Following the Pinoy band explosion of the 1990s, the 2000s witnessed Pinoy Rock diverge into different directions, from the emerging popularity of the nu metal and emo subgenres as appropriated by dozens of local bands, to the advent of DIY recording that spawned many independent releases (and labels) during this decade.
Despite these rather niche developments, the music industry at large was still interested in homegrown rock, with key musicians forming new bands (Bamboo’s eponymous supergroup, Ely Buendia’s The Mongols and Pupil, and Raymund Marasigan’s Sandwich and Pedicab, among others) or going solo (like Rico Blanco and Kitchie Nadal). Still, the decade produced many new acts to enjoy, from pop-rockers like Sponge Cola and Hale (remember the “pogi rock” era?) to indie stalwarts like Up Dharma Down and Orange & Lemons.
What follows are 20 key Filipino Rock songs that were released from 2000 to 2009. This list is notably twice as long as our 1980s and 1990s lists because of the wide variety of sounds and styles that local acts adopted during this period, due largely to the emergence of the internet, which made discovering new music, recording techniques, CD printing services, and distribution channels easier than before.
Indeed, this was the decade in which Pinoy Rock plugged in, logged on, and went farther.
“Faithless” — Rivermaya
In 2000, Rivermaya gave their then-record label the middle finger and released their new album Free for, well, free (via a CD inserted in that month’s issue of Pulp Magazine). Opening track “Faithless” reflected frontman Rico Blanco’s frustration with the world, with a droning guitar hook and a sparse arrangement that maximized the band’s then-power trio dynamics.
“Mottaka” – Queso
Of the preeminent “Three Kings” of Pinoy nu metal (the other two being Greyhoundz and Slapshock), Queso (formerly Cheese) showed the most potential to evolve musically, but no one expected it to happen as early as their second record, Pilipinas. “Mottaka” is a surprisingly tuneful, jah-inflected prog metal tune that highlights singer Ian Tayao’s melodic prowess and the band’s rhythmic adventurousness.
“Paris” – Chicosci
Nowadays, Chicosci hardly sound anything like the band they started out as, and “Paris” was the turning point. More informed by post-hardcore than the nu metal of their earlier material, this throttling track from their second album Method Of Breathing marked the beginning of the band’s streamlining of their sound into the heavy emo/pop-punk that they’re admired for today.
“Mr. Suave” – Parokya Ni Edgar
While loved by the masses, Parokya Ni Edgar were never really taken seriously by critics until this 2003 single, to which even the most hardened ones took notice. While still in the realm of novelty, this homage to crooner ballads in the vein of Engelbert Humperdinck and Tom Jones was their funniest and most stylistically left field radio hit to date.
“Prom” – Sugarfree
Ebe Dancel brings out his fandom of Counting Crows on this rocking number on Sugarfree’s sophomore album Dramachine that recalls the American band’s 1996 single “Angels Of The Silences,” but with agile drumming by Mitch Singson, who provides one of the most recognizable percussion intros since Teeth’s “Laklak.”
“First Of Summer” – Urbandub
In the middle of the decade, this Cebu-bred band practically ruled rock radio and the Manila gig circuit, thanks to their unequivocally well-received third record, Embrace. While generally heavier than their previous releases, the album yielded this melodic post-hardcore gem with a memorable bass hook and verses that spawned a dozen “misheard lyrics” memes.
“Quick To Panic” – Sheila And The Insects
Also from Cebu, this quartet actually came to Manila before Urbandub did, arriving in the late ‘90s with a jangly sound that blended The Stone Roses and Echo And The Bunnymen. In 2005, they released this urgent anthem that channeled Bloc Party and other post-punk revival acts at the time, yet still sounds fresh and potent today.
“Beer” – The Itchyworms
Who doesn’t know this song by now? Pinoy Rock has given us its share of drinking anthems like 6Cyclemind’s “Sige” and Parokya Ni Edgar’s “Inuman Na,” but “Beer” from The Itchyworms‘ acclaimed second album Noontime Show is undoubtedly the best of them, and what’s more amazing about it is that it was written by the one member of the band who didn’t even drink, at least at the time.
“Narda” – Kamikazee
These local rock jesters largely associated with peers Parokya Ni Edgar came into their own as quality tunesmiths on their second record Maharot, and while a number of its tracks may not have aged well thematically, its carrier single “Narda” simply could not be avoided in 2006 and the years that followed, as this pop-punk anthem about unrequited love struck a chord with millions of listeners nationwide.
