Whether it was highly anticipated sophomore albums or breakout debut EPs, 2023 has seen a pile up of glittering long-form releases, some of which have found a special place in our hearts. Throughout the year, we’ve heard several Filipino artists tell immersive stories of growth and pain, dive into and conquer new sonic realms, define and build upon their signature sound, and weave a web of life lessons all across a number of tracks neatly packed together — and now, it’s time to share our favorites with you.
These are the 15 albums and EPs that the Billboard Philippines team couldn’t stop listening to, soundtracking so many days of our year. From the emotional rock records that had us headbanging in tears to the joyous LPs that had skipping in glee to the beautifully crafted introductions of our new favorite bands, here are our picks for 2023 albums you need to listen to.
Daisy – Unique Salonga
When reflecting back on our lives, time can wash away the trials and regrets, only leaving a clouded glass mirage to peer through. What’s left at the end of the road is what truly matters — and hopefully this lesson is not learned too late. Unique delivers a sonic walk down memory lane inextricably linked to personal experiences, dizzying yet familiar. The album is best to be paired with existential crisis and re-evaluation of cycles. Daisy & Daisy (Reprise). — Bret Jackson
ONE CLICK STRAIGHT – One Click Straight
ONE CLICK STRAIGHT‘s self-titled second album is their magnum opus, which the four-piece band would very well agree with. It is an angry pop record that is chock-full of vulnerable yet valiant tracks representing all of their discography’s best qualities. With songs written coming out of the pandemic, ONE CLICK STRAIGHT is actually more like a decade in the making. It is the band’s best work; the one release signaling that they’ve truly arrived. — Ratziel San Juan
Silver Fairy – Megumi Acorda
With a packed roster that includes members of beloved indie acts like The Strange Creatures, July XIV, spacedog spacecat, Memory Drawers, and more, Megumi Acorda (the band) are arguably the brightest stars of the local shoegaze and dreampop scene right now, and their first full-length album delivers the goods. “Tomorrow” and “Borrowed/Burrowed” build on the sublime melodies previously heard on the band’s debut EP (2018’s Unexpectedly), while anyone with a Fender Jaguar and more than one reverb pedal will certainly enjoy surround-sound fuzzfests like “If They Come” and “Nothing/Forgotten.” – Jason Caballa
befriending my tears – Clara Benin
Clara Benin‘s befriending my tears is honest and vulnerable, speaking to life the complex and non-linear journey of healing. Beyond just overcoming heartache and dealing with a love that’s gone awry, the singer-songwriter talks about tackling self-doubt, coming to terms with the fleeting nature of life, accepting the kind of love you feel you don’t deserve, re-igniting that spark to keep moving forward, and finding solace from within. While Benin’s musicality is definitely worthy of praise, having been able to build on her signature acoustic folk and create a richer ambiance of sounds, her songwriting truly takes the spotlight on befriending my tears. She narrates these stories of growth and acceptance so delicately yet with so much power that it settles in your heart and touches your soul. — Jenny Fernandez
Sad Songs and Bullshit Part 1 – juan karlos
Many great records about bad breakups stick with audiences thanks to a heart-wrenching set of lyrics that twist the knife deep into the hearts of their listeners, but what happens when you add a distinctive and impassioned vocal delivery to the mix? The result would arguably be juan karlos’ Sad Songs And Bullshit Part 1. While “ERE” remains the album’s biggest hit, the rest of the project is filled with other gems that capture the varying stages of heartbreak – alongside the nuanced set of emotions that come into the mix. The underrated track “may halaga pa ba ako sayo??” is a brilliant example of the catharsis that comes with anger, utilizing a crescendo that’s accompanied by crashing drums and a wailing outro from Labajo, while the other sleeper hit, “Time Machine”, is an energetic anthem for the yearners out there. Nevertheless, Labajo’s emotive touch to the entirety of the record makes it something diving into –– whether you’re heartbroken or not. — Gabriel Saulog
HAPPY ACCIDENTS VOL. 1 – PLAYERTWO
Rarely do debut albums show unabashed confidence so explicitly, but PLAYERTWO’s impressive HAPPY ACCIDENTS VOL. 1 serves as the perfect example of that. From its high-octane opener, “P2 Energy”, to the Awit-award nominated TikTok hit, “That’s My Baby”, the record showcases the group’s unique spark of energy that never lets up. Even with just eight tracks, the entirety of HAPPY ACCIDENTS VOL. 1 showcases their distinct identity throughout, together with the potential of what sounds the group can explore in future projects. If you’re a fan of the now-defunct BROCKHAMPTON yet haven’t checked out PLAYERTWO’s discography, then you’re the one missing out. — Gabriel Saulog
Pagtanda – Oh, Flamingo!
