Worth a listen: January 2021 in Music

The local and international music scene continues to evolve and thrive despite the limitations resulting from the global pandemic. In this post, I have listed the hottest news in music for the first month of 2021 for you music lovers to enjoy.

In 2020, Bryan Estepa released two new songs, continuing on from the success of his exceptional 2019 album Sometimes I Just Don’t Know. The second of those singles, ‘Admit Now, Pay Later’, received a video premiere on Rolling Stone Australia, was featured on NME Australia and had strong national radio airplay – including selection as one of the featured Singles of the Week on 2ser FM in Sydney. Now the Sydney-based Filipino songwriter reveals the second of his collaborative efforts with multi ARIA and APRA award-winning Australian songwriter Josh Pyke.

Estepa has always had an undeniable ear for hooks. Combined with classic pop and rock arrangements, (like his heroes You Am I, The Beatles and Wilco) his songs always possess a timeless quality. He’s proved it over and over again across six acclaimed albums and live shows in Australia, Japan, the USA, UK, Spain, Sweden and the Philippines.  

On ‘Trick of the Light’, Estepa combines heavenly melodies and a melancholic air on this irresistible slice of indie guitar pop, singing about acceptance, letting go and allowing yourself to feel whatever it is that comes out while you’re treading new waters. As always with his songwriting, there are layered poetic brushstrokes in the way Estepa blends and informs his songs with multiple meanings, as he explains. “I also like the idea that the presence of light does not necessarily signal happiness or life but can also mean that emotions and perception can be blurred by its appearance.”

Working with Pyke, Estepa was impressed with the producer’s instinct and ability to enhance the inherent strengths of Estepa’s songs. “It’s exciting watching Josh work! You sense that his creative light is always on and he needs to get his ideas out quickly before it starts to flicker. He takes on what I think the song’s direction might be but adds a couple of detours that are normally right on the money.”

Pyke is quick to reciprocate the praise. “Bryan’s a great writer and collaborator. He’s got a classic pop sensibility but is really open to feedback and experimentation which made my job as producer really fun and free.”

Sonically, there’s a beautiful weightlessness to the production and instrumentation that gracefully carries the song. Guitars sparkle and lightly jangle amid some sublime piano, backing vocals and percussive elements that add unique detailing to the melodic richness of the track.  

ZAYN scores another No.1 album in the Philippines with ‘Nobody Is Listening’

January 2021 in Music

ZAYN’s third studio release Nobody is Listening makes history once again as it debuts at No. 1 on iTunes Philippines Top 100 albums chart a few hours after its release. Co-written by ZAYN, the project highlights his R&B influences and showcases deeply personal lyrics. Nobody is Listening sees ZAYN in complete creative control, from designing the album cover art to his sound, he has created a moment in music that is all his own.

The album contains the previously released singles “Vibez” and “Better,” both of which were embraced by fans and critics alike, with Wonderland proclaiming ZAYN was here to “save 2021” with the release of “Vibez” and Billboard calling “Better” a “straightforward R&B track, expressing love in spite of disagreement and designed to showcase one of the most skilled voices in modern pop.” The latter single has accrued over 105 million streams across all platforms, and upon release the video received a half a million views in the first 10 minutes.

ZAYN’s critically acclaimed debut album Mind of Mine saw him become the first male solo artist in the world to simultaneously chart at #1 on the UK and US album charts in the first week of release. The album’s lead single “Pillowtalk” hit #1 in 68 countries around the world and was recently included in Billboard’s “Songs That Defined the Decade” list.

His follow up, Icarus Falls, captivated fans and garnered over 5 billion worldwide streams across all platforms in less than a year, a staggering feat for any artist. Alongside his solo success, ZAYN has also collaborated with a variety of artists, including Taylor Swift and SIA and most recently lent his vocals on “Trampoline” with Shaed, which received an iHeart Music Award for “Best Remix.” Alongside building a reputation as a world class music artist, ZAYN has become one of music’s biggest fashion icons. He has graced the cover of every major magazine from Highsnobiety to Vogue. In addition to being named “Most Stylish Man” at the GQ Man of the Year awards, he also was awarded “New Artist of the Year” at the American Music Awards and “Top New Artist” at the Billboard Music Awards. Nobody is Listening was released via RCA Records.

American recording star MAX and SUGA of BTS drops a star-studded remix of “Blueberry Eyes,” feat. Lil Mosey and Olivia O’Brien

After the global success of their maiden collab smash, Acclaimed pop sensation MAX and SUGA of BTS are committed to redefining the top 40 landscape with the release of “Blueberry Eyes” remix, featuring breakthrough hip-hop star Lil Mosey and singer-songwriter Olivia O’Brien.

