw them live, and then I really loved them. They are as tight onstage as they are on their album, but perform with an energy, humor, and sexuality (or maybe it’s just Alana) that is impossible to record. I also finally got to see BLUR, and they were phenomenal. Perfect set list, perfect performance, perfect night. Björk is and has always been a religious experience to watch, and even though I hate that Biophilia album her intimate performance at Hollywood Palladium was just…beyond. I'm not a big fan of Savages' album Silence Yourself, but I definitely am a big fan of theirs live.

Aaaaaand that’s it for 2013. On a final note, HAPPY TENTH ANNIVERSARY TOP TEN LIST! Can’t believe I’ve been doing this for ten years. I know none of you really care about knowing this, but if you put a gun to my head and forced me to name my favorite album during the existence of this list, it would be XX by The xx. It’s always a pleasure doing this, even though I know you don’t read everything and less and less people read every year. To quote Walter White, “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. I was alive.”

2012
2011
2010
The 00s
breaking bad, heisenberg

Golden Eagle Film Festival Opening Remarks

Cal State LA recently asked me to make the opening remarks for their Golden Eagle Film Festival (no,I don’t know why either). I was initially going to talk about filmmaking in the third world, but what I did end up writing was something surprisingly more reflective than I’d wanted it to be. Note: when I talk about “The Film Industry” I considered only studio films because “industry” connotes “films made with the purpose of making money”. But really, that’s not the point of this. The last thing I want is for people to misconstrue this as one of those “OPM is dead”-type things. It’s really more of a document of the State I’m in; both literally and figuratively.

So I don’t really know why I’ve been asked to talk to you today. Not only am I not from here, but I’m what some may consider a deserter, or a traitor to the cause. Let me introduce myself—my name is Quark Henares, and I am a filmmaker from the Philippines. I’ve made a bunch of music videos and commercials, a couple of TV shows and four-and-a-half films. I considered myself having the best job in the world, and yet, the day after the premiere of my last movie, I left everything behind to go to business school. There were many reasons behind this, but one of the big ones was our dying industry. In my ten years in the Philippine film industry we went from making more than a hundred movies a year to just around 25. What used to be the third biggest producer of movies in the world, making everything from action to fantasy to romance to protest films just started focusing on two genres: horror and romantic comedies— because they were cheap, and they had mass appeal. The more movies I made, the less soul they had in them, and there are few things more heartbreaking than losing joy in something you love. That’s when I thought to myself that maybe I could help more as a suit, a corporate guy who understands and respects creative people rather than as a single creative individual. And what better place to study the business of entertainment than the center of it all: Hollywood.

But then I came here, and learned that the exact same thing was happening in the US. Things get scary when you see a trailer for the latest film by a master like Terence Malick only to be followed by an announcement that it’ll be available on iTunes the same day it gets released in theaters. People have been saying that TV is a more exciting medium these days, and I’d tend to agree. Most movies currently released by studios are “tentpole” films or “four-quadrant films” and the fact that these terms even exist, that marketers have classified movies into demographics and target markets, does not bode well for the medium we know and love. While it’s the scariest time to enter the entertainment industry, it’s also the most exciting time. All the rules are changing, and the recent successes of House of Cards andArrested Development on Netflix or sites like Funny or Die are simply proving that maybe we don’t need TV networks or traditional media when it comes to consuming or creating quality content. Maybe you’ll upload one of these films tomorrow and they’ll end up having more views than the latest episode of Modern Family. It’s completely possible. I mean, if it happened to Psy it could happen to you.

Today, in a few minutes, you will have one of the happiest moments in your life. Many of you will feel, for the first time ever, what it’s like to experience something you toiled over and worked so hard for with a huge audience. You will laugh with them, you will cry with them. You will hear that silence when something dramatic and poignant comes onscreen. And this very special moment can only happen with cinema. As opposed to a play or a concert, where you’re performing for an audience; or a TV show or book where your audience is experiencing your work in the comfort of privacy, cinema is the only medium where you can experience your work with your audience en masse. I remember experiencing that for the first time during my own short film screening when I was in college, and I have to confess I became addicted to that feeling. And that’s when I realized I wanted to become a filmmaker for the rest of my life.

And yet, with this comes the hard realization—from this point onward, your film is no longer yours. And no matter how hard I try to convince you of this, you will never truly be able to accept it. I know, because I’ve been trying myself for a decade, and I still can’t. This is when you will also start going through that weird phase – a phase that only other artists—ESPECIALLY artists who work in pop culture, go through. Because no matter how much praise or accolades you receive—just one blog entry, one 140-character tweet, could ruin your day. And you will doubt yourself, and you may go so far as to question your value as an artist or the validity of your voice.

So I guess the only advice I can really give you is this: in the end, it comes down to the relationship between you and your work. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, you have to make your work for yourself. You have to be true to your voice. Granted, you’remaking movies for an audience, but if you yourself are not happy then why bother? In ten years you will forget the reviews, good and bad. You will forget the fanfare, and the press, and whatever controversy may have accompanied your movie. All you will have is you and your film. And the question, then, will be “can I stand by my film?” Will I be able to show this to the person I’m in a relationship with ten years in the future and be proud; because it represents me, or at least represents a big part of me at a certain time in my life?

And this is what I wish of you. It will be a struggle: you will work long hours and lose a lot of money and wonder if it was all worth it. You will get your heart broken many, many times. I just hope that once in a blue moon you will make something that is worth it to you, whether critics or audiences think it’s good or bad. Then in the year 2080 your grandkids can show it to your great grandkids and go “you see that? That was your great grandpa.” Good luck, and congratulations on being creators today.

mary x

My Handy Dandy Guide to the 85th Academy Awards

As seen in The Philippine Star, Feb 23 2012. I'm putting this so I don't look like some obsessed blogger.

Sorry, everyone. Ever since I did this two years ago I wanted to make it a yearly thing; but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t bring myself to finish last year’s The Help or even watch War Horse. Luckily, this year offers a much better selection, and I can say with confidence that every film on this list is worth watching (though I have a disclaimer about Les Mis).

