October Music Review: Zack Tabudlo, Ben&Ben and other newsmakers in the local music scene

Pinoy music makers continue to shine this month through their new releases and collaborations.

Zack Tabudlo delivers romantic earnestness on new song “Ba’t Ganto Ang Pag-ibig”

It’s interesting to think how infatuation can bloom into something divinely romantic, yet difficult to articulate. But in Zack Tabudlo’s universe, expressing one’s affection is better delivered in stripped-down, guitar-pop music—as if he knows that a way to someone’s heart is a sweet, melodic chorus and a soaring instrumentation. 

Released ahead of his highly anticipated debut album, Episode, Zack Tabudlo’s new single “Ba’t Ganto Ang Pag-ibig” proves that he’s a troubadour of unrequited love songs. It captures the conflicting emotions that people of all ages could relate to. But most importantly, it’s a song that bursts with earnest sentimentality.

According to Zack himself, “Ba’t Ganto Ang Pag-ibig” is about someone you like, but is admired by a lot of people. “You don’t know if you stand a chance to everyone else, but you genuinely just want the person to be happy,” the young hitmakers shares in a statement. “You will always be the one call away for that person no matter what.”

With acoustic guitars and subtle, meditative arrangements shaping the tune into a laid-back and bittersweet affair, Zack knows how to work his charm with a deceptively simple tune. He questions his love for the other person, yet at the end of it all, he’s just trying to muster the courage to confess and open up his feelings no matter the consequences.

“I want the audience to feel that they’re not alone with what they feel for someone they admire,” Zack explains. “It’s hard to confess feelings, and with this song, they can lean towards it and maybe help with their confidence or help with what they feel.”

Like his other material, “Ba’t Ganto Ang Pag-ibig” is written, composed, produced, mixed, and mastered by Zack Tabudlo. Zack points out, “it has a very laid-back feel to it lyrics wise or production wise. It’s something that a lot of people would just vibe to.”

Zack Tabudlo’s “Ba’t Ganto Ang Pag-ibig” is out now on all streaming platforms worldwide via Island Records Philippines and MCA Music Inc.

Ben&Ben team up with Taiwanese Mandopop star WeiBird on dreamlike track “Cheap Love”

2021 has been a massive year for Filipino folk-pop collective Ben&Ben in terms of commercial and critical success. Their sophomore album, Pebble House, Vol. 1: Kuwaderno has earned glowing praises from reputable music critics and publications in the Philippines and Asia, with Rick Olivares of ABS-CBN News calling it a “brilliant masterpiece” and Paul John Caña of Esquire Philippines pointing out its vital role in establishing the band as the “pre-eminent artist of their generation.” In less than two months, Ben&Ben’s recently released album has surpassed more than 30 million streams on Spotify alone—a groundbreaking feat that attests to the group’s universal appeal and enduring impact for nearly an entire decade.

After achieving records in both streaming and digital sales and sending their songs to the top of the music charts, Ben&Ben are determined to put their work on the global music map with the release of “Cheap Love,” a new collaborative single with acclaimed and best-selling Taiwanese singer-songwriter WeiBird.

Epitomizing the moment when dawn shows its first light, “Cheap Love” is the sonic equivalent of wandering between a dreamlike state and an awakened mind throughout the night. It’s about the journey of finding a long, lasting love after having experienced so much pain in the past. According to William Wei, known professionally as WeiBird, the title of the song is a play on words, and nothing more than just faint bliss and ecstasy. “It’s a temporary band-aid for a big gushing wound, but it never fills the hole inside. Moreover, it increases the feeling of emptiness. What I’m trying to say is, you can’t bargain your way into love. Love is truly hard to find.”

Ben&Ben interprets the material in the same manner as WeiBird does, aware of the reality that comes with seeking genuine love in the direst of situations. “With the chorus repeating over and over how difficult it is to find a ‘rhyme better than you and I,’ it shows how drawn and enamored we are by the idea of love but oftentimes find ourselves in a pit when trying to really make it something more.”

With its stripped-down instrumentation embracing listeners with a sense of comforting warmth, “Cheap Love” expresses the woes and triumphs of a generation caught up in romantic longing and desire. The listening experience is made more compelling by the vocal harmonies of Paolo Benjamin and Miguel Benjamin, and the earnest delivery of WeiBird, making the audience feel more hopeful than ever despite the uncertainty of the present conditions. 