“Having Lil Mosey, the mastermind behind ‘Blueberry Faygo,’ add his story to ‘Blueberry Eyes’ felt too iconic not to create the ultimate blueberry hit song,” said MAX. “The cherry on top is getting to add the legendary voice of my friend Olivia O’Brien. I’m so excited for this final chapter of ‘Blueberry Eyes’ with my brother SUGA and honored to work with all of these incredible artists on this new version of the song.”

On the day of its release, MAX and Suga were featured on the cover of Apple Music’s New Music Daily playlist and the song went No.1 on iTunes in 66 countries as well as trended No. 1 worldwide on Twitter and No.1 on YouTube’s Video Hot List. “Blueberry Eyes” has also been featured on several of Spotify’s coveted playlists including Today’s Top Hits, Pop Rising and Mood Booster, to name but a few.

The song follows the release of MAX’s “Blueberry Eyes” feat. SUGA of BTS [Steve Aoki Remix], which has more than 5 million global streams and 2 million views on YouTube.

MAX has been labelled a “Young Pop God” by GQ and named a “top popstar to watch” by Billboard. Since the breakout success of his debut album ‘Hell’s Kitchen Angel’, he has garnered more than 1.2 billion streams and toured the world multiple times over. He yielded an inescapable smash with his 3x platinum hit “Lights Down Low,” which generated over half a billion streams globally, soared on the Billboard Hot 100, reached No. 7 at Top 40 radio and earned him an iHeartRadio Music Awards nomination for “Best New Pop Artist.” Most recently, MAX released his sophomore album ‘Colour Vision’ featuring his current single “Blueberry Eyes” feat. SUGA of BTS.

Ritt Momney’s “Put Your Records On,” now a hit in the Philippines!

Ritt Momney’s rework of Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On” is now a certified smash in the Philippines. The sleeper hit that catapulted the 21-year-old producer and singer-songwriter into global fame, has now reached a top 10 peak on Spotify Philippines’ Top 50 this week, and continues to impact mainstream radio stations such as Monster RX 93.1 (No. 8), 99.5 Play FM (No. 8), and more.

Jack Rutter, the man behind the Salt Lake City-based music project, is amazed by the attention that his take on the 2006 classic is receiving. “I didn’t expect the cover to be anything more than a fun little release in between albums,” he shares in a statement. “I was super surprised to see it taking off on TikTok. It’s been the coolest thing ever to see people from other countries enjoying it.”
The hip-hop-flavored, electro pop tune initially gained significant traction via online video platform, TikTok before it blew up on several music markets worldwide, including a top 10 placement on Australia and New Zealand’s official charts, and a No. 1 peak on Spotify US and Global Viral 50 charts late last year.

Released a few weeks ago, its music video finds Jack Rutter “imagining himself as a future pop star stuck in a psychedelic dreamscape.”

Ritt Momney’s version stays truthful to the pop sensibility of Corinne Bailey Rae’s hit record, but his trademark lo-fi production somehow gives the track a fresh, contemporary spin. “I really didn’t change much, and I think it’s really important to remember that what makes it good is the songwriting that Corinne and her co-writers did on the track,” says the multi-talented crossover act. “I may have modernized it a bit, but I hope people don’t give me too much credit for that.”

Corinne Bailey Rae, the original artist behind the soulful track, gave Ritt Momney her blessing in an intimate Zoom chat sometime last year. Like Ritt Momney, her original version became a huge hit when it first came out, peaking at No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart, and becoming a staple in several singing shows across the globe.

Details and images were provided in recent press releases.

Ben&Ben music video of KathNiel-starrer “Sa Susunod na Habang Buhay”

“What if every time one dies, they go back to their first date with one of them carrying memories from their previous run?”

Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla stars as a romantic couple stuck in a time loop in the new music video for Ben&Ben’s “Sa Susunod na Habang Buhay.”
Helmed by the band’s resident director Jorel Lising and written by Gaya Sa Pelikula creator Juan Miguel Severo, the song’s visual narrative explores the complicated relationship dynamics of two lovers who have lost and found each other in a fated cycle of events.

Complicated love in a time loop

Severo reveals that “Sa Susunod na Habang Buhay,” a song that deals with the “possibility of another life to succeed in love,” complements the KathNiel starrer that he has in mind. Having written Hintayan ng Langit, an evocative piece that examines eternal romance in the afterlife, Severo decided to do away with another reincarnation story for his interpretation of the material.

“Then it hit me, what about a couple stuck in a time loop?”, the prolific writer points out. “What if every time one dies, they go back to their first date with one of them carrying memories from their previous run? It took the band, Direk, and I a couple of zoom calls, brainstorming ideas to compound on that concept and get everything laid out before I presented it to KathNiel.”