Now, we all know that come Monday everyone will be asking if you saw what Jennifer Lawrence was wearing or how cute Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield were at the Oscars. This is the point where you can be super annoying and say something like “yeah, but wouldn’t it have been cool if Emmanuelle Riva and Quvenzhané Wallis tied for best actress? Oldest nominee ever and youngest nominee ever onstage together!” Thanks to this guide, you will be able to make informed commentaries on things none of your friends care about when it comes to The Oscars. On to the nominees

Les Miserables

OK maybe I didn’t see all the nominees this year-- I slept through half of Les Miserables. It is quite an ordeal, you must admit, and no amount of Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway or Amanda Seyfried’s nipples in the rain can really make up for Russell Crowe.  The unquestionable stroke of genius is shooting Anne Hathaway in an uninterrupted close-up singing I Dreamed a Dream with live sound; those four minutes solidified her win as Best Supporting Actress. And she deserves it, despite being a total bitch to our good friend Ricky Lo .

Zero Dark Thirty

My personal favorite of 2012’s nominees, Zero Dark Thirty probably won’t be going anywhere because of the backlash from the CIA and its purported inaccuracy. At its core a gripping detective procedural, it tells the story of the decade-long hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal pull a ballsy move by sacrificing character development and simply dishing out plot point after plot point, commanding the audience to catch up; it pays off in spades. Apologies to James Cameron and Michael Bay, but Bigelow is the most macho director in Hollywood today, and I am very, VERY upset that she wasn’t nominated.

Life of Pi

If there’s anything to be thankful to Life of Pi for, it’s that this film justified the existence of 3D.  I’ve always admired Ang Lee for being the anti-auteur, his oeuvre absent of a common style and signature but almost consistently amazing*. Life of Pi is more visually ambitious than his previous work, but Lee’s skill at storytelling and profound understanding of the human spirit prevails. By the way, in all my years of writing this is the first time I’ve used the word oeuvre. I think this deserves a slow clap.

Beasts of The Southern Wild

So this year’s token indie nominee is the one we all expected, and with good reason. Beasts is a touching little movie about Hushpuppy (wonderfully played by Quvenzhané Wallis), a strong and willful six year old whose world falls apart when her father turns ill, setting the young one on a search for her mother. A modern folktale told with complete confidence and skill, Beasts is unlike any movie you’ve ever seen, making first-time director Benh Zeitlin very deserving of his Oscar nomination.

Lincoln

It’s a trap, guys. You have this trailer that looks like it’s going to be an epic Civil War movie only to find that Lincoln is two and a half hours of lobbying accompanied by a lot of John Williams string-pulling. It could have been an interesting look at 19th century politicking, but Steven Spielberg’s theatricality and awkward ending gets in the way. I understand why Americans love it, because it’s so rooted in their national identity. I don’t, and am still actually rooting for Joaquin Phoenix (The Master) as best actor even though everyone knows it’s going to Daniel Day Lewis.

Django Unchained

Who’d have thought that Django Unchained would provide the Civil War era epic-ness Lincolncouldn’t? Because of the amount of blood in this movie there’s zero chance that Django will win Best Picture. Having said that, this heartfelt tribute to the Spaghetti Western is now one of the subgenre’s greatest examples. Though Quentin’s gorefests are getting tiring, Django still has an excellent script with some of the best-written dialogue this year. Expect Tarantino to take home the screenplay award with this one.

Silver Linings Playbook

Will not win, simply because it’s a romantic comedy. And yet, this already ranks among some of the finest romcoms of all time. Director David O’ Russell’s script pierces through the souls of what could otherwise be one-dimensional characters, and his directing is nothing short of masterful. It also has hands-down the best acting ensemble of the year. I’d actually forgotten what it was like to love Robert De Niro, and being reminded is one of the many reasons I love this movie.

Amour

Is the most depressing movie I have ever seen in my life. I’m not even joking. You know how people turn away during horror films? I was like that the whole time with Amour. Director Michael Haneke, who has made a career disturbing audiences with tools like ultraviolence (Funny Games. See it) and sexual depravity (The Piano Teacher) finally gets to me with one of my greatest fears: old age. The fact that this guy actually got nominated as Best Director is a triumph, simply because Haneke is the most un-Oscar director working today (aside from Khavn de la Cruz, of course). I’m hoping everyone gets so pissed that Affleck didn’t get nominated that they all rally behind Haneke.

Argo

Poor,poor Argo. From being the frontrunner for Best Picture it suddenly became the underdog due to Ben Affleck’s snub in the Best Director race. But hey, underdogs sometimes have their year, and this looks to be it. A professor of mine actually did a statistical study of Oscar winners, and it showed that winning The Golden Globe, The PGA and The DGA are major signs that a film will win best picture. Argo won all three, and Ben Affleck will have his vindication this Sunday.

Also, he will finally make up for Gigli.

PREDICTIONS!

only for the major ones because this articles is boring me already as well

Best Picture

Who will win: Argo

Who should win: Zero Dark Thirty (but yeah Argo’s pretty awesome)

Best Director

Who will win: Steven Spielberg

Who should win: Michael Haneke (just because it would be really fun)

Best Actor

Who will win: Daniel Day Lewis

Who should win: Joaquin Phoenix, who gave an amazing mindblowing performance. Except everyone hates him, probably even more than Affleck.

Best Actress

Who will win: Jennifer Lawrence

Who should win: Jennifer Lawrence (I would also be absolutely ecstatic if Naomi Watts won because she’s one of my favorite actresses. But she will not)         

Best Supporting Actor

Who will win: It could be anyone. This is the most exciting category for me. All nominees have won before, and it’s really anyone’s game.

Who should win: Even I can’t pick a favorite. Cristoph Waltz was absolutely brilliant in Django Unchained and Philip Seymour Hoffman once again gives topnotch work in The Master. I do have a soft spot for De Niro’s performance in Silver Linings Playbook, however, so I might have to go with that.