“We’re grateful that by just being our authentic selves musically, we were able to add to the song both in production, vocals, and instrumentation something that WeiBird seemed to be happy with,” the nine-piece group shares in a statement. “We took an active role in building on the magic that the song already had, and we’re happy with how it turned out.”

The song was written and produced by WeiBird himself, with co-production and mixing duties by frequent collaborators Aven Tsai and Sean Sinclair. The Mandopop and folk-pop star explains that Ben&Ben also pitched in ideas for the arrangement and music side of things, resulting into a more polished, sonically impressive output that showcases the best of both worlds. 

WeiBird adds, “I wrote, played and produced the whole song on the album version. However, for this collab I haven’t had to do much because Ben&Ben was amazing. I remember listening to a demo of them playing along to my original track, and I could already imagine how it would come to be later. And the final results were not far from my imagination. It was awesome.”

“Cheap Love” is the first single off WeiBird’s first official English album. It follows the success of his fifth studio album, Sounds Of My Life, which peaked at No.1 on Taiwanese album charts in 2020, and received four nominations at the 32nd Golden Melody Awards, including Album of the Year and Best Mandarin Album. The track also serves as the second international collaboration of Ben&Ben after “Leaves,” featuring K-pop star Young K. 

“Cheap Love” is out now on all digital music platforms via Sony Music Taiwan.

BLASTER joins Island Records Philippines, releases Japanese version of new song “DISKO FOREVER”

Promising newcomer BLASTER has recently joined the esteemed roster of Island Records Philippines, a domestic label division under UMG Philippines, which is dedicated to helping the best musical talent from the Philippines to achieve local success, whilst reaching new audiences worldwide.

The lead guitarist and occasional vocalist of award-winning band, IV of Spades will be part of an internationally renowned label that includes some of the most exciting and future-forward artists in the country such as Zack Tabudlo, Juan Karlos, Over October, Fern., and dia mate.

A&R Manager and Label Head of Island Records Philippines Bel Certeza recently expressed interest in working with BLASTER on upcoming releases that will showcase the multi-hyphenate’s core strength as both an artist and an innovator. “Island Records Philippines is looking forward to help and guide BLASTER to where he wants to take his music and vision as an artist. Releasing a body of work is in the pipeline but it’s not yet final as we’d also like to learn with him and his audience as we go along.”

Certeza, who used to be the former Road Manager of IV of Spades, pitched the idea to BLASTER with the intention to understand where he is now as an artist and where he wants to go moving forward. After hearing what Blaster has in mind, she immediately presented how Island Records Philippines can help bring his vision to reality. “After a series of long Zoom calls with MCA Music Managing Director Enzo Valdez, we were able to come up with a deal that caters to BLASTER’s integrity as an artist but also something that would make sense to the label,” Bel shares. “And now here we are.”

On the heels of the official signing is the release of “DISKO FOREVER (Japanese version),” a retro-modern bop that blends Manila Sound with bedroom electronica and avant-pop influences. Sung completely in Japanese, the new iteration serves as a warm-up track to the Tagalog version, which the young Filipino artist will be releasing soon. 

With its groovy rhythms, art-rock guitars, and eclectic arrangements, the genre-averse jam takes you back to the dance floor in a time that doesn’t allow communal gathering. The delightfully bittersweet track also doubles as a tribute to the golden era of Pinoy pop music, and is reimagined for a new generation of listeners to enjoy.

BLASTER’s “DISKO FOREVER” is out now on all streaming platforms worldwide via Island Records Philippines and MCA Music Inc.

Nobody’s Home hits the road in the music video of Ely Buendia-produced “Cigarette Daydreams”

Filipino alternative rock trio Nobody’s Home has released the official music video of their new single “Cigarette Daydreams”—a cover of Cage The Elephant’s chart-topping hit in 2014.

Directed by Ysa Aranda of Swimming Pictures, the clip features the promising trio on a random road trip, performing in front of a warehouse and running away from reality “to find peace of mind,” as the lyrics suggest.

As for the concept behind the music video, Aranda shares that it’s derived from her own personal experience, particularly the feeling of comfort that driving brings. “I had to go for a drive and dream scenarios that would resonate to the song itself. Aside from the lyrics of the song, driving has helped me cope specially in these trying times, hence the driving scenes present in the MV.”

Aranda’s take on “Cigarette Daydreams” is inspired by the visual narrative of Jóhann Jóhannsson’s End Of Summer, a short film that serves as a document of a calm scenery in “one of the most crucial and endangered areas of our planet.”