Severo’s writing lends to a beautifully understated film that allows KathNiel to tackle their role with nuanced sensitivity and depth. To make it more impactful on screen, music video director Jorel Lising makes use of non-liner, fragmented storytelling as a way to capture the couple’s memories in its undiluted form. Lising adds, “It all comes from the content of the song – it’s a strong piece that speaks about love lost and an intense sense of longing, so the process of developing the treatment and Severo’s script came from that. The challenge for us was to maximize the emotion based on that kind of narrative.”

Working with KathNiel

According to the band’s co-vocalist and acoustic guitarist Miguel Benjamin, the journey behind the music video was both a dream and a serendipitous sequence of events. “About two months ago, an interesting exchange came up while our keyboardist Patricia Lasaten was working on the music of Juan Miguel Severo’s Gaya Sa Pelikula,” says Miguel. “As a way of showing appreciation when we offered our song ‘Ride Home’ to the series, Juan Miguel graciously offered us in return to write a script for the ‘Sa Susunod Na Habang Buhay’ MV, and pitch it to KathNiel, as they are good friends. We pushed through, and to our surprise, they loved both the idea of working with all of us and the script. This was a big thing for us because we never expected that these great artists would be open to doing a music video with us, given their stature and busy schedules.”

Despite the time constraints, Lising didn’t experience difficulty working with one of the biggest love teams in recent memory. The nine-piece collective’s frequent collaborator recounts that he only has few adjustments for every take, thanks to KathNiel’s astounding professionalism and craft. “We didn’t have a whole lot of time with them, but they definitely possess star power quality on camera. Every frame we took of them has a strong presence that comes with lots of experience, especially since they’ve been acting for so long now.”

Image and details provided by Sony Music Philippines in a recent press release.

The Itchyworms brings festive cheer with “Have A Merry Christmas” and “Maligayang Pasko”

The Itchyworms keeps the holiday cheer going with the simultaneous release of two Christmas songs “Have A Merry Christmas” and “Maligayang Pasko.” In honoring the time-tested tradition of writing Yuletide-themed originals that are meant to bring people closer to home in feeling and essence, the pop-rock quartet is keen on uplifting our spirits during the pandemic.  

Drummer and lead vocalist Jazz Nicolas points out the important of Christmas songs in a very crucial time like this. “We need to be reminded of the joy and hope and the spirit of giving. It’s the time of year when the world falls in love, so it’s important to listen to Christmas songs all year round.” 

Kelvin Yu, the band’s bassist, echoes Nicolas’ sentiments. According to him, Christmas songs are those anchors in our lives that we can always expect to be there for us no matter what the situation is. “There will always be Christmas songs: during good times, it further uplifts us; and during not so good times, it can provide us with that warm hug that everyone needs come December,” Yu shares.

Have A Merry Christmas: A Modern Holiday Standard

According to lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Jugs Jugueta, “Have A Merry Christmas” is inspired by a meme featuring Jose Mari Chan, inarguably one of the most popular holiday tunesmiths ever. “When the Jose Mari Chan meme first came out, it was funny,” says Jugueta. “But then, people just do it every year and it becomes not as funny anymore. Anyway, one time I posted a challenge to my Facebook friends: instead of posting about Jose Mari Chan, why don’t you write your own Christmas song? ‘Have A Merry Christmas’ is an attempt to do so.”

Intricately arranged with Beatlesque pop harmonies, swoony string arrangements, and catchy, sing-along moments, “Have A Merry Christmas” fills the air with comforting message of joy and positivity. In describing the musical process behind the Christmas bop, Chino Singson, The Itchyworms’ guitarist, envisions a lush template in mind: “The melodies are definitely Britpop, and our classic shuffle a la Akin Ka Na Lang and Chocophotoland completes the aesthetic vibe.”

Written by Jugs Jugueta, “Have A Merry Christmas” is a “smorgasbord of Christmas tropes or cliches all rolled into one song.” Nicolas adds, “When you mix them all together, you get a song that pretty much says, Merry Christmas!”

Maligayang Pasko: A jazzy, tropical-infused jingle

Helmed and produced by Jazz Nicolas, “Maligayang Pasko” takes you back to the ‘70s and early ‘80s era: a laid-back, groovy tune that winks toward Manila Sound and city pop. It’s a nostalgic Hallmark anthem whose groove, to quote Nicolas, “is partly based on a latin or bossa nova beat, mixed with funky guitars.” 

The multi-instrumentalist member of The Itchyworms also add a little bit of camp experimentation in the mix in an attempt to highlight the band’s sense of musical adventurousness. Nicolas recalls, “I was very excited to use a combination of a vocoder, which is sort of a voice synthesizer and a text-to-speech type program to sing the chorus harmonies with us. I programmed three tracks of text-to-speech saying ‘mah lee guy young pass koh’ and tuned each them to sing in harmony.”