Arriving roughly three years after their first long-player Volumes, Pagtanda is a prime example of how an already perfect band could actually get better. Oh, Flamingo! spice up their avant pop with Filipino lyrics, juicy horns, and even stronger melodies, making their music more accessible than ever. If Oh, Flamingo! were our country’s version of Talking Heads, then Pagtanda is their Speaking In Tongues. No other local band has been as sonically ambitious and endlessly listenable in equal measures as they are, and that’s why they’re still a personal favorite, nearly a decade since I first heard them. – Jason Caballa
GUTS – Olivia Rodrigo
It’s not common that artists get to surpass the smashing success of their earlier works, but Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS offers a more grown-up and genre-tripping follow-up to the critically acclaimed SOUR. This time, she finds herself tackling a multitude of issues aside from heartbreak – primarily dealing with the growing pains of fame, adulthood, and self-loathing. Rodrigo strengthens her songwriting throughout majority of the record and lovingly surrounds her poignant lyricism with a sonic exploration of sounds reminiscent of what made the late 90s and early 2000s rock scene endearing for the younger generation. Without a doubt, it’s probably one of the best mainstream pop-rock records in recent years, and as a bonus, comes with several fantastic earworms worth repeating on a loop. — Gabriel Saulog
Kung Alam Mo Lang – Hev Abi
Hev Abi continues to define his laid back style over sleeker and tighter production on his 2023 album, Kung Alam Mo Lang. With each new release, Hev works with cool intent, consciously building walls of ad libs, finding new pockets, and defining further his overall sound. While we don’t hear a lot of experimentation stemming from his past projects, this is definitely not a bad thing. Hev Abi delivers a solid overall project with a collection of references and phrases unique enough to rise above the noise. — Bret Jackson
Patutunguhan – Cup Of Joe
With a cover that echoes The Beatles’ classic Abbey Road artwork, it seems as if alt-pop band Cup Of Joe knew that they were destined for stardom in the same vein as the English supergroup was. The EP comprises multiple hit songs that have surpassed millions of streams on Spotify, such as the viral “Tingin” featuring Janine. But as a whole project, it’s the perfect introduction to the band’s sound — one which is lush, catchy, and sure to stick to their audiences –– even if you’re unfamiliar with their craft. — Gabriel Saulog
Recollections – Gabba
We’ve heard bits and pieces of Gabba‘s Recollections over the last two years, but nothing compares to the picture it paints as a whole. The album, comprising 14 songs, is magical, building a soundscape abundant with shining guitars and pulsating drums that you can’t help but sink into. Gabba pulls from varied influences and blends together so many tones and textures as he illustrates the bliss and joy of creative freedom while also recounting different moments in his life. For an album that has no lyrics, it speaks volumes. — Jenny Fernandez
BEING – Jason Dhakal
Jason Dhakal’s first full-length project, lovesounds, already served as a promising indicator of his capabilities as an artist, yet its successor, BEING, points out the undeniable fact that Dhakal is naturally equipped with the means to become a star. While some would say the record evokes the styles of R&B mainstays like Daniel Caesar, Brent Faiyaz, or Frank Ocean, Dhakal adds his own spin on the genre. BEING gives listeners a soulful, yet fully realized image of Dhakal’s talents, and never loses its hold on the listeners –– while simultaneously turning the heat up in its smoother, sexier aspects. Throughout its 11 songs, Dhakal’s confident evolution in both identity and sound is exemplified. While it maintains the playful banter that initially captivated us from his prior work, BEING continues to envelop its listeners in a warm embrace, even long after the last song has ended. — Gabriel Saulog
Curiosity Killed The Cat – HEY JUNE!
It’s hard to believe that a trio of youngsters who barely knew each other before forming a band (during the pandemic, no less) came up with one of the strongest debut albums of 2023. Following through on the strength of several consistently excellent singles starting with last year’s “SINO MALI,” HEY JUNE!’s Curiosity Killed The Cat is filled with infectious power-pop gems from start to finish, including the Weezer-ish “LASIK” and the title track, which fits right into any indie pop playlist alongside Men I Trust and Mac DeMarco. I eagerly await to hear what this band of talented early twenty-somethings is capable of creating next. – Jason Caballa
oshin – bird.
Hazy and shadowed by twelve noon skies, you’re sunburnt on the beach and recording life through a VHS camcorder. An immediate sense of nostalgia is built into the very core of bird’s full-length record, oshin. Sunbathing in sweet nothings, long drives and experiences you can only access through memory, bird. has taken the best parts of their influences while still delivering a completely honest, salt-infused performance. Mapapaheadbang ka sa lungkot and you’ll love it. — Bret Jackson
Scaring The Hoes – Danny Brown and JPEGMAFIA
This year, Danny Brown and JPEGMAFIA released Scaring the Hoes, a collaboration album and match made in mayhem. The production on this project deserves a nod in itself, feeling like Reddit has been chopped and screwed with glistening highs, unpredictable tempo changes, and samples that just hit! Brown and JPEGMAFIA coexist naturally together, never overshadowing each other’s performances, and bringing balance to each other throughout the entirety of the project. From concept to production, this album overall is calculated chaos, a reflection of a world right on the brink. — Bret Jackson
Check out Billboard Philippines’ top picks for the best songs of 2023 here.