Best Supporting  Actress

Who will win: Anne Hathaway

Who should win: Amy Adams because she has the honor of performing the most disturbing handjob scene in cinema history.

Best Original Screenplay

Who will win: Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained

Who should win: Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola for Moonrise Kingdom. May I digress for a minute? Moonrise is my favorite movie of the year, and I am absolutely saddened that it didn’t get the accolades it deserved. However, without question writers are the smartest award-givers in The Oscars, and they have a knack for giving brilliant, non-nominated films like Almost Famous andEternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind the prize. I haven’t completely given up hope on this happening.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Who will win: Chris Terrio for Argo

Who should win: Argo, or David O’ Russell’s script for Silver Linings Playbook

*Hulk, 2003

sleepyheads

the top ten musical long-playing recordings of 2012

The third year of any given decade is usually the one that solidifies that decade’s sound. In that aspect 2012 was disappointing. There was no equivalent for 92’s Automatic for the People, Slanted and Enchanted, and Check Your Head; r even 02’s Turn On The Bright Lights, You Forgot It in People and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. The closest thing to a classic is probably Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid M.A.A.D. City, which I liked but wasn’t crazy about.

I don’t know what to feel about my year in music. Looking back, unlike 2011’s year of live music or 2010’s year of raw emotional honesty there doesn’t seem to be a running theme. I also listened to a lot less stuff; my 2012 being comprised of 383 songs as opposed to the usual 1000+ songs. Maybe I’m getting old, but I do recall looking far and wide for good music to listen to, and that was pretty much all I could find. Here’s the best of them.

10. Up dharma Down – Capacities
Say all your hits are about emptiness and being left behind. Say you made a name for yourself with sadness and dysfunction (your first two albums are called Fragmented and Bipolar, for God’s sake). Say everyone from the BBC to Time Magazine loves the melancholy and calls you the Philippine band most equipped to make it big internationally. The last thing you want to do at the height of your career is be happy. And yet, we have Capacities; a ballsy move from Up dharma Down that not only allows itself serenity but also shifts the sound completely. The soulful trip-hop is suddenly replaced by… the eighties. And it works. Instead of coming off as a retro pauso album, Capacities, with its Phil Collins drum fills, unabashedly New Wave synths and vocals reminiscent of the likes of early Zsa Zsa Padilla and Odette Quesada, actually sounds like it’s what '80s OPM was missing all along. It's the celebration after the storm, and establishes the band as true artists unwilling to waver. Besides, it’s nice to finally see that silver lining in Up dharma Down’s music.

9.Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw & Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do.
I found The Idler Wheel… when it was released in June and loved it; then I forgot all about it until I went through a rough patch in November, and it found me. It’s been almost 15 years since Apple released her classic debut Tidal, and while that album felt like a juvenile cry for help, this one is a mature opus that seems to stem from real pain. This album is on this list mainly because two of my most replayed songs of the year are from here: Every Single Night and Werewolf. Every Single Night is about the nightly battle we have with our thoughts, while Werewolf gives a very interesting insight: yes, you fucked me up, but maybe it was my fault because I allowed myself to be vulnerable. The song ends with Apple straining for the chorus:-- “nothing wrong when a song ends in a minor keyyyyyeeeeyyyyy”; both a desperate plea for love and an admission that this pain is something we all enjoy.

8.Purity Ring – Shrines
It’s been a great decade for 4AD records. After the glory days of dark pop in the 80s with artists like Bauhaus, Cocteau Twins and Throwing Muses, it seemed like the label was destined for obscurity with the rise of grunge, emo and guitar-based alternative. The 2010s have seen a resurgence of moody, ambient music; and 4AD has come out of the shadows to reclaim what’s theirs. What’s great about their current stable of artists is that they stay true to 4AD’s roots but simultaneously take the music to new heights: Twin Shadow, Bon Iver, St. Vincent, Grimes, and now, Purity Ring. This Canadian duo takes their cue from Cocteau Twinsesque dream pop, adding a healthy mix of R&B, Hip Hop and Björk. Programmer Corin Roddick is a technical genius, and Megan James’ childlike voice gives his music a welcome humanity.

7.Cat Power – Sun
The first time I saw Chan Marshall play live she was an absolute mess. A nervous, fidgety twenty-something learning to deal with fame, she came onstage with her acoustic guitar and was hardly able to finish a song. She’d stop in the middle, talk to herself, angry that she didn’t get things right. The next time I saw her she was in her thirties, touring in support of her most ambitious album, The Greatest. She was backed by the Memphis Blues Band, freewheeling across the stage looking absolutely perfect. I saw her two months ago, now 40. She looked like crap, nervously twitching as she sang, unable to make coherent sentences. Sun is her downswing; an album made in the midst of a painful break-up, nearing the end of her glory days and past the beauty that came with youth. It’s the realization that this might be all there is, and all she can really rely on is her music. That’s why it’s so good.

6.The Divine Fits – A Thing Called Divine Fits
I held off listening to The Divine Fits, the side project of Britt Daniels from Spoon and Dan Boeckner from Wolf Parade/Venus in Furs, for a while. I wasn’t Wolf Parade’s biggest fan, and thought that Daniels only did guitars for the project. When I finally gave it a shot, I knew immediately that it was going to end up in my top ten list. Like Japandroids’ Celebration Rock, A Thing Called Divine Fits is straight up rock n’ roll, something we surprisingly don’t get enough of in the modern world.

5.Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Speaking of straight up rock n’ roll, no album title is more straight-up this year than Japandroids’ sophomore effort. Filled with adrenaline-packed blue-collared rock reminiscent of early Springsteen, Celebration Rock will have you pumping your fists in the air and screaming “woah-oah-oahs” until your voice breaks. It begins with fireworks, segueing to the anthemic The Nights of Wine and Roses (“Don’t we have anything to live for? Well of course we do but until it comes true, we’re drinking.”) and never letting go until the fireworks start up once again, providing an infinite loop of adrenaline. This could have been my album of the year, except with 8 tracks and a 35 minute lifespan it leaves you wanting more-- a lot more.