This organized chaos resulted into a Christmas song dipped in Tropicália and jazzy elements, and serves as an exploration into an unfamiliar sonic territory.

Both “Have A Merry Christmas” and “Maligayang Pasko” exude the timelessness of holiday songs, and its significance in bringing festive cheer to everyone, despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic. As Kelvin Yu puts it, “I feel that Christmas should still be celebrated this year, especially with the important people in your lives. This year has been tough on everyone, and has made us all appreciate our loved ones, and we can keep them close and celebrate life with them every day, and not only on Christmas.”

The Itchyworms’ “Have A Merry Christmas” and “Maligayang Pasko” are now available on all streaming platforms worldwide via Sony Music.

Image and details provided in a recent press release.

Melancholia as Universal Theme: PhilPop releases third batch of songs

PhilPop takes the competition to an entirely impressive scale with the official release of songs from the North Luzon clusters.

The latest batch balances compelling drama and introspection as it gravitates toward themes of unrequited love, romantic dissolution, and abusive relationships. Produced with professional polish and help from PhilPop, the newest selection includes “Paos,” composed by Angelic Mateo and interpreted by Keiko Necessario; “Balikan,” composed by Lolito Go and interpreted by Benj Manalo and the Collective; and “Agsardeng,” composed by TJ Paeldon and Abby Esteban, and interpreted by Miss Ramone.

Distributed by Warner Music Philippines, the homegrown songs are now available today, November 6, 2020 (Friday) on all digital and streaming platforms worldwide via PhilPop.

Paos: The beauty of unspoken emotions

Beautifully written with tenderness and warmth, “Paos” documents the repressed feelings of being tried and lost, but still wanting to be found. According to its composer Angelic Mateo, the song speaks about the aching truth in our everyday lives and the reality behind the unspoken emotions that reflect one’s bottom points. 

“This song is a way to remind people that everyone fights a unique battle.” Mateo explains  in a statement. “Moreover, it hopes to emphasize how people must not forget to genuinely understand what the other one is going through because reaching the bottom thorns and wanting to pause does not make a precious soul weak.”

The subtly produced track is interpreted by acclaimed singer-songwriter Keiko Necessario, who gave her own incredible spin on the serene pop ballad. Despite her own vocal inflection and stylistic take, Necessario remains faithful to the underlying message of the song, careful not enough to blur its intentions while owning the material with genuine understanding on what it’s all about. 

Balikan: a dissolution of romance

 “Balikan” is a post-breakup anthem that laments on the irreversibility of the past and mocks the prospects of reunion. According to composer Lolito Go, the song was inspired by his friend Jake Vargas’ split with actress Bea Binene. 

“I was challenged to write a song about it and that’s the time I wrote the first draft of Balikan,” the singer-songwriter shares. “The song revolved around a couple of lines I originally wrote 7 years ago for a popular ‘Hugot’ page on Facebook back when I was one of its content writers.”

The early iteration of “Balikan” leans on the acoustic ballad side, and was set to be performed by Jake Vargas. But after being selected as one of the fellows for PhilPop bootcamp, Go had a change of heart, and the song underwent changes in terms of how it was arranged and produced. The final version is reimagined by Benj Manalo and the Collective, whose Motown-inspired, funky feel deserves props.

Agsardeng: breaking the cycle of abuse

“Agsardeng” is an empowering song that tackles the breakage from the cycle of abusive relationships. According to Abby Esteban, one of the composers of the emotionally penned track, it follows the story of a person who is stuck in recurring domestic abuse, and finally decides to emancipate from its trappings to start anew. ”We wanted to write a socially relevant yet easily digestible pop song that could hopefully serve as a voice and inspiration to those who have survived and are still experiencing gender-based and domestic violence,” tells Esteban. “This is their story we are amplifying.”

Esteban and her co-composer TJ Paeldon used Ilocano and Filipino lyrics in its attempt to convey both the regional and global appeal of their entry, while catering to contemporary listening standards. Paeldon adds, “We are also aiming on promoting the Ilocano dialect mixed with our National language which is Filipino, for us it’s all about bridging the gap between Filipino and our Ilocano dialect so everyone can appreciate this song and also appreciate the beauty of the Ilocano language which makes a very large portion of the North Luzon cluster.”

As for the overall sound, Esteban and Paeldon are very particular with melding Ilocano native instruments with vintage-sounding synthesizers to recreate their version of a modern lullaby. Interpreter Miss Ramone adds her sultry and soulful take on the intricately nuanced jam, while making sure to keep up with the ambition of its sound design.

