Pinoy Rock was in a strange state of flux in the previous decade, as many new acts that penetrated the gig circuit eschewed electric guitars for samplers and synths, or overt rock sounds for something more R&B- and pop-influenced. As such, the 2010s saw the rise of artists like Jensen & The Flips, BP Valenzuela, and indie folk troubadours like The Ransom Collective, Reese Lansangan, and of course, Ben&Ben. While they hardly sounded “rock,” the scene embraced them anyway, showing that the audience, too, was evolving, thanks largely to the democratization of music due to now-available streaming services like Spotify.
Free online access to music, be it on Spotify or YouTube, also made it easier for younger musicians to research the past, leading to a resurgence of ’80s and ’90s rock sounds like new wave and lo-fi among new bands, as well as the popularity of niche subgenres like post-rock and math rock in the indie scene. Despite (or along with) everything going on in the local band setting, Pinoy Rock persisted and prevailed in the 2010s, with a mix of veterans and upstarts keeping their amps on 10 and exhorting audiences to mosh and dance along to their music.
“Picture Picture” – Tanya Markova
When Tanya Markova’s debut single came out at the start of the decade, people either loved it or hated it, with the latter camp dismissing it as a joke of some kind. But further listens of the song (as well as the band’s excellent self-titled debut album) revealed their love of alt rock favorites like the Flaming Lips and They Might Be Giants. It sounded like nothing else on the radio at the time, and you couldn’t get it out of your head.
“Bawal” – Imago
Without a strong radio hit like “Akap” or “Sundo,” Imago’s Effect Desired None was an underrated and sadly forgotten record in the band’s discography, their fourth overall and last with original lead singer and guitarist Aia De Leon. She and co-guitarist Tim Cacho maximize their instruments all throughout, especially on propulsive album opener “Bawal,” where the pair trades riffs and lines like any good two-guitar band should.
“Nakauwi Na” – Ang Bandang Shirley
Ang Bandang Shirley were the indie band to watch during the decade, following the success of their 2008 debut Themesongs. 2012’s Tama Na Ang Drama was no sophomore slump and was the record that ultimately captured the band’s audience that remains devoted to this day, with sing-along anthems like “Nakauwi Na” that incited the now-famous “mushpits” during their consistently engaging live sets.
“Past Is Past, Bitch” – Flying Ipis
These ladies from Poveda decided to reconvene their band for their high school reunion and took it seriously from that point on, recruiting ace guitarist Ymi Castel to update their sound with razor-sharp riffs. “Past Is Past, Bitch” slashes like a knife and gets you dancing, with singer Deng Garcia spewing vitriol like Gwen Stefani with bad PMS, while her band lays down a booty-shaking, post-punk inspired groove.
“Tayo Lang Ang May Alam” – Peryodiko
Peryodiko frontman Vin Dancel (Ebe’s older brother) penned this track as a response to Up Dharma Down’s “Indak,” sung from the perspective of the other person. “Tayo Lang Ang May Alam” has since become his band’s most popular song possibly due to its connection to the UDD hit, but it’s an affecting track that stands well on its own, from its somber verses to its chaotic, noise-drenched climax.
“Dayami” – The Purplechickens
Somehow picking up the gauntlet laid down by Peryodiko’s all-Filipino debut record, veteran art rockers The Purplechickens leveled up on the vocabulary and poetry on their third and final record Haláng. Opening track and first single “Dayami” is an exercise in tension and release, luring the listener in with tender melodies before the distortion kicks in. Its lyrics may reach makata levels of deepness, but we can feel the emotions anyway.
“Bawal Simangot” – Peso Movement
Upon hearing an advance copy of Peso Movement’s only record, The Gentle Sound Of Chaos, I immediately posted on Facebook that it would “save rock and roll.” An exaggeration for sure, but this supergroup’s tuneful blend of Aerosmith’s twin-guitar attack with Mudhoney’s dirt was a welcome respite from all The 1975-influenced electro-pop acts at the time. “Bawal Simangot” has enough riffs to fill an entire album, and heaps of guitar fuzz to clog your ears.
