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THE OUTSIDER By Erwin Romulo Updated November 28, 2008 12:00 AM

To be honest, I’d rather call it the Anton Ego Awards, after the
character of the critic in the animated film Ratatouille. If anything,
he’s the best character in the film in the sense that all the
presumptions about him were overturned in the film’s climax. He was
feared and respected but only because he really knew what he was
talking about and — above all — honest. Being obsequious or
pandering didn’t influence him but rather just whether he liked what
he tasted or not. Even if it was cooked and prepared by a rat.

This year so much great music was released locally that a couple of us
— namely, music lovers Luis Katigbak and Quark Henares — decided
that we should come up with our own Awards. Apologies if we couldn’t
think of a better title for it but let the winners be our saving grace.
(Note: We certainly didn’t agree on everything but that’s the nature of these things. We did, however, explain why,
which if anyone wants to continue arguing about it, just buy us coffee.)


(Erwin) Ciudad, “Bring Your Friends”

This is the Wonder Years soundtrack of our generation. Overlooked and underappreciated, it nonetheless confirms
that eerie phenomenon that befalls all great artists. Remember, even during the Summer of Love, Engelbert
Humperdink beat the rest on 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.

(Luis) 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.

(Quark) 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 on 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 11/29/2008
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(Erwin) Ciudad, My Emptiness

This is one of the most emotionally affecting ones I’ve ever heard this year. It deals in melancholy (and a genuine one
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 Itchyworms’ Love Team, this belongs to the canon of possibly perfect pop songs made in this

(Luis) 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.

(Quark) Taken by Cars, Weeknight Memoir In High Definition

It starts in an ambient, quiet hum that suddenly erupts with Sarah Marco demanding at the top of her voice: “HEART
STOPPING-LIAR, ARE YOU READY FOR THE NEXT JOKE?” Umm, okay, 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.


(Erwin) 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?

(Luis) 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.

(Quark) Pedicab, Ang Pusa Mo

Fourteen words: Shawn Yao, Tricia Gosingtian, Kim Marvilla, Alodia Gosengfiao, Roni Callanta, Ashley Gosengfiao, Kat
Velayo, Dylan, sadomasochism.

(Erwin adds: …and RA Rivera. And yes, Shawn Yao will save us all: “Fiction na nga, speculative pa.”)


(Erwin) Itchyworms

Excellent musicianship, wicked sense of humor and just brilliant songs. I’m pretty sure that this band’s performances
and music kept me from any suicide attempts this year. 11/29/2008
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(Luis) Yosha

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.

(Quark) Sandwich

Though their latest album isn’t their best, Sandwich still gives their proverbial 110 percent 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.


(Erwin) Intolerant and Loss Of Control

Just because they’re metal and they don’t give a f**k.

(Luis) 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.

(Quark) Taken by Cars

A lot of people accuse Taken by Cars of ripping off Bloc Party. 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.

6. COMEBACK OF THE YEAR (By Erwin Romulo)

Marcus Adoro with “Markus Highway.” Whoever would’ve thought that Marcus 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.

Another band is Afterimage. Just because Wency actually dared. He failed (miserably), but what an attempt! And that
video where he keeps jumping is funny in a macabre sorta way.


(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.

(Luis) Ang Bandang Shirley, “Themesongs”

C’mon. That Pepper Roxas cover is all sorts of adorable. 11/29/2008
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(Quark) Up Dharma Down, “Bipolar”


(Erwin) 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’s just released their newest album “Bipolar.” Just for the fact that it that they
seemed to be the only artist not to be swallowed up by the Eheads reunion and make an impact. Also, for 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.

(Quark) Cuidad

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. The 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.

View previous articles of this column. 11/29/2008