“Paos,” “Balikan,” and “Agsardeng” are are now available on streaming and digital platforms worldwide via PhilPop and Warner Music Philippines.

Image and details provided by Warner Music Philippines in a recent press release.

Them Bloody Royals dance the pain away on “We Children Of The Night”

Them Bloody Royals revisit the glory days of ‘80s synth pop with the release of their new song “We Children Of The Night.” Bringing effervescent joy back to the dance floor, the Filipino four-piece band’s new single struts confidently around pulse-pounding rhythms, sparkly synthesizers, and angular guitars in an effort to knock the walls down—at least for the entire party run.

Outside of its jagged spirit and blissful retro appeal, “We Children Of The Night” is more than just swagger and sweat; it’s an attempt to capture the feeling of losing one’s self in the moment, drunken and ready to dance the pain away. Lyrically, it showcases “the excitement of meeting new people, flirting with strangers, and having fun,” as vocalist Sib Sibulo puts it.  “The song dances around with the idea of falling love, the thrill of it, but also not wanting to fully commit to anything.”

Behind the incessant groove that repeatedly thumps on ‘We Children Of The Night” is a common sentiment shared by broken people trying to escape from their personal horrors. Sibulo has a better way to describe it: “You can be so broken and jaded with the idea of getting into serious relations, that you just wanna say, “fuck it, I just wanna have fun.” 

On the happy-sappy chorus, the lead singer even pleads, “Here we are / Wishing this night would never end / We fall in love, we fall apart,” as if finding refuge ephemeral romance would make you forget about your struggles in life and love. 

Production-wise, the song in general – the entirety of it – is the result of Them Bloody Royals’ attempt to reinvent and outdo their previous work. “We wanted to see if we could come up with a legitimate banger, and set a good pace for the next things down the pipeline,” Sibulo shares.

Written and produced by Them Bloody Royals, and recorded at Pointbee Multimedia, “We Children Of The Night” is out now on all streaming and digital platforms worldwide via Lilystars Records.

Image and details provided by Lilystars Records in a recent press release.

Filipina singer-songwriter Meagan Trees inhabits wisdom beyond years on “Take Me Away”

Meagan Trees has always brought an understated sense of spontaneity into her storytelling approach, leaving plenty of room for both personal awakening and introspection to take off and not miss a mark. On her latest single, “Take Me Away,” the Dumaguete-based singer-songwriter reflects on the importance of being vulnerable and taking risks—something that most of us aren’t willing to become.

Delicately produced and delivered with heart-stopping quietness, “Take Me Away” inhabits wisdom beyond years. There’s nothing messianic about it; no platitudes to feed the ego, and no gatekeeping of moral ascendancy to prove a point. What makes the song truly human is that it’s willing to embrace every bit of the experience—be it good or bad, and that there’s beauty in wanting to wake up your inner child and be open to possibilities, no matter where it takes you.

According to Meagan Trees, the song was based on a late night adventure with a friend. “We went to the beach at 3am and I thought that was such a cool, wholesome, happy experience which then led me to write ‘Take Me Away’ the next day,” the folk songstress shares.

In terms of the production details, “Take Me Away” doesn’t feel like an intuitive concept or a meticulous foray into sound design. “This song was pretty much free flowing,” Meagan Trees points out. “A few good friends, Simon and Jorbas, pitched in their ideas, I explained how I wanted this song to feel, and we came up with something very simple yet euphoric. My brother then added the guitar parts which I think made the song very youthful.”

Its impulsiveness birthed an ethereal folk ballad that’s lovingly spare but filled with emotional resonance, a song that values the ‘journey’ more than the destination itself.   

Meagan Trees’ “Take Me Away” is now available on all streaming and digital platforms worldwide via Lilystars Records.

Image and details provided in a recent press release.

Electro-pop band Dustybuns offers reassuring comfort on new single “Seasons”

Dustybuns, an electronic pop duo formed by Charles Baltazar and Jok Oloquina, has finally released their second single “Seasons”—out today on indie record label, Lilystars Records.

Expanding the eclectic pair’s sonic palette with delicate harmonies, bright keyboard tones, and subdued arrangements, “Seasons” delivers an effortless, almost slick sound pulled from vast music resources that range from indie pop to chillwave, electronic music to ‘80s pop.

Despite its incredible mélange of influences, the song remains confident in its delivery and intent. In fact, “Seasons” stands out as an anthem that offers reassuring comfort and warmth. It packs a punch, while also inspire listeners to stay strong even when the going gets rough. 

“The song is about being there for the people you care about no matter what, and reassuring that you’re never alone and there’s always someone out there ready to lend a hand when you need them,” Charles Baltazar shares.  

