Vinyl continues its strong showing all over the world.
Although the number of independent releases dropped locally to 41 from the high of 51 in 2022, it remains strong and continues its upwards surge since 2012.
Sorry, we aren’t counting anything released by the local major labels but independents only. We are also counting out reissues whether previously released on compact disc or streaming.
Here are our favorite records—in no particular order I must stress—from 2023.
Manila by Night by The Brockas
When you listen to this album, come in with an open mind and do not expect anything. It’s freeform music. The Brockas start out with some kundiman then segue into something ambient then something akin to a pissed-off or candid Johnny Cash.
If you really listen intently, you will realize their Dadaist Punk is not meant to be taken seriously.
Expect the bizarre when you’ve got Khavn dela Cruz and Rox Lee as two-thirds of the Brockas (the other being Lav Diaz). And yes, it’s actually good.
Trinidad ng Tao, Musika at Makina by Goodleaf (The Grey Market Records)
This is one of those artists that you’re happy their music is immortalized on wax. I like that the music is more than just instrumental dub versions or mixes of repeated tracks. And you can see the music straying into electronica or even shoegaze territory.
And true to the album title, it shows the synergy between the artist, his music, and the technology Goodleaf brings to bear. You also have to take into consideration the album art that is so unlike other releases. It adds to the depth.
The result is Trinidad ng Tao Musika at Makina adds to the impressive pantheon of local releases of Jamaican music and is one of the best.
Lourdes 2088 by Moonstar88 (Backspacer Records/The Grey Market Records)
Let me say this now: this is Moonstar88’s best album. With their best rhythm section ever, they turned up the songwriting to another level and produced a concept album that no one saw coming (especially since this was conceived during the Covid-19 lockdown).
Generational Curses by Irrevocable (self-released)
The year began with this surprise nugget. A mini-album of a burst of semi-automatic fire of angst and earnestness wrapped around a melodic punk attack.
I love the personal and pained lyrics that if you cannot relate with you know someone who is going through bullying, depression, and loss.
One of the best underground releases in recent years. So good I got two copies because I am afraid I am going to wear out one copy from constant playing.
Black on Black, Blood On White by Basti Artadi (Backspacer Records)
Talk about a strong comeback. A rock and roll comeback (as he strayed from that sound in favor of a softer direction with the Nice Ones, the Jazz Bastards, and Plan of Fools). For those who missed Wolfgang in its hard rocking best, Basti Artadi showed that he can still rock your balls off.
Except, he isn’t reliving off his old band’s laurels. His creative mojo is back and even better, Black on Black, White on Blood is a darn good album that never lets up.
And what a year it has been for Artadi who also put out a graphic novel titled Darkness Fell, which is based on an old Wolfgang track. Talk about releasing pent-up energy.
Yes, the darkness is back. And Pinoy Rock is better for it.
Gray Sky Manila by Monochrome (Eikon Records)
A highly emotional album from this post-rock shoegaze crew. Filled with lows and dizzying highs, no words are needed when listening to Gray Sky Manila. The canvas of sound already says so much. Let them take you to the full spectrum of emotions.
Gintong Musika at Panahon by Maria Cafra (Eikon Records)
Who says you cannot teach old dogs new tricks? The Pinoy Rock legends are back for their third album, 33 years later.
And they have lost none of their fire. Resty Fabunan can still write scathing social commentary while the trio—along with original drummer Rolly Averilla and new bassist Raul Clemente—can throw down with the best of them.
They open with their hardest rocking song ever in Panaginip, which grabs your attention from the get-go. Lest you think they have gone into full Wolfgang mode, worry not for they too have songs to take you back to the ‘70s with some superb guitar work from Fabunan, a certified guitar legend.
It is time you gave Gintong Musika at Panahon a listen. It’s every bit as good as their self-titled debut. And if this is the third final opus, then what a way to go out—swinging for the fences.
ValKal Skatepunx by Badwave (Still Ill Records)
What makes Badwave a damn good band is they have a sense of humor and groove to their music without sacrificing any headbanging and propensity for moshing. Their cassette demo from 2022—raw, ferocious, and definitely propulsive—did not prepare me enough for this seven-inch mini-album.
Badwave takes it to another level with ValKal Skatepunx (ValKal is Valenzuela-Kalookan). I’d say this is the best hardcore release of the year.
Kudos to the lads of Still Ill Records for continuing to put out great underground talent.