MANILA — The coronavirus pandemic halted a great many things all over the world. Music was briefly stopped, but the live and recorded versions found their way to thrive in these unprecedented times.
Artists adapted doing live online shows or recording remotely. With fewer distractions and more time on hand, songs and albums were released.
Here are our choices for some of the best releases of 2020.
‘Bloodstained Existence’ – Barred
Pre-pandemic, it was the Laguna hardcore band Barred that opened 2020 with the scathing “Bloodstained Existence” that rages against the never-ending litany of sins of society and government. I can only imagine how they would interpret everything that has happened since.
And what an album cover!
‘Zookeeper’s Cardinal Healing Forum’ – Insektlife Cycle
This neo-psychedelic band‘s latest release on seven-inch vinyl is buoyant and fun. Has the quirkiness of Smash Mouth with the adventurousness of Santana. A fun throwback.
‘Waiting for the End to Start’ – Itchyworms
Itchyworms’ most introspective album to date gives voice to all those roiled and pent up emotions and feelings during this pandemic. The band gets their yay-yas out and deliver a rollicking album that should get you out of your funk.
‘Sumaya. Sumigaw. Huminga.’ – One Click Straight
A throwback of an EP that draws on OPM of yesteryear as well as ’80s New Wave. Flush with dance feels and good cheer, this EP is a tonic to the pandemic blues the band (and everyone felt).
‘Golden Age’ – Olympia Maru
This is how you follow up a debut – with an even better effort. Admittedly, I am not crazy about their debut release. But the second, “Golden Age,” is far better and focused. And Shinji Tanaka’s live drumming gave the music a lot more than a beat. It propelled their music and gave it more depth.
‘Balik Tanaw’ – Ebe Dancel
While technically not a new album and is more of a compilation of mostly Dancel’s songs with Sugarfree, it was wholly re-recorded and re-arranged giving the gems a new sheen and poignancy. A lovely album.
‘In Love With You’ – Phase Two
After what, four decades or more, this song, a staple of DZRJ programming finally sees wax and an official release. It isn’t just the original version but a new version with almost an entirely different crew is on the flipside. A release from left field that has got to be one of the feel-good releases of the year.
‘Kontrapunto’ – Kartel
This year’s version of “Kolateral.” Picks up where hiphop supergroup Sandata. Only, Kartel broadens the scope of their fields of fire to include other elements of society.
The anger is there, but Kartel hope for concrete action on their broadsides.
‘Word Sound Power’ – Red-I
Dub musician Red-I has been prolific if not well-traveled. His second full-length album (after a string of EP releases), finds Red-I adding jazz, Middle Eastern and Asian rhythms to his take on this branch of Jamaican music. And it is his best effort to date. A solid album.
‘Regenesis’ – Sound Architects
One of the best of the year. It’s a soundtrack to your unfettered imagination. Deserves to be out on wax.
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