4.Grimes – Visions
Oh, Claire Boucher, I loved you then I grew tired of you then I saw you live and you won me over all over again. It’s hard not to fall in love with Grimes’ impish grin and epileptic dance moves. What is hard is writing about Grimes, because her music mostly doesn’t make sense. The instruments, ranging from Chinese harp to drum machine to 50 layers of her voice, are a mess and the lyrics are incomprehensible and nonsensical. It shouldn’t work, but Boucher’s voice is so amazing that it manages to hold everything together. You’ve got to give the 24-year old Canadian credit for creating a new and completely unique sound, and the future work more experience and expertise will bring is exciting.

3.Rebecca Gates and The Consortium – The Float
This is the reason I will love Facebook for the rest of my life: Richard Baluyut of Versus posted that he, James and Kendall were to impromptu open for Rebecca Gates. As obsessive as I was with show schedules, I had no idea that one of my favorite songwriters from the 90s was going to play in support of her first album in 11 years. So I trekked out to Brooklyn to watch Ms. Gates with about 40 other people in an intimate little performance area. This is where I heard The Float for the first time, along with other classics from her early solo work and former band The Spinanes. Among the songs was my favorite song of all time, Lines and Lines. It easily became my favorite performance (and one of my favorite nights) of the year. The Float is something that is audibly more mature and laid back, but definitely not mellowed out. Her guitar work is impeccable, and she is more than ably backed by Joanna Bolme and drummer Joe Adamik. And then there is Gates’ voice, which never fails to make you feel like you’re… floating. This album makes me happy, and is definitely worth the wait. I just hope I don’t have to wait another 11 years for the follow-up.

2.The xx – Coexist
The fact that Coexist is number two in this list is a major disappointment. The xx were touted to be my band of this decade, my Sleater-Kinney and Death Cab for Cutie of the 2010’s. Alas, Romy, Oliver and Jamie, it was not meant to be. The new album is mostly a rehashing of their 2009 debut XX, one of my favorite releases of the last decade, and I actually expected (maybe even hoped for) that. My main point of contention is that even though it took three years to make, Coexist sounds like it was rushed. Maybe it’s because songwriters Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft have been working on the first album since childhood, but I find the songs in this offering to be not as complex, the lyrics a lot less poignant. It feels weird that I’m dissing an album I consider to be my second favorite album of the year, so let me briefly talk about the good parts. There are a number of songs deserving of their debut, such as the very solemn opener Angels and Chained, the best song from the album. There is also a progression of sorts, mostly because of producer Jamie Smith’s programming prowess with dancier tunes like Sunset and Swept Away, but also because of Oliver Sim’s rare solo track, Fiction. I’m not completely writing the xx off, but if they continue down this trajectory I expect them to slide down the list with their forthcoming albums.

1.Grizzly Bear – Shields
It feels anti-climactic; putting Grizzly Bear’s Shields at the top of this list. What’s funny is that back in 2009 my numbers 1 and 2 were reversed, with The xx on top and Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest at second place. Veckatimest, however, is a much better album than Shields —it was daring, ambitious, grand. Shields feels like Grizzly Bear is taking a vacation; making songs that they can write in their sleep. Alas, the dreams they weave are still amazing: the pianos echoing in The Hunt, the hums that precede the verses in Yet Again, the distant percussion and horns that serve as the bed of What’s Wrong. Like all their records, there are layers to Shields; layers that invite deeper introspection and revelation upon further listening. This all comes to a climax with Sun in Your Eyes, the one exception of Shields where Grizzly Bear finally takes a shot at doing something magnificent. This closer is epic drama, with movements and an intensity that give a hint at what could have been, and what could be yet again.

HONORABLE MENTION: Twin Shadow’s Confess was on this list ‘til Up dharma Down came along, and it still pains me that it isn’t here, as is Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania. I’ve recently fallen in love with Wild Nothing’s Nocturne, and Ciudad releases awesomeness once again with Follow The Leader.

SINGLES OF THE YEAR: I made a playlist. It's on Spotify.

BEST LIVE BANDS: Like I mentioned earlier, that intimate gig with Rebecca Gates and the Consortium is way way up there. I stood in a moshpit for 7 hours just to catch Radiohead, so they have to be on this list as well. The Joy Formidable were a welcome surprise, and were a formidable joy to watch (that was bad).

DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE YEAR: Ben Gibbard’s Former Lives is so bad. Oh my God it’s so bad. How did that even happen?! We thought you’d start making good music again after breaking up with Zooey, Ben, but no. Also, Ben Folds Five’s The Sound of The Life of The Mind isn’t bad, but considering that I’ve been waiting for this album for almost 15 years it should be UHMAYZING. And yet, it was not. I’m not naming my kids Ben, that’s for sure.

VIDEOS OF THE YEAR: I said last year that 2011 was the worst year for music videos ever. This year is even worse. Thank you, then, universe, for M.I.A.’s Bad Girls,Emily Kai Block's videos for Grimes' Oblivion and Grizzly Bear's Yet Again, Sebastien Tellier's boner-inducing Cochon Ville, and my personal favorite-- Flying Lotus's Until The Quiet Comes; for these videos give us hope. Honorable Mention goes to the Chairlift videos because of Caroline’s fabulous kili kili.

