Sunday, November 23, 2008

The QLE Awards - And The Winners Are...

Here, as requested, is the QLE Awards article in full, as it appeared in my Luis Listens column in the Bulletin yesterday. Quark's version is here. Erwin's version will see print in the Star in a few days. Thank you to everyone for all the comments, online and in person. :)

The QLE Awards

Listen up: Quark Henares, Luis Katigbak and Erwin Romulo pick the Best Music of 2008

This was an unbelievably good year for music: don't let anybody tell you otherwise. That's why brash boyish filmmaker/ writer/ rakista Quark Henares, all-around artistic force of nature Erwin Romulo and yours truly decided to shout mash notes to our favorite bands from the rooftops via our own little “awards show.” We're calling it the QLE Awards because, well, those are our initials. (Also, as my Tita Pep pointed out, if you say “QLE” out loud it almost sorta sounds like “Quality”―he he he.)

My column last week, “Rage Against the Rock Awards,” generated a lot of feedback, almost all of it positive―thanks for all the emails and texts, everyone―and now, instead of just complaining about how established shows like the NU107 awards don't recognize all the worthy acts while nominating bands that constitute crimes against humanity, Quark, Erwin and I are presenting the artists and songs we feel strongly deserve your attention if not adoration. (To be fair, as Quark pointed out, a couple of these acts―Up Dharma Down and Ang Bandang Shirley for example―fell just outside the judging period for this year's NU107 Rock Awards, and may well be nominated next year.)

Luckily, we all happen to write for newspapers, so if all goes well, this roster of winners should be in all three major broadsheets this weekend, which must be a first of sorts. And so, ladeez and gennelmen, welcome to the first ever QLE Awards:


Ciudad - Bring Your Friends
This is the Wonder Years soundtrack of our generation. Overlooked and under-appreciated, it nonetheless confirms that eerie phenomenon that befalls all great artists. Remember, even during the Summer of Love, Engelbert Humperdinck beat [The Beatles] at the charts. But nonetheless, Ciudad will never need any more affirmation from me or any pundit. Listen to this album. Music like this will never grow old. [Erwin]

Drip - Identity Theft
You will never feel cooler than when you're listening to Drip. I don't mean that smug kind of poser-cool that comes with patronizing the band of the moment―I'm talking about that glorious experience when their music creates a world between your ears, dark and dramatic, a nocturnal urban narrative with you as the central character beset by sudden dangers and unexpected pleasures. With scratches and samples, keyboards and beats, and that relentless, yearning, sensual voice, Identity Theft delivers seeming contradictions―fierce vulnerability, emotional electronica―and changes your life for the better. [Luis]

Taken by Cars - Endings of a New Kind
From the opening salvo "Uh-oh" to the solemn "Shapeshifter," Endings of a New Kind could end up being a classic among the younger set. Credit must also be given where credit is due: producer Mong Alcaraz really pushed the band to the limits in this record, and when compared to the band's earlier demos this sounds like it was made by a completely different artist. Taken by Cars has never sounded so good, even compared to their live performances today. [Quark]


Ciudad - “My Emptiness”
This is one of the most emotionally affecting ones I've ever heard this year. It deals in melancholy (and genuine melancholy at that―none of this “Take me to the other side” crap) but is never despairing. It's evidence of a settling maturity in the band's music and lyrics, but also proves they haven't lost their sense of humor. It's got a disco beat but isn't dance punk: rather, like the Itchyworms' “Love Team,” it belongs to the canon of possibly perfect pop songs made in this century. [Erwin]

Up Dharma Down - “Unspoken Definites”
It's almost impossible to choose a favorite song off Bipolar―they are nearly all utterly excellent―but still, "Unspoken Definites" stands out, in its almost-painful honesty, in the openness of its music, in the way it takes its influences and shapes them into something new. [Luis]

Taken by Cars - “Weeknight Memoir (In High Definition)”
It starts in an ambient, quiet hum that suddenly erupts in Sarah Marco demanding at the top of her voice―"HEART STOPPING-LIAR, ARE YOU READY FOR THE NEXT JOKE?" Umm, ok, not that great in the lyrics department. However, for me "Weeknight Memoir (In High Definition)" is anthemic―the kind of song that makes you scream at the top of your lungs in the midst of traffic or start jumping up and down alone in your room. [Quark]


Pedicab - “Ang Pusa Mo”
What else encapsulates best the weirdness and exhilaration of this year's music but a video wherein members of this band get tortured and beaten by a myriad of femme fatales? [Erwin]

