“Rak en rol hanggang umaga!”

Great Philippine Song Hits“Sugod” by Sandwich | It’s July, which means it’s time once again for Great Philippine Song Hits, where we cover a whole month with classics from Filipino musicians. (This is the fourth year we’ve done it; here’s what we’ve done so far.) And there’s no better way to start this than with an act who marked twenty years just a few months ago – conveniently covering up the fact that I have been holding off on featuring these guys for so long because I didn’t want to run out of material so fast. But, really, twenty years of Sandwich? I’ve said this a few months ago, but they still sound as potent now as they did then. It’s interesting where camaraderie and musical restlessness brings you. At twenty years, bands can get a bit complacent, or worse, people lose interest in your new stuff. But these guys have stuck to their guns by not sticking to them. Whenever I start listening to a new album from the band there’s always a thrill of not knowing what will happen. There are constants, sure, but they aren’t obvious – and I’m thinking that’s why they’re still up there after all these years, whether you be left of center, or decidedly to the right, of musical tastes. They’re a band to be envied. How else would we start this month’s batch of song hits? [NB]

“They’ll still remind me of when we were at school.”

“Trains To Brazil” by Guillemots | Today marks ten years since I graduated from college. The plan was to devote this week to the songs I listened to a lot during my three years in La Salle, but to be honest, that plan was months ago, and I completely forgot about it, so instead, here I am, writing about one of those songs from the time – specifically, one of those songs that I somehow have not written about in the six years I’ve been writing this blog.

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“You and I were meant to get love right.”

“Built to Last” by MêléeThis was my college years jam. No, really, it is. I have it in italics to stress it. This was released around 2007, and was played by Jam back when they were still in that pleasant alternative-ish pop lane. I loved it to bits. I loved the piano, I loved the build-up towards the bridge (and that lyric up there), and then I loved the sentiment, even when all I had at the time was unrequited love, or, perhaps, “love”. I listened to this on the bus ride home, thinking of… well, I’ll leave you guys to look that up. I’ve always wondered what happened to Mêlée, the group; they parted ways in 2012, and vocalist Chris Cron was, well, someone who I just wrote about yesterday. As for me, I remember telling Shalla – same year the band split up – when we were still new together that she’s my only shot at getting this relationship thing right. I hope I have not failed her. [NB]

“너만 와준다면 뭐든 할 수 있었어 워.”

“마스크” by Stellar | Stellar weren’t supposed to survive – not the departures of Jeonyul and Gayoung last year, or if you go further, not the shift in image from 2014’s “Marionette” that drew a ridiculous amount of flak. Stellar weren’t destined to be one of those groups on K-pop’s top two tiers; that’s just how it is. Yet I liked them. I quite liked them, particularly from that point when they shifted their image, away from the (ill-fitting) candy pop of their 2011 debut “Rocket Girl” and towards provocative choreography and edgy songs. That was them at their most sublime. “Mask”, in particular, had that wiggly, reverb-y bass that kept pushing the song forward, turning it into one of K-pop’s most underrated tracks, perhaps ever. (And, of course, there’s “Sting”, playful and coy and cunning – still one of our favorites.) The last two singles were misfires (the last one was shockingly cringe-y) and the line-up changes last year – one in, two out, one more in – were definitely rearranging deck chairs on a sinking ship. Yet I rooted for them, for some reason. I knew they will never be successful; that’s almost always down to luck, and with so many debuts to keep track of, chances just get slimmer. Stellar weren’t supposed to survive – and this Sunday, they ceased to exist – but they were my underdogs, and they were many others’ underdogs. If they weren’t to be successful, they were going to make us happy, never mind if they were hit and miss. [NB]

“…hinding-hindi makasabay sa hangin ng aking buhay.”

“Hari Ng Sablay” by Sugarfree | We’ve been doing this feature for three years now, and only now are we getting around to Sugarfree. I have waited for so long to be able to add them to the list. (Just in time, turns out, for yesterday their entire discography went live on Spotify.) I have also agonized for so long about what song to put in. Sure, “Hari Ng Sablay” is the obvious choice, a track whose conceit alone brought it to the zeitgeist. But I have been into the band from the moment I first heard “Telepono” in a car in Alabang. I sang my heart out to “Mariposa”, cried my heart (figuratively) out to “Wag Ka Nang Umiyak”… I have seen them a few times – they were all school gigs; Ebe Dancel would always slot “DLSU” in the lyrics for “Dear Kuya” – and while I wasn’t there at their farewell gig, my heart broke nonetheless. I’ve always known this deserves a theme week. But Sugarfree – yes, a band whose musical ambitions belied their frills-free exterior; whose crunchy musicality, keen sentimentality and occasional winks to the listener endeared them to millions. I can’t not include them. [NB]