2011
2010
The 00s
wee ninja

2012

let's talk about 2012.

but let's really talk about 2012, not the usual "2012 was so fun i learned so much had a blast" kind of talk, but the kind of talk we used to talk like. the non social media talk. the this-should-be-private-but-at-least-it's-out-there talk. the kind of talk only people like sugarcandypop will see, because she's the only one who still reads LJ. the we don't give a shit about the rules of writing talk. the i wont even provide an LJ cut for you kind of talk because really, does anyone still read their LJ feed?

let's talk about starting off the year in goteborg sweden in the fucking cold, being the only asian in a small hidden movie theater in the middle of nowhere, finding out too late that there are no English subtitles, having to sit through 2 hours of a film i could not understand because i could not escape.

let's talk about the Young Kim, and learning to actually kind of love performing blink 182, and lit, and rage against the machine. performing in front of my classmates, having a moshpit made in our honor. performing in front of hundreds in Stanford University, winning that golden briefcase. i hated the music, i loved the band.
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let's talk about maybe kinda sorta finally loving school. the bane of my existence: B school. finding classes i loved, and people i really loved. real friends. friends to the end. if any of you Marshall School of Business kids read this, know that i genuinely loved some of you , and that you know who you are. and thank you for making me your prom prince.
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let's talk about SXSW, and learning what it's like to have the time of your life completely alone. staying up with random strangers until 3 in the am, looking for a cab you can share. meeting linklater, and mothersbaugh, and apatow, and knoxville. suddenly housing pat sarabia because she'd pass out on the fucking streets of Austin Texas drunk. and of course, Taken by Cars. here's to Taken by Cars, always and forever.
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let's talk about living in New York for 3 months, and working for Ted. let's talk about all those wonderful meals we had, and the people we had those wonderful meals with. let's state for the record here and now that i want to move there, that i want to find work there, so i can look back at this and hit myself in the head if it doesn't work out. let's talk about hearing my favoritest song of all time and meeting the lady who wrote it and tagging her in facebook posts, because she is my facebook friend, and how if i told myself that 16 years ago when i first heard lines and lines my 16 year old self would have no idea what i was talking about. let's talk about meeting Hal Hartley, one of the top three directors in my fucking life, and sitting down with him and talking with him for two fucking hours. and if i told myself that 18 years ago when i first saw Amateur i would have never believed it.
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let's talk about comicon and how awesome it was and milla and michelle and bryan and joseph gordon and how nice anna kendrick smelled. let's talk about how much fun i had that people ask me if i'm really studying in America. let's talk about that 50% bacon 50% ground beef burger and how maybe i'll look back at Duckaroni and smile. maybe.
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let's talk about Japan, and spending ten days in Japan with the most wonderful people. let's talk about having some of the best meals i've ever had in my life, and how lucky and blessed we truly are.
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let's talk about midget boxing, and boracay. let's talk about the pains of having to take care of 30 AMERICANS as they went around the Philippines. let's talk about cucinillo and mr kebab and jt's manukan. let's talk about how it's more fun in the Philippines, and why showing my awesome country off was one of the best things i've ever done in my life.
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let's talk about the year being almost perfect. ALMOST. except for that one thing. that one goddamn thing. let's talk about being an emotional dildo, and listening to Fiona Apple on loop. let's talk about broken people, and how one should never even dare attempt fixing them. let's talk about wondering why this even happened in the first place, and realizing that it's because one needed to learn a lesson. there's always that one thing. that one goddamn thing.

or let's not. and just celebrate each other, and the fact that the world didn't end. happy new year, random stranger who still reads livejournals. i celebrate you.
nottodie

Ang Natagpuan (What is Found)

Guilty confession: I was a big New Kids on The Block fan.

I was nine years old, and literally didn’t know any better. I loved Hanging Tough, and knew every step in Step by Step by heart. I could also proudly sing Joe McIntyre’s “it’s just yooooou and meeeee” in perfect pitch. I watched the cartoon, and had a little NKOTB fan group with my grade school friends.

In the midst of this NKOTB lovefest a student came in from Boston. I instantly welcomed him to our fold, and asked him about his city, which is where the New Kids were from.

“NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK!? YUCK! They passed by our school and I shot a spitball at Danny Wood. I hate those guys.”

This is how I met Ramon de Veyra, co-writer of Ang Nawawala. Being the impressionable 9 year-old I was, I instantly turned my back on NKOTB to join the cool kid. I was suddenly jumping around Maria Montessori grade school with Ramon singing the Beastie Boys’ Whacha Want. This continued on to high school, where we would spend hours on the phone talking about how life-changing Clerks was, or his obsession with Natalie Portman (he will kill me for saying this but he used to buy her perfume), or singing riffs off of Smashing Pumpkins songs because neither of us knew how to play the guitar.
sunday grabe sunday
And then there is Marie Jamora.

During my first year of college everyone would tell me that I had to meet Marie Jamora. “She edited the Eraserheads’ magazine, Pillbox!” “She has tons of CD’s!” “She writes for the Philippine Star!” Of course, I disliked her without even meeting her. Only one teenager in Ateneo could be friends with rock stars and have a cool CD collection, and it definitely shouldn’t be this Marie Jamora character.
1998. it took me all i had to post this picture
I did meet her eventually, at Colayco Hall during a Ciudad performance. Suffice to say, we became besties instantly. She taught me all about emo in 1998, I experienced a David Fincher catharsis right beside her at a screening of Fight Club, and there was an almost-embarrassing incident talking to Wes Anderson at Momofuku (this, however, is Marie’s story to tell). We were regulars in each other’s houses, we took care of one another through our first heartbreaks, I wrote her yearbook write-up, and she wrote mine. We even have a band together called Blast Ople, and have been playing music for 14 years without proof of existence, unless you count our 24-member Facebook page.
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Ramon met Marie separately, spontaneously conversing about The Sweet Hereafter. It was a scene worthy of belonging in their debut feature, and was the beginning of a great friendship and creative partnership. The two worked together on Project Runway Philippines Season One, and have done astounding things on their own. Marie is one of the most important music video directors in our country’s history, having done definitive pieces for artists like The Eraserheads (Maskara), Sandwich (DVD-X, Sugod, Food For The Soul), The Itchyworms (Buwan, Love Team) and Urbandub (First of Summer; Endless, A Silent Whisper). She’d also directed a number of amazing shorts; including Si Dexter Calliope at ang Ibong Adarna, my personal favorite Kaarawan, and Patayan/Pata ‘yan, an adaptation of a Roald Dahl short that in my opinion is better than Alfred Hitchcock’s version. Ramon wrote one-third of the feature film First Time, the best Captain Barbell script I’ve ever read (that was, sadly, never made), and some of my favorite episodes of AXN’s Mad Mad Fun and TV5’s Rakista. He is currently stirring up trouble as a contributing editor for esquire and music video director. After what seems like forever, they’ve made a movie together, and it’s called Ang Nawawala.