To date, Dustybuns is currently busy writing songs for their debut EP to be released soon. “We’re not yet sure if Seasons will be included in an EP, but we have some songs already made that will sit well along with it. We’ll just see when the time comes,” multi-instrumentalist Jok Oloquina says. 

Seasons” is available on digital and streaming platforms worldwide via Lilystars Records.

Kubra Commander debuts first official single “The Now” under Lilystars Records

Kubra Commander joins Lilystars Records’ impressive roster of music acts from the Philippines and beyond.

Prior to signing up with the indie record label, the Cebu-based psychedelic rock outfit has been making waves online since the release of their breakthrough track, “On Your Left,” which made it to CNN’s 8 New Local Releases for your Listening Pleasure and earned a glowing review from indie music website, Flying Lugaw.

Kubra Commander’s “The Now” lyric video

To mark their debut on Lilystars Records, the band has finally released their latest single “The Now”—a brooding, post-punk number about “gaining a new perspective on things through experience, and having an inclination to share the experience with other people in hopes that they can gain something new in return.”  

Propelled by Kubra Commander’s inherent brand of disaffected cool, “The Now” starts off strongly with glistening synths straight from the ‘80s pop playbook, and builds up into an anthemic chorus at a brisk pace. Music-wise, it sounds more indebted to the band’s post punk and new wave influences, as well as the escapist, modern indie rock anthems of music acts such as MGMT and Empire of The Sun.

“I believe the chiming synth riff was what nailed it for me, playing it over the chords and beat gave a danceable feel to the track which I really liked,” vocalist and guitarist Bobbi Olvido shares the details about the music arrangements. “Everything just followed through from that point. It’s the first song where in all the members we’re able to contribute in the recording process, and it was quite easy to have everyone be on the same page production-wise. I also wanted to try to play with the idea of singing all the verses first and having all the choruses after.”

“The Now” will be part of Kubra Commander’s upcoming new album, Rhythm Tourists to be released in 2021. 

Image and details provided by Lilystars Records in a recent press release.

The Geeks return with new single “The First Time”

After two years of not dropping any new material, indie pop quartet The Geeks are finally making a comeback with the release of their new single “The First Time”—out today via Lilystars Records.

Strumming its way comfortably into slacker and honeyed guitar pop territory, The Geek’s latest song rejects the notion of predictability by going vintage in aesthetic and function, while connecting on an emotional level with newfound grace. 

“Our new single in two years is an homage to local Filipino kundiman music – a tribute to a time when we still wrote letters and the internet was non-existent,” vocalist and guitarist Jam Lorenzo shares the inspiration behind their new song. “Partly inspired by the portrayal of young romance in Filipino period films, ‘The First Time’ discusses in vague detail the enduring cliché of being stood up on the eve of a planned elopement.”

With its subtly heartbreaking observations on a kind of love that’s a product of a different time and milieu, “The First Time” shines through more than ever with a sharper, more deeply layered turn in The Geeks’ songwriting style: its sense of defeat is more palpable, and the verses wreck when you’re least prepared. 

The Geeks’ “The First Time” is now available on all streaming and digital platforms worldwide.

Maris Racal shows her introspective side on new single “Not For Me”

Aside from making a name for herself as one of the breakout young actresses of her generation, Maris Racal has successfully dabbled in writing her own songs and challenging industry expectations with her intimate and refreshing take on pop music. From penning the chart-topping confessional “Ikaw Lang Sapat Na” to collaborating with Rico Blanco on the city pop-influenced ditty “Abot Langit,” Racal is surprisingly an effective chronicler of love anthems for the modern age—a guitar-toting songstress known for balancing commercial appeal with artistic integrity.

Bursting with youthful fervor and charismatic edge, Maris Racal’s latest single “Not For Me” stretches her introspective side of music-making to interesting places, while retaining the accessibility of her recent crossover hits. Her resounding confidence translates perfectly into the musical output, but it’s her conversational and matter-of-fact songwriting style that earns the stripes, revealing a degree of self-assuredness that comes with experience.

Inspired by Britpop acts such as Aqualung and folk-pop chanteuses like Lily Allen and Regina Spektor, Racal wrote “Not For Me” not so much for intriguing unconventionality, but as an outlet to express herself in a way that feels truthful and inherently raw. The driving piano chords and the soaring arrangements give her storytelling a more authentic spin, lending it an effortless breeziness while making sure it doesn’t lessen the emotional impact of the song.

With “Not For Me” putting a spotlight on her songwriting strengths, Maris Racal explores the complexities of romantic uncertainty with a surprisingly nuanced approach—unfiltered, no longer afraid of possibilities, and ready to own the moment.  

Not For Me” is out now on all digital platforms worldwide via Sony Music Philippines.