Paying homage and making it their own

The song was produced by Nobody’s Home and Ely Buendia, and its overall treatment maintains the melodic charm of the original, while incorporating ‘90s-sounding guitar-rock affair, candied pop hooks, and pulsating synths to the mix.

“Generally, we wanted to pay respects and keep the original vibe of the song,” Frontman and principal songwriter Eon Buendia explains. “We stuck to that nostalgic acoustic feeling for the verses while making it simpler in terms of instrumentals. But when it came to the choruses, that’s where we changed the vibe from the original’s lighter feeling to a darker and synth-y tone that is more akin to the sound of the band.”

Nobody’s Home strikes a balance between paying homage to the song and making it their own—a task that they supremely aced with conviction and confidence. “The main idea we had was that the verses would be simple and we wouldn’t add much to it in order to keep the spirit of the original, and then the choruses would be where we came in and do our thing,” Eon shares in a statement. “And then we put elements that we usually use when producing our personal tracks such as vocal layering, synthesizers, and lead guitar lines.”

Production notes

The track’s producer, Ely Buendia, also commends the alt-rock outfit’s dedication in upping the ante of their version, while retaining the song’s feel-good catharsis in the process. “I just trusted the boys’ musical instincts, knowing that their own personal preferences would make sure that this will not be a note for note translation.” 

In terms of production, Ely points out, “we at least wanted the production to be gritty yet polished, if at all possible, to honor the vibe of the original.”
Nobody’s Home’s version of Cage The Elephant’s “Cigarette Daydreams” is out now on all digital music platforms worldwide via Sony Music Philippines.

of Mercury navigates new phase in music journey with two-track release, CHANGIN’ vol. 1

of Mercury, formerly known as Nathan & Mercury, marks a new chapter in their music journey with the release of their two-track volume, CHANGIN’ Vol. 1—out today via Sony Music Philippines.

The dual release, which features the songs “I’M FINE” and “HEAVEN ON EARTH,” finds the band pushing their sound to an unexpected direction and displaying remarkable consistency in terms of musicality and songwriting. “Think of this release as a re-introduction to us,” of Mercury explains. “This release is a statement from us that we’re growing, we’re changing: a foretaste of what the album is going to be.”

Gleaming with funkier, hip-hop-leaning sounds and edgy production techniques, both tracks assert something that has been proven from the early stages of their career: they’re technically impressive as musicians, but they never let the stylistic explorations get in the way of their soulful, confessional storytelling. 

Focus track “I’M FINE” is a tangible proof of the band’s insistence to write songs that come from a place of earnestness. According to of Mercury, it’s a song about moving on and picking one’s self up from all the internal brokenness, even after being betrayed by someone who used to be important. “It was one of the biggest heartbreaks we’ve ever witnessed as a band,” the Fake Love act shares in a statement. “When we wrote this, we had this realization that we’re actually fine now and we don’t really care about the people that hurt us already.”

The song was written, arranged, and produced by of Mercury with no general idea of how it’s going to come out. While it sounds polished with the right balance of organized dissonance and pop sensibility, “I’M FINE” is one of the those tracks that didn’t really have a direction or a goal, but all the sonic elements blend together seamlessly to create something that is familiar yet uniquely of Mercury. 

“The writing was fine because we knew where to pull from, but when we got into the production, we couldn’t think of how we wanted this to sound sonically,” of Mercury admits. “We have to start from somewhere, so we randomly thought a bunch of elements onto the song, and continued throwing ideas with no pegs, no direction, whatsoever. This is the same reason why we’re starting off with this track, it was really an unknown space for us and we’re just really happy we were able to pull it off, and that everyone genuinely enjoyed this process.”

of Mercury’s new single “I’M FINE” also features Michael Flores a.k.a. Filipino rapper Hijo, who in turn, spat bars with incredible range and energy. “Hijo had a great sense of how to work with others and how to keep the vibe relaxed and fun,” says the alternative quartet. “Working with Hijo reflected how much we enjoy working with others, especially when we get the ball rolling. Everyone just bounces off each other’s ideas, expressions, opinions. It’s where we all do our best; it’s a great feeling to have with everyone.”

This particular project also marks a reunion with former bandmate Karlo Maglasang (knōwmaad) who used to play bass for the band. “To have him around after not working together for a while really brought a different view on what we were doing. We also felt like, it’s as if he never left at all. Everything felt natural and everyone was on the same wavelength.”

A music video for “I’M FINE” will be released soon.