Ang Nawawala was a runaway hit at Cinemalaya, winning the audience award. Some critics have dismissed the film as being too burgis or upperclass. This, of course, is utterly ridiculous. I don’t hear the work of Kim Ki Duk being called “too social surrealist for a Korean film” or Amelie being “too entertaining for French cinema”. Art is best when it’s personal, when it’s honest; not when it fits into convenient little boxes of classification. And if you’ve read anything that has come before this paragraph Ang Nawawala oozes with the personal histories and philosophies of its creators. With such inspiring variety including Chris Martinez’s comedies and John Torres’s autobiographical fiction and now movies about the upperclass like The Animals and Ang Nawawala, Philippine cinema has evolved. Maybe it’s time some of the critics caught up.

I started this with the intent of writing another review of the film. Then I realized that
1) there are tons of wonderful insightful reviews about this film already (my favorite)
2) there is no way I can write something objective about this movie. When I see the characters going to gigs I see the times we would go to Mayric’s or Club Dredd, as kids who just loved music. When Gibson dresses up as Agent Dale Cooper I am reminded of the VHS (VHS!) Twin Peaks marathon Ramon, Marie and I went through. All of Enid and Gibson’s conversations about randomness and philosophies in life have some elements of our 4AM talks in parked cars about pop culture and life, which was more or less the same thing for us. There was even a WTF moment where seeing Ramon playing poker in the movie reminded me of… Ramon playing poker.
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12 years ago I promised Marie that I would be the first to stand up and applaud, front and center, at the premiere of her first feature film. I sadly couldn’t do that, and instead had Marie show me Ang Nawawala at her house. Midway through the film is a scene where the lead character Gibson goes and gets beers for himself and his romantic interest. Marie decides to shoot this moment in a slow motion walking shot, which is peculiar for a filmmaker as restrained and precise as her. Then I realized why she did it—for Gibson, the simple, tiny act of getting something for someone he’s all kilig over means the world to him.

I turned to Marie, then I started bawling.

MARIE
What are you doing?!

ME
(cries)
I’m… I’m so proud of you

KAT*
Oh my God who has a camera?!

ME
(still crying)
Don’t you dare take a picture of this.

MARIE
(laughs)
But why are you crying?! It’s the happiest scene in the movie!

It took me a while to realize why, but this is my answer:

All her life Marie has been making beautiful things. Whether it’s her classic music video for Sandwich’s Sugod, a sweet Nikki Gil CloseUp commercial or her short film Quezon City, there is superior craftsmanship. Mostly she’s been making stuff for other people; be it the record label, her professors in Columbia University, or execs from multinational corporations. But in this specific frame, in this specific feature film, this was Marie putting her heart out there for everyone to see. And it really is the most beautiful thing she’s ever made.

Ang Nawawala comes out in theaters today. I can’t promise you that the movie will change your life, or that you’ll even love it like I do. But I can promise you this: this is Marie. And this is Ramon. And despite having met them in uniquely awesome ways, Ang Nawawala is the best introduction you’ll ever get to my two friends.
ang nawawala
*Kat Velayo, a mutual friend who was the only other person in the room

much love and thanks to Neva for providing the title of this piece.
nottodie

the top ten musical long-playing recordings of 2011

A funny thing happened between last year's and this year's list : i moved out of the Philippines. in the age of that newfangled thing we call THE INTERNET this would have nothing to do with music list-making. Alas, my current displacement has everything to do with it. For one thing I live in the world of satellite radio and Spotify now, and would not have found out about many of the artists on this list had it not been for such music services. On the flipside I am no longer in touch with the Manila music scene, and unfortunately may have overlooked many a great local album. Most importantly, I've been exposed to a ton of live shows, and for better or worse I've allowed the experience of seeing a band live affect the way I judge their music. Hence, bands whose albums I enjoyed but were "just ok" live like Cults didn't make the list, while artists who blew me away with their performances such as Bon Iver toppled my decision in their direction.

Live music-- that was what my 2011 was all about. From the concerts we produced earlier this year to all the shows I was lucky enough to attend, the year in live music was infinitely more interesting to me than the year in recorded music. Albums-wise, we have the usual suspects, and I'm getting tired of waiting for that next big thing that will change the way we see music forever. Who knows, maybe the world WILL end next year, and this is all we'll have to show for it -- not with a bang, but with a whimper.


10. The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar
If there's anything I'm thankful for from the year in music, it's the return of the 90s. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart with their shoegaze, Atlas Sound with their proto-indie, Yuck with their Dinosaur Jr-esque guitar-rock. And then there is The Joy Formidable, whose sound evokes the radio-friendly alternative rock of 90s stalwarts like Placebo and The Smashing Pumpkins. This quality makes them the corniest of the 90s revival bands, but this is also what that makes them my favorite. The album's opening says it all -- the random sound effects, the guitar delay, the repetitive bass; the backmasky undertones abruptly cut by singer Ritzy Bryan's wispy Britpop vocals, escalating to her screaming the chorus of the very 90s titled The Everchanging Spectrum of A Lie: "NOTHING OUTSIDE". The rest of the album is wonderfully familiar-- crunchy riffs, vocal distortion, reverb, and that one very essential ingredient of 90s alternative rock: angst. I don't think I've ever used this adjective before to describe an album, but I can't think of anything else for The Big Roar: this album rocks.