Project Orange chronicles the growing pains of romance on “Play Pretend”

In less than three years, Project Orange has slowly but surely gained traction outside of Bacolod City’s relatively small but thriving music community. Thanks to their maiden singles “Ctrl + Esc” and “Sputnik Sweetheart,” the promising quartet earned their chunk of streaming listenership on cities such as Taipei, Manila, and Hong Kong—a proof that their brand of music sees no boundaries, and resonates on a universal level. 

Formed by vocalist/guitarist Diana “Moose” Mapa, guitarist Ann Marie Pillado, bassist Martin Garces, and drummer Miguel Gabriel San Miguel, Project Orange returns with a distinctly laid-back affair that chronicles the growing pains of young love and the unsteady circumstances that define it.

Their new single “Play Pretend” captivates listeners with their sophisticated blend of bedroom pop and indie rock. The four-piece outfit employs a lush and dream-like palette in terms of musical approach, fully embracing a deceptively simple arrangement that wouldn’t feel out of place side by side with the breezy pop sensibilities of Clairo and Boy Pablo. 

“Too many people get caught up with the immense amount of music elements these days and I try to avoid that,” lead vocalist Diana Mapa shares in a statement. “The additional portions like the distorted guitar and synths were suggested by the producers in the studio and it added a stunning perspective to the song.”

Steeped in melancholic pulse, “Play Pretend” provides glimpses of a promising music act informed by the sound of its time, but never allowing trends to envelope the finality and packaging. It’s all heart, less feels: the more you immerse to the song’s intimate revelations, the closer it hits home.  

Lyrically, “Play Pretend” demands to be felt. With its wandering verses, a bridge that makes you feel like you’re at a wit’s end, and a chorus that hits you with a sanguine yet somber tune, the song represents built up feelings that will never see the light of the day. Mapa shares, “It’s like you’re running out of time, but at the same time you aren’t. And that distorts what you think of love, whether it be imaginary or reality.”

“Play Pretend” is the third official single of indie pop collective Project Orange under Lilystar Records. Stream their new track here.

Image and details provided by Lilystar Records in a recent press release.

Orange & Lemons wax poetic on new indie pop single “You Bring Out My Best”

Orange & Lemons have proven time and again, that they’re capable of writing infinitely hummable, indie-pop classics that maintain a distinct sensibility and effortlessness amidst shifting trends. 

Their new single, “You Bring Out My Best” is among their most delightful work to date: a song that finds Clem waxing poetic on the intimate moments that he once shared with a fictional ex-lover. 

According to Orange & Lemons’ chief songwriter and producer, Clem Castro, the song was intended as a pitch for a commercial project, but the band decided to release it as a stand-alone single. “We just love how the song turned out,” Clem reveals in a statement. “It’s the first time we sat down together working on a concept material, with no relevant inspiration for it. Just a play with words and melodic lines.”

The production packs a punch in a way that is seamlessly understated but compelling—never overdoing the process to gain attention or impress music fans. But it’s the songwriting that remains front and center to this massive release, a distinct mold whose appeal transcends generations of any kind. “You Bring Out My Best” was written, arranged, and demo-recorded last February 2020 at O&L’s drummer studio from 4pm to 3am. The members of the band had to maximize their time together because they live far from one another, with Clem already having an approximate idea of a verse and chorus lines for the session. After jamming with the band, they brainstormed on adding sections and parts to complete the demo. “The resulting production has that trademark O&L sound, and much, much more because of the contribution of our keyboard player, who after more than a year of being an official member has immersed himself in indie-pop stylings,” the Orange & Lemons frontman adds.

Four months after the demo was shelved, Orange & Lemons finally braved the studio to resume recording of their new single “You Bring Out My Best.”   Armed with disinfectants and face masks, the award-winning band carefully observed health and safety protocols to finish the material. Clem says, “We had to remove our shoes when tracking, and only one person is allowed at a time to record. The rest had to wait outside at the receiving area of Sonic State Audio in Mandaluyong City.”

Image and details provided in a recent press release.

The OPM Archive Foundation launches initiative to collect Filipino music artifacts

During the virtual presser attended by members of the press last August 26, 2020 (Wednesday), The OPM Archive Foundation has announced its official plans to collect Filipino music memorabilia and champion digital archiving in a time that needs preservation of cultural artifacts.

Heading the OPM Archive Foundation are the “next gen” members of the group, Moy Ortiz, President; Krina Cayabyab, Vice President; Dinah Remolacio, Treasurer and Chevy Salvador, Secretary, while the more senior members will stay on as board members and advisers.