Up Dharma Down - “We Give In Sometimes”
It's hard to match the trippy visuals your mind makes up when you listen to this intricate, dreamlike track, but this video does a great job. [Luis]

Pedicab - “Ang Pusa Mo”
16 words: Shawn Yao, Tricia Gosingtian, Kim Marvilla, Alodia Gosengfiao, Ashley Gosengfiao, Roni Callanta, Kat Velayo, Dylan, sadomasochism. [Quark]

…and RA Rivera. And yes, Shawn Yao will save us all: “Fiction na nga, speculative pa!” * [Erwin]


Excellent musicianship, wicked sense of humor and just brilliant songs. I'm pretty sure that this band's performances and music were what kept me from any suicide attempts this year. [Erwin]

When a band gets me on my feet, screaming like a cheerleader, for a type of music I don't even usually like, then I know they've got something special going on. Drawing from soul and jazz, Yosha brings the groove, the virtuosity, and the sheer joy of music-making, straight to their lucky, lucky audiences. [Luis]

Though their latest album isn't their best, Sandwich still gives their proverbial 110% every time they perform. Also, as of late they've toned down the improvising and have instead focused on delivering solid performances, occasionally revisiting old favorites such as "Freestyle Analog" and "Cheese Factor Set to 9." It’s ironic how The Eraserheads Reunion seemed to remind Raimund Marasigan how much he loves this band, because his recent performances have a fire and vigor in them that seemed to be absent for a while. [Quark]


Intolerant AND Loss Of Control
Just because they're metal and they don't give a f**k. [Erwin]

Ang Bandang Shirley
They're not rock gods or avant-garde experimentalists―they're the people that you meet, when you're walking down the street, each day. Except that they have an enormous talent for impeccable pop tunes and quirky-heartfelt lyrics. And enormous appetites as well. [Luis]

Taken by Cars
A lot of people accuse Taken by Cars of ripping Bloc Party off. I say they're better than Bloc Party. Endings of A New Kind is the kind of debut that feels like it was made after years of meshing and collaborating as artists, and individually the instrumentalists have that perfect balance of standing out yet sounding completely organic. [Quark]


Markus Highway
Whoever would've thought that Marcus Adoro had it in him to make such inventive, winsome pop music? The sojourn from the music scene has certainly made his songwriting talents come to fruition. The first bona fide Pinoy surf album. [Erwin]


Up Dharma Down - Bipolar
Not as genuinely complex and dazzling as the band's music contained within, but it sure does a neat job of inviting us into it. [Erwin and Quark]

Ang Bandang Shirley - Themesongs
C'mon. That Pepper Roxas cover is all sorts of adorable. [Luis]


Up Dharma Down
Surely if any artists this year dominated it would be none other than the Eraserheads. But apart from them, it would surely be Up Dharma Down, who've just released their newest album Bipolar. Just for the fact that they seemed to be the only artist to still make an impact and not be swallowed up by the Eheads reunion. Also, the fact that the band is still constantly pursuing myriad ways of conveying and expressing the conflicting forces of human desire―but without resort to cliché―is admirable. Impressive. [Erwin and Luis]

It seems that Ciudad has always had an identity crisis of sorts. Their first album, Hello! How Are You, Mico The Happy Bear had that major-label-trying-to-turn-a-unique-artist-into-pop-fodder feel to it. The second, 'Is That Ciudad?', 'Yes,son, it's me.' saw the band exploring new musical directions and maturing as artists. The third release, It's Like A Magic, can't really be considered an album because it was mostly a hodgepodge of updated outtakes and old songs throughout their then-11 year history. This new fourth album, Bring Your Friends, is Ciudad coming full circle, with the band finally accepting that they can never be pop sensations and unknowingly fulfilling their destiny as one of the most brilliant and unique bands in the country. [Quark]

*Yes, this is an in-joke. But yes, it is also an actual quote from Shawn Yao. I will explain someday.


Carver said...

Hi Luis! Saw you at the Komikon but you were busy chatting. Anyway, I don't know much about the winning QLE Awards selections...maybe I should check them out. :-)

chard bolisay said...

Hi Sir,

Would you know where I can possibly buy past albums of Ciudad? I've been looking for a long time but they seem to sell out even before they're placed on music store shelves, or are they ever placed on music store shelves?

grumpyurbanslacker said...

i bought Taken by Cars' CD recently and was blown away. Ang galeng! Moved me so that i signed up to their yahoogroup...haha :D

hope there's gonna be a 2nd QLE Awards night this year!!

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