9. Bon Iver - Bon Iver
God this album's depressing.

8. Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
This is the first time in 13 years that the Beastie Boys have made it to my list (1998's Hello Nasty was number two of that year), which is ok considering they've only done one other album since. In a strange way, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two is a return to form after two traumatic events in the Beasties' lives -- 9/11 and MCA's bout with throat cancer. 2004's To The Five Boroughs was a downer both lyrically and musically, but with this one the boys have literally gotten their groove back, mixing a very refined rapping style with live instrumentation and innovative sampling. They've also pulled out all stops with this one, reminding people of how seminal they are by making a sequel to their 1986 classic and getting all their famous fans to cameo in the video. The only downside to all this is in their journey from Beastie Boys to Beastie Old Men, the "cool young rebel" attitude no longer works, and you can feel the weariness in their voices. But hey, i'm happy enough to have them back.

7. Wild Flag - Wild Flag
Another album I learned to love because i saw them live. Wild Flag is an offshoot of one of my favorite bands of all time. It also had my biggest indierockstar crush on co-vocal duties, so there was no way it would stand up to the hype set by my damn self. Once I got over it, I learned to appreciate Wild Flag for what it was -- a straight up rock n' roll record. Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss take off from the punk-infused classic rock sound of the last Sleater-Kinney LP, and this time they do it without the complexity and maturity ex-bandmate Corin Tucker brought into The Woods (Corin Tucker actually released an album with her new band last year, and you can literally hear the "creative differences" between Corin and Carrie with these two albums). The result is spazz-worthy almost headbang-inducing words and guitar, and the minute Wild Flag grabs you on their opening salvo Romance, they never let go. The member who really shines in this album, however, is Mary Timony, whose career had increasingly gotten more staid since she left her band Helium. With Wild Flag Timony gets her groove back, and seems reinvigorated in finding her musical soulmates with the two best tracks on the record, Something Came Over Me and Electric Band. One of my favorite gig stories from the past year was being able to talk to the drunken Portlandia-star and guitar hero Brownstein, and telling her that I'd try to bring Wild Flag to the Philippines. She "tsss"es, and snarlingly tells me "fuck yeah i'd like to go to the Philippines!"

6. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
This is the first time in the history of this list that I'm including an album that isn't something I'd necessarily like to listen to all the time but is so powerful, stirring and unflinching that it must be recognized. And no, it's not Björk's Biophilia . PJ Harvey's Let England Shake is timeless, old and hopeful at the same time. It begins with standard PJ Harvey fare (which is great music nonetheless), but by the time you get to the third track, The Glorious Land, and a famous battle bugle call awkwardly shifts in and out between the song's opening rifts, PJ Harvey owns you. Enter The Words That Maketh Murder, the album's most ambitious track, something that feels like it belongs in the canon of wartime music soldiers sing on the road to death. This is Harvey's best album in 11 years, and if 2000's Stories from the City, Stories From The Sea was a love letter to New York City, this record shows a much more complicated relationship with her homeland. One of my favorite opening lines in this album is "goddamn Europeans, take me back to beautiful England", and just like a proper English lady, Polly Jean Harvey takes us back with her.

5. Feist - Metals
So let's say you made what many critics hail as the best album of 2007. Not only that, but a host of pop culture institutions, from Apple to Sesame Street, decide they want to champion your humble poppy single. As a result, the aforementioned single is sent to the top of the charts, becoming THE NAMEDROP HIT of 2008. Suddenly everyone's mentioning you to sound cool, and Shia LaBeouf almost gets into fistfights with Michael Bay over you. What should you do next? The one thing you shouldn't do, for sure, is wait four years to release a follow-up that repeats none of the things that made you successful in the first place. Metals has no 1,2,3,4, which is something I expected because everyone from Radiohead to Lykke Li tend to shun the singles that skyrocket their careers. But then it also doesn't have an I Feel It All, a My Moon, My Man, or a Mushaboom, three of my favorite songs of hers. Instead, Feist's fourth solo outing is more solemn and folky, with songs closer to less popular ditties such as The Water and Intuition. Just like those songs, Metals becomes rewarding in the long run, and is an understated achievement in songwriting.

4.Real Estate - Days
Real Estate's debut album, as critically lauded as it was, never really impressed me. It had that signature late-2000s delay-ey sound, was incomprehensible, and always seemed like more of a demo tape than a proper album. Days is sophomoric in all the best ways -- it's more mature and fleshed out, as if it were the record the first LP served as a study for it. The album works best when it brings you to a time and place that is familiar but unclear, with songs like It's Real and Easy. There are also moments of pure beauty, like the haunting and nostalgic Green Aisles or the four-minute repetitive instrumental that closes the album. If I have a problem with Days, it's that after a while all the songs start to sound the same, which isn't that big a problem in the age of shuffling and singles. Also, for some weird reason this album is a great soundtrack to North Koreans weeping over Kim Jong Il

3. Class Actress - Rapprocher
The ultimate pop album of the year, Rapprocher is so catchy that one might find him/herself singing along to the songs after only one listen. Producers Scott Rosenthal and Mark Richardson wisely recruited folk singer-songwriter Elizabeth Richardson to do vocal duties for this project, and she adds an element of authenticity and dreaminess to might what otherwise have been 90s R&B fodder. At its best, Rapprocher is teen anthemic music, like when Harper demands "Bring it on, bring on the weekend", or preciously exclaims that she will "Keep you in my heart" over and over and over again. This is an album that I might eventually tire of and forget about, but right now it's something I can't let go of.

2. Death Cab for Cutie - Codes and Keys
After two albums that broke the trend (2006's Plans at number 1 and 2008's Narrow Stairs at number 7), Death Cab for Cutie return to their historical place at second for the year's best. In my review of Narrow Stairs I said that Death Cab was a band that no longer had anything to say, which is even more apparent in this album. Codes and Keys is an album that seems to have been made in the midst of domestic bliss, unapologetically happy and complacent. Case in point: in their greatest opus, 2001's The Photo Album, Gibbard laments a lover's move to Los Angeles, saying that he couldn't see why she'd want to live in "the belly of the beast that is Californ-i-a". Ten years later, in the closing track Stay Young, Go Dancing (I know, right), Gibbard extols that "Life is sweet, in the belly of the beast, and with her song in your heart, it can never bring you down". It's amazing how mellowed out one can actually get; but hey, if i was sleeping with Zooey Deschanel I'd probably be writing songs about sycamore trees, monday mornings and staying young as well. When twitter went all abuzz about Gibbard and Deschanel's separation a few months ago, the prevailing sentiment was that people were happy because Death Cab would start making sad bastard music again. I couldn't agree more.