The archive is a separate entity from Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit (OPM) in that it will serve as a foundation that collects and documents not just the actual original Filipino music, but also narratives, photographs, music sheets and press releases. Originally, the term “OPM” referred to the inclusive period from the 70s to 80s when a rich influx of new and modern sounds, melodies, lyrics, singers and musicians flooded the airwaves, and even the theater, with original dance musicals as “Rama Hari” and “Tales of the Manuvu”. Among the familiar and popular voices that emerged, aside from Celeste Legaspi’s were Basil Valdez, Hajji Alejandro, Sampaguita, Mike Hanopol, Florante, Freddie Aguilar, Leah Navarro, Didith Reyes, just to name a few.

The archive, however, for the purposes of music research and study for future generations, shall extend its borders to the precedents of this era, the 60’s, and extend to the present, and hopefully can be sustained into the future, for the identification and recognition of music development. The accompanying narratives will seek to contextualize the music in its specific social relevance that defined each period, and perhaps identify continuity to the next period.

Plans for the OPM Archive gave rise before the lockdown, when the Filipinas Heritage Library (FHL), where the archive was to be housed, was ready to receive the hard copy donations. With the lockdown, FHL head, Suzanne Yupangco and the archive group agreed to go digital. This does not, however, preclude the collecting of hard copies once the quarantine period is over. There is nothing like seeing the original “in the flesh”. While each hard copy donation will be digitized, the original copies will also be preserved through actual preventive conservation, knowing how digitization alone can be prone to obsolescence because of evolving digital formats.

Music plays a major role in peoples’ lives. It is something everyone cares about. And the archive hopes to ensure that the musical gems it documents and collects will live on from generation to generation, so children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren can appreciate, learn from, and perhaps someday, revise, improvise, follow or change approaches to music.

The archive is now open for digital collection, and is open to the public for donations. Just log on to opmarchive.com.

The launch of the OPM Archive is an initiative of founding members of OPM, led by its founder and first president, Celeste Legaspi, with Girlie Rodis, Tats Rejante Manahan, Lyca Benitez Brown, next generation members, Moy Ortiz, Chevy Salvador, Dinah Remolacio and Krina Cayabyab.

Image and details provided by the OPM Archive Foundation in a recent press release.

Rico Blanco releases fun, upbeat single “Happy Feelin”

Alternative rock icon Rico Blanco spreads love and positivity amidst difficult times on his new single, “Happy Feelin”—now out on all digital platforms worldwide.

On his second release this year under Sony Music, the award-winning producer and singer-songwriter delivers a bright, upbeat number that soars with an inescapable chorus and a rockabilly vibe.

For someone who has spent a career pushing pop music to exciting new places, Rico Blanco succeeds in releasing a diverse selection of tunes that blends crossover appeal with an adventurous edge. Count “Happy Feelin” as the latest addition to his winning streak: a finger-snapping, retro-leaning bop that finds Blanco dialing down his sonic ambition for something that resembles a big ball of sunshine.

“Happy Feelin” is the second song written and produced by Blanco in his home studio during the lockdown period. It’s the follow-up single to “This Too Shall Pass,” which was released on the first week of May 2020.

Stream Rico Blanco’s latest single here.

Image and details provided by Sony Music Philippines in a recent press release.

The Itchyworms to launch quarantine-themed album with a virtual event

The Itchyworms will be hosting a virtual album launch to celebrate the release of their highly anticipated fifth album, Waiting For The End To Start

A few hours before the 9-track album drops on digital platforms worldwide, the acclaimed pop-rock outfit is set to debut the songs for the very first time through an online listening and live commentary party, which will be streamed live via The Itchyworms’ official Facebook page on August 17, (Monday), from 7:30 pm onwards. 

Expect a night of fun and entertainment as The Itchyworms perform select cuts from their upcoming release, and promise music listeners to deliver a riveting music experience like no other. 

About the album

The Itchyworms’ upcoming studio album, Waiting For The End To Start was conceptualized and recorded with the members of the band confined in their respective homes during the nationwide lockdown. 

Thematically, the songs are written as a reflection of their individual and collective experiences during the quarantine period. It also inhabits a more adventurous and relentless approach in terms of production and songwriting, which produced captivating end results that music fans will surely love.

As Chino Singson, the band’s lead guitarist and back-up vocalist, shares in a statement, “Like any collection of music, it is a record of its time: A snapshot of the artist’s reaction to his or her circumstances. But it’s a concept album in that our aim was to create art in the midst of a pandemic, to capture our emotions in the music we record, even with the limited recording gear we have at home. So you’ll hear amp buzz and imperfect vocals, but for me that’s part of the spirit of true rock.”

The Itchyworms’ “Waiting For The End To Start” virtual album launch is presented by Sony Music Philippines, GNN Entertainment, and Linya-Linya.

Image and details provided by Sony Music Philippines in a recent press release