“Kagulo” – Sandwich
Eight albums and 17 years into their career, Sandwich succeed in sounding fresh and urgent with “Kagulo,” the first single from 2015’s Debris. With raucous call-and-response guitars set to an infectious surf-rock beat, the song (along with its accompanying music video where a drunken Bianca King goes Gone Girl on a hapless suitor) is right up there with the likes of “Procrastinator,” “Back For More,” and many others in a long line of future classics.
“Two” – Earthmover
Heavy rock still existed in the 2010s, but some of it took the form of dense and sprawling post-rock instrumentals, in which Earthmover truly excelled. Their lack of lyrics were hardly alienating as listeners were drawn into their emotive and textural melange of Sigur Ros’ atmospheres and Deftones’ grind, and “Two” is the best of their earlier pieces. The trio has been dormant since 2019, and fans are hoping for their return to the studio and the stage soon.
“Pariwara” – Ely Buendia, The Itchyworms
Given the Itchyworms’ apparent admiration of the Eraserheads, it was only a matter of time until the reliable hitmakers would collaborate with the latter band’s chief songsmith. Upon its release, “Pariwara” somehow sounded exactly like one would imagine, and yet still managed to exceed all expectations. On paper, you just know it can’t possibly suck, but listening to it for real is a pleasure worth repeating.
“Reflections” – Oh, Flamingo!
Oh, Flamingo! keep getting better with every subsequent release, but on their 2015 debut EP, they were already very, very good, exhibiting a melodic flair that complemented their obtuse, Dirty Projectors-inspired arrangements. “Reflections” is the standout track, opening with a twitchy funk riff and reaching its peak with a Black Sabbath-esque breakdown and guitar solo. It’s like prog rock, but for the indie kids.
“Quatro Quatro” – Musical O
Math rock and post-rock were quite popular in the 2010s as a scene within a scene formed around bands like tide/edit, Tom’s Story, Run Dorothy, and more. As great as they were, Musical O were their heroes, and their 2017 comeback showed that they were still ahead of the pack. “Quatro Quatro” thrusts with an irresistible shuffle and gorgeous guitar lines, and the band crescendos beautifully in the song’s last third, like what the “O” in their name originally stood for.
“Favoritism” – She’s Only Sixteen
Now known as SOS, Roberto Seña and his cohorts have succeeded in all but completely shedding comparisons to Arctic Monkeys and The Strokes with their recent, synth-laced psych pop material. But 2017’s Whatever That Was is a banger of a record, and while “Favoritism” still had some Julian Casablancas mixed in (you can’t blame Seña; that’s how his voice really is), it’s an excellent track with lounge-y guitars, a bouncy bassline, and a chorus you can’t help but sing along to.
“Mundo” – IV Of Spades
Given the diversity in tastes and sounds that each former member has shown in their current solo stints, how IV Of Spades would have evolved if they stayed together for a bit longer is anyone’s guess. But at least they left us with gems like the funky “Hey Barbara,” the ‘80s gloss of “In My Prison,” and the epic “Mundo,” which was probably the biggest song of 2018. It’s romantic, melodic, and has a blazing guitar solo, and while it’s longer and slower than their other releases, it’s undoubtedly the original lineup’s creative peak.
“Hunger” – July XIV
With bands like Pastilan Dong! and The Rave Tapes (shoegaze), The Buildings (slacker rock), Yurei (grunge), and more coming out in the 2010s, the decade saw an emerging nostalgia for various 1990s rock sounds. July XIV offered a slice of ‘90s radio rock in 2018 with the single “Hunger,” an unpretentious, guitar-driven rocker with saccharine vocals by Evee Simon, that would perfectly fit into a playlist along with tracks by Veruca Salt, Belly, and Better Than Ezra. We’re holding our breath for more material from them in 2024.