1, Taken by Cars - Dualist
Maybe my displacement has caused me to give this record too much attention. Maybe I've projected my feelings for the Philippines with my feelings for this album. Maybe this is my choice for number one because I miss home so much. Maybe, but probably not. Taken by Cars has always been more than just a Filipino band to me, and they prove that they're not just one-trick ponies with Dualist, an album as intelligent, hip-shaking, and elegant as their debut Endings of a New Kind. The album still has potential dance classics like Unidentified and my personal favorite, Autopilot, but there is also an evident and welcome distancing from dancepunk, with tracks like the steady 34, the 80s throwback track Considerate, and the epically atmospheric Thrones: Equals . This album is all about growth, and this is most evident in how much Sarah Marco has gotten better at singing. Bryan Kong is a tighter drummer if that's even possible, and guitarists Bryce Zialcita and Siopao Chua have learned how to play off each other perfectly. I was afraid that the exit of bassist Benny Yap would be detrimental to the band's sound, but Issa Garcia not only makes up for his absence with skill and precision, but a whole plethora of rock moves that the former didn't have. As a result, the band is much more fun to watch live as well. Most of my conversations with music critics and musicians this year have had one central theme: Pinoy rock is dead. That may be the case, but if bands like Taken by Cars keep making music, the funeral won't be so bad.

HONORABLE MENTION: The omission of Rival Schools' Pedals from this list was a difficult decision to make. When they released their debut United by Fate in 2001 they were primed and ready to become the greatest emo band in America, except it took ten years to release a follow-up. Pedals is a celebration of what might have been, filled with brilliantly written pop gems that would have gone to the top had they been released 7 years ago. Cults is definitely one of the strongest debuts this year, and their self-titled album almost made it to this list, being a fun and genuine piece of rock-pop. Diego Mapa is one of my favorite Filipino songwriters of all time, and his solo project Tarsius is an atmospheric masterpiece that could rival the work of DJ Shadow and Cornelius. His final track From The Mountains, with its sampling of NU's last broadcast, holds a special place in my heart. Twin Sister is one of the best bands to debut this year, but their first album is all over the place and seems more like a series of demos than a proper record. Toro y Moi's second album Underneath the Pine shows us how great chillwave could really be, and is a MOMOL masterpiece. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's Belong is a grower, and is a nice mix of good ol' shoegaze mixed with Radio Dept.-style dreampop.Finally, we have REM's Collapse Into Now. I've long accepted that REM can never return to their Automatic for The People glory days, but this one is close enough, and REM will be sorely missed.

BEST EP:Moving Units' "Tension War".

BEST LIVE BAND: It's a tie. You have Atari Teenage Riot, who are pure primal energy and anger, with Alec Empire towering over his loyal subjects and Nic Endo going crazy screaming amidst the madding crowd. And then you have the Foo Fighters, a showstopper in all the best ways, with their tight jams, epic set pieces and hilarious encore antics. Runner ups are Deftones and Whitest Boy Alive, because they were awesome and you guys were awesomer for showing up at the concerts. Thank you.

SINGLES OF THE YEAR:I made a playlist. It is on Spotify. Highlights include Everything But The Girl's cover of the xx's night time, The Forms' collaboration with The National's Matt Berninger, Friends' I'm His Girl, and two tracks from the wonderful wonderful movie Drive.

DISAPPOINTMENTS OF THE YEAR: It's sad when a band that was truly great fades into mediocrity, and The Strokes, with two classics and two misses, seems to have solidified their place as this decade's Weezer thanks to the unimpressive Angles. Radiohead's The King of Limbs is actually pretty good, but for a band that has consistently been at the top of the list, to not even make it to the top ten is an utter disappointment. Once upon a time I was obsessed with Björk, and had high hopes for Biophilia. Those hopes were unfounded -- the album is an experimental mess that no longer seems to care about making truly touching, affecting music. The unkindest cut of all, however, comes from my favorite artist of all time, Juliana Hatfield. Her latest record, There's Always Another Girl was so bad I could only listen to it once. It's always heartbreaking to hear your heroes fall.

VIDEOS OF THE YEAR: This has actually been the saddest year for music videos. Ever. With falling record sales and diminishing promo budgets going elsewhere, I think it's safe to say that the golden age of Gondry, Jonze and Romanek will never happen again. Scrounging around, these are the few gems I could find:

A man falls down an escalator. Who would have thought math rock would be the best soundtrack? Battles' My Machines.

I have never smoked nor would I ever want to, but Tom Vek's Aroused video came the closest to ever making me want to do so.

sometimes things are so funny you actually forget how good they are. Lonely Island is the gift that keeps on giving, and Jack Sparrow is my pick for this year.

Is Tropical's "The Greeks". Megaforce, I knew you would pull through. This is what we always dreamed of when were kids, isn't it? ISN'T IT?!


2010
The 00s
nottodie

(no subject)

as you go past the midpoint of September 1 in Manila, i have just started it here. it's hard, having to go through the worst day in my personal history for an extended period of time. i still miss Alexis, and I still think about him everyday. It's getting easier for me, though, and that's what scares me. I'm afraid that one day I'll forget how his deep voice ends in a high-pitched chuckle when he teases, or his punctuated go-to tagalog terms like "naku!" or olats!".

a few months ago, in Italy, I was being interviewed by someone from Ekran, Nika's magazine. when I mentioned to her that I knew Nika her jaw dropped, and her eyes welled up. "did they find the murderers?" she asked, and i just looked down and shook my head. "why? why have they not found them yet?" this time it was more of a demand than a question. all i could answer was "that's what it's like in the Philippines."

it's going to be a long day.