“I’M FINE” and “HEAVEN ON EARTH” are part of the two-track volume, CHANGIN’ Vol. 1, which serves as a reintroduction of a ‘new’ old band who have found themselves reconnecting for the same goals, despite having difficulties in compromising from the beginning of their journey. By changing their moniker to of Mercury, the acclaimed quartet is ready to start a new milestone in music and get things together with a common set of values. 

In a statement posted across social networking platforms, the band cited their creative and personal disagreements as the two main reasons of the initial fallout, which caused the hiatus. At some point, the band decided to take a step back, work on their differences internally, and restart anew under a name that they feel would represent them better as artists. 

“The name (of Mercury) change brought a sense of unity within us, and we didn’t want to be exclusive about it,” of Mercury shares. “Yes, we’re part of this, but we want the people we get to work with and those who support this thing we’re doing to have a certain position to say that they are a part ‘of Mercury.’ It’s all about the bigger picture.”

of Mercury’s CHANGIN’ Vol. 1 is out now on all digital music platforms worldwide via Sony Music Philippines. 

UE Jam Sessions encourage the youth to rock the vote with inspiring new anthem “Pinto”

Promising newcomers COSINE, Shareena, and Autumn Tandog team up for a song that encourages the general public to vote for competent candidates who are willing to take a stand on important social issues and make a significant change.

On the rousing anthem “Pinto,” the artists from UE Jam Sessions call for effective leadership and urge their fellow countrymen, particularly the young ones, to exercise their right to vote. 

According to its main songwriter Shareena, who also lend her smooth and smoky vocals on the track, “Pinto” is penned from the perspective of someone convincing the youth to take complete ownership of their destiny and elect someone who cares about welfare of its people.

“By describing what the outside world looks like in a cruel reality, with the struggles of the people who are always overlooked, the character puts the kid in a dilemma of choosing between taking responsibility for making a change and having these people who have been knocking on his door forsaken and left behind,” the 17-year-old singer-songwriter shares the meaning behind their new track. “Hinihintay ka na nila,” which means ‘they are waiting for you,’ serves as a reminder that their fate, like yours, is now completely in your control. It is your job to decide and select the finest alternative in this regard. That’s how Pinto was made to be remembered: a song that knocks on everyone’s doors of perceptions, obliging them to make a move.”

With its gothic, bluesy nature and brassy confidence, “Pinto” delivers an unconventional sound by pop standards. Shareena and Autumn Tandog put their ethereal spin on the material, singing as if they’re witnessing history unfold. Paolo Barrado and Marvin Cayosa’s intricate arrangements, on the other hand, turn the retro-inspired, musical motif into a modern torch tune inspired by the likes of Bita and the Botflies and Lana del Rey. 

COSINE’s Marvin Cayosa shares that despite limitations that took place during the pandemic, the producers were able to improvise, and the artists were able to record separately from their respective homes. “Given that we are in a pandemic, it’s been challenging for us to record because we are far apart. When I received the demo that Shareena gave to us, I started working on it right away. With the lack of equipment and hours of trial and error in recording my part, we still managed to pull it off.”

“Pinto” is one of the new music projects spearheaded by UE Jam Sessions, with 12 Stone Records’ Tommy Tanchanco and SSG President Nexie Joy Salvador serving as Executive Producers, and Choi Felipe mixing and mastering the entire track. The music video for the track is edited by Cher Manulit.

Pinto” is out now on all digital music platforms worldwide such as Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer.

Sony Music Philippines Launches New Christian label ‘WATERWALK RECORDS’

Sony Music Philippines today announced the launch of WATERWALK RECORDS, a music label focused on bringing fresh Christian music to a new, streaming generation. The label will feature faith-based entertainment artists from across the length and breadth of the country, who represent the best of Christian music combined with their own unique styles.

“In the Philippines, Christian music emerges from daily life and is a reflection of the country’s rich culture,” said Roslyn Pineda, General Manager, Sony Music Philippines. “Pop music inspired by Christian melodies has arguably created some of the most interesting music in recent years. It’s a diverse genre full of talented artists who use faith as a regular way of connecting with people. WATERWALK RECORDS has huge opportunities to grow as we work with talented artists such as Morissette, Gloryfall and Hazel Faith and others to bring their music to fans all across Asia”.

“The Philippines is a musically rich country, well known for showcasing the best of Christian music in Southeast Asia,” said Ariel Fung, EVP, Sony Music Southeast Asia. “With WATERWALK RECORDS, our vision is to create a hub for Christian music in Asia that serves artists and writers who are creating ground-breaking music and impacting the lives of millions. Our stellar line up of artists we’re working with is just the start of helping us achieve that vision, representing the very best of local and regional talent.”