“Sugod” – Sandwich
Sandwich rebounded strongly from the departure of frontman Marc Abaya with this comeback anthem from 2006’s Five On The Floor, the first to feature new guitarist Mong Alcaraz (also of Chicosci). His addition to the band gave his and co-guitarist Diego Castillo’s riffs more room to grow and bloom, while Raymund Marasigan rallied rakenrol fans everywhere to head to the front of the stage and wave their flags to their favorite bands.
“Pag-Agos” – Up Dharma Down
Up Dharma Down came onto the scene with a unique, spacious sound that couldn’t seemingly be traced to any obvious influences. “Pag-Agos,” a single from their 2006 debut Fragmented, has trip-hop beats, bossa nova chords played on bass, minimalist guitar lines, and of course, Armi Millare’s soaring, soulful voice, which spawned hundreds of futile copycats.
“Hallelujah” – Bamboo
When the erstwhile Rivermaya frontman returned with a bona fide supergroup in the first half of the decade, it set high expectations for both the music industry and longtime rock fans. “Noypi” lit the fuse, but Bamboo (the band) came unhinged with second album Light Peace Love and its carrier single, in which each member of the band shines and coalesces into an explosion of sheer musical talent.
“Will You Ever Learn” – Typecast
The ultimate homegrown emo anthem from Typecast‘s 2006 breakout record Every Moss And Cobweb remains unequaled by any other local act, including the band themselves. Before hearing “Will You Ever Learn,” I didn’t even know that “unlonely” was an actual word, and yet their fans still raise their fists in the air and earnestly sing along to every lyric without fail, 17 years after its release.
“Migraine” – Moonstar88
While second and current singer Maysh Baay had been with Moonstar88 since 2004, it was on 2007’s Todo Combo that the world at large really got to hear her emotive singing, which was especially moving on that album’s breakout hit “Migraine.” More than 15 years later, it remains one of the band’s most poignant songs, and a crowd-pleaser during their live sets.
“Disconnection Notice” – Pupil
On this single from Pupil’s second album Wild Life, Ely Buendia sheds the wall-of-sound guitars of his earlier post-Eraserheads output for Interpol-inspired angular riffs, resulting in a twitchy yet catchy dance-rock anthem propelled by new drummer Wendell Garcia. Its striking Quark Henares-directed music video adds to the nervousness, with Glaiza De Castro gyrating like a manic Ian Curtis in a stark white asylum.
“Dasal (Sa Gitna Ng Panganib)” – Valley Of Chrome
With the accessibility of digital recording and CD pressing during this decade came the rise of homegrown independent releases and labels, and Tower Of Doom was one of the earliest of the latter. Laguna’s pride Valley Of Chrome is one of its flagship acts, and this enduring thrash anthem from 2007’s Never The Lifeless helped cement the label as one of the champions of local underground metal and punk that mainstream labels wouldn’t dare to touch.
“December 2 Chapter VII” – Taken By Cars
By the late 2000s, a local hipster rock scene had formed around bands and ardent music fans who convened at Cubao Expo and favored Western indie acts like The Strokes, Broken Social Scene, Bloc Party, and the like. Taken By Cars incorporated all the good bits of their influences into their cult classic 2008 debut Endings Of A New Kind. “December 2 Chapter VII” is the album’s strongest track, enhanced by a music video that reflected the visual aesthetics of the time.
“Sinungaling” – Mayonnaise
“Jopay” is the one that everybody knows (and still appears on memes), but Mayonnaise really shined on their third album, Tersera. “Sinungaling” was the first single off that record, showcasing singer/guitarist Monty Macalino’s knack for pop hooks with heavier guitars that evoke the Foo Fighters. It’s but one gem in the band’s consistent stream of reliable hits that continues to this day.
“Yugto” – Rico Blanco
As shown on this list’s first entry, an angry Rico Blanco can come up with songs that measure up to his poppiest material, as proven by his 2008 solo debut single, his first release since departing Rivermaya the previous year. Highly anticipated at the time, “Yugto” is as infectious as it is ambitious — a dramatic multi-part epic that can be compared to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” — and still sounds ahead of its time.
“Song For The Suspect” – Franco
Franco’s self-titled full length debut caught everyone by surprise in 2009 — first with the band being a veritable supergroup with members of Urbandub, Queso, and Parokya Ni Edgar, and second with how consistently great the record was from start to finish. “Song For The Suspect” is the album’s centerpiece — a near-perfect rock-reggae hybrid with an anthemic chorus that one can’t help but sing along to. One love, indeed.