Music

The 7 Best OPM Albums of 2018

The jewels in the rough.
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I’ll say it: 2018 was not the best year for original Pilipino music (OPM). There’s good music out there, for sure, but like an explorer hacking his way through dense jungle, you need to go out and work to find them. Which is weird because, with streaming apps like Spotify and Apple Music, discovering new music is easier now than it’s ever been. 

I could be wrong, but there weren’t a whole lot of albums released locally this year. Whether it’s because of the vastly different music landscape these days or artists just aren’t interested in the format anymore, who knows. Still, there are noteworthy releases from Pinoy artists that not only bucked the trend but are actually quite good. Here are my picks for the year’s best OPM albums, in no particular order:

1| Cynthia Alexander - Even Such is Time 

Madame Cynthia left the country for a few years because, in her own words, she “fell in love.” But the grand priestess of lovely, high concept music came back earlier this year to gift us with this gem of an album. The seven-song EP hearkens to the best of Tori Amos and Aimee Mann—the kind of moody, atmospheric sounds that soothes and uplifts. The arrangements are sparse and the lyrics thought-provoking (consider “St. Cecilia”), but as a whole, it’s a body of work that finishes much too soon. 

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2| Runway Crimes - Familiarity

There are those who might claim that the boys of Runway Crimes are a bit late—like 15 years too late. Listening to Familiarity, it’s not hard to imagine the band fitting in with the emo scene of the 2000s. But maybe there’s value in the fact that it’s taken them this long to come up with their debut album. Confident and strangely hypnotic (“2600” is a standout), Familiarity will no doubt make its way into the soundtracks and playlists of many a teenager today. 

3| tide/edit - All My Friends 

“Wordless sound poems” is how Ross from the TV show Friends calls his “music” (if you can even call it that). I daresay that description fits in more with tide/edit’s work. The Filipino quartet came out with All My Friends this year and it’s tough to think of a more accomplished, fully realized work from a purely instrumental group, the last track that features vocals from Dee Cruz notwithstanding. (Tom’s Story didn’t come out with an album this year, did they?) I appreciate the addition of other elements in the songs, such as handclaps and what sounds like actual waves on “Lakeshore.” Mogwai who? (Kidding. Mogwai are legends).

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4| Unique - Grandma

If you still haven’t listened to this triumph of an album, go open up Spotify or wherever you get your music and stream it pronto. There’s so much wisdom, so much compassion, so much life in this album it’s almost unbelievable that the man who made it is only 18 years old. But the ex-member of IV of Spades will be the first to tell you that age ain’t got nothing to do with it. When you’ve got it, you’ve got it, and this kid has got it in, well, spades. 

5| Apartel - Full Flood 

You think we’ve seen everything we can from Ely Buendia and then he goes and gives us this album. The ex-Eraserheads frontman now fronts funk-soul band Apartel, where his main job is to strap us onto a time machine and takes us back to a time when music was groovy and cool. You can practically see the bell bottoms, wild hair, platform shoes, and disco balls throughout the album, particularly in tracks like “Pateros” and “See it to Believe.” Finger-snapping, head-bopping, and booty-shaking, Full Flood is the “throwback” album you never knew you needed.

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6| Franco - Flight 

Franco didn’t so much break into the scene as much as they demolished it back in 2010. Their self-titled debut ushered in the age of Franco—unhinged, unadulterated, unapologetic rock. Two albums and a major lineup change later, the band’s still at it. Flight soars as a decidedly loud and brash record, with in-your-face crests (“Best I Ever,” “Breaking for the Weekend”) and subtler valleys (“Aurora Sunrise,” “Goodbye, Goodnight”). There are traces of late 90s, early 2000s college/alternative rock, particularly with frontman Franco Reyes’s self-assured vocals, but make no mistake, it’s still Franco in all their fist-pumping, chest-thumping glory.

7| One Click Straight - The Midnight Emotion 

It’s hard to deny the influence of “now” bands like The 1975 and LANY, especially when you see and feel their specter in local groups. Unlike second-rate copycats though, One Click Straight does things right. The Midnight Emotion is the kind of record you can put on before a night out on the town, or even on the drive there. They’re not strikingly original, but the songs offer a somewhat fresh, modern take on current pop-rock sounds. With a debut album this good, I look forward to hearing what the band can offer on their next album.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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