The artist, Morissette, popularly referred to as “Asia’s Phoenix”, will release the label’s first single, Waterwalk” on 28 October. “Mapayapa” — a collaboration between Christian worship band Gloryfall and singer/songwriter Hazel Faith– will be released on 30 October.

“I am thrilled to be taking part in Sony Music‘s new Christian label and get to share, and sing, of the word of God and all His great works,“ added Morissette. “ It’s only been a couple of years since I’ve made the decision to really follow Jesus and one thing I can really attest to is that we just need to trust Him in everything. I’ve been through some very challenging times too especially during this season, but it’s His grace that saves me and keeps me going, His love that comforts and protects me, and His promise that I will always keep in my heart. The track “Waterwalk” portrays all of that, and a reminder that what He has done for His people then, He will also do for His people now, we need only to anchor on to Him.”

Rapper/actor Jericho Arceo and Stell of SB19, will also release a joint singleArceo is well known for creating viral videos on social media and being a member of the cast for the show The World Between Us, while Stell who is a part of SB19, one of the most popular P-pop groups in the Philippines, is embarking on his first solo venture through this collaboration.

In another first, Nathan Huang from the band ‘of Mercury’ (formerly known as Nathan & Mercury) will also have his first solo venture through the label and will collaborate with Darla Baltazar, who was recently featured as one of the 16 Artists to Watch on the international website The Gospel Coalition.

Janine Danielle, a worship leader from Favor Church, will be singing a track penned and produced by one of Spotify’s most followed Filipino artists Moira Dela Torre, and Moira’s frequent collaborator and husband, Jason Hernandez. The lineup also includes singles from beloved worship leaders from various churches in the Philippines: Lee Simon Brown (from Victory Worship), Cola Cabalcar, Kent Charcos, Cherise Katriel, and Sam&Steff.

To showcase the richness of the region, WATERWALK RECORDS will also release a single from Ariel Tsai, a popular Taiwanese singer/songwriter, pianist, and YouTuber signed under Sony Music Taiwan.

The 12 tracks from WATERWALK RECORDS are expected to be released within this year.

syd hartha reflects complicated attitude towards love and relationships on folk-pop single “kung nag-aatubili”

Filipino singer-songwriter syd hartha returns to her roots on the stripped-down single “kung nag-aatubili.” 

The folk-pop tune will be part of her upcoming 5-track EP to be released in the first quarter of 2022, and serves as her first original material for 2021 after contributing vocals for Tokimeki Records’ city pop-inspired “Carnival” and participating in Coke Studio Season 4.

According to the 19-year-old artist, “kung nag-aatubili” reflects her complicated attitude towards romantic relationships and intimacy, which stemmed from the traumatic experiences that she endured during her younger years.

“I wrote this song a long time ago when I realized that I was starting to like someone, and I was already starting to let that person in my world, little by little,” syd admits. “Back then it just didn’t feel right, and I feared the idea of getting to know me deeply and everything I’ve become. Looking at it in the present, I figured that these feelings are a by-product of the inner wounds, and my inability to move forward from the things that happened in the past. This also serves as an important lesson to me, that when I decide to commit to love someone, I should love them for who they are now, and accept them for what they’ve been through.”

Dialing back her sound to its bare essentials without sacrificing her newfound maturity in songwriting, syd hartha has penned another understatedly beautiful track that feels more introspective than her usual confessional entries. 

Marked by warm, laid-back guitar arrangements and soothing vocals, “kung nag-aatubili” starts restrained but assured of its exquisiteness, and builds into a musical wanderlust towards the end. In terms of production, her goal is to make it as raw and intimate as possible, arriving with the promise of a home—strong, unapologetic, but comfortable in her own shedding.

The song will be accompanied by a music video slated to be released in the coming weeks. The visual treatment is conceptualized by syd herself, who in turn, wants to make the storytelling mirror her personal truths. “For this music video, Swimming Pictures helped me execute my own ideas and it was amazing working with them,” says the folk-pop act.kung nag-aatubili” is out now on all digital music platforms worldwide via Sony Music Philippines

Details provided by recording companies through press releases.

Header photo created by rawpixel.com – www.freepik.com

Author: Gel Jose

Manic Pixie Dream Girl Wannabe, Imagineer, Foodie, TV Addict and Lifelong Learner

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: