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AUDIO JUNKIE: ‘Hugot’ bands on the rise

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Pinoy pop these past two years have been dominated by “hugot” themes. Moira Dela Torre, Janine Teñoso, I Belong To The Zoo, John Roa, TJ Monterde, Kyla, Yeng Constantino and other solo artists have popularised forlorn songs about unrequited love, heartbreak, undying devotion and the related mess that could go with it eventually.

Bands are following suit. Well, groups like December Avenue, Juan Karlos (technically solo, but operating with a group), Ben & Ben, The Juans and This Band are ahead of the pack but my oh my more are coming.

Feel Day is an alt-pop leaning, soft-rock outfit that’s been championing the popular sounds and themes of the day. Singer-songwriter Jek Buenafe explained that the group’s monicker is pretty much a description of the band’s “chill” sound.

PusaKalye

PusaKalye

“Our goal (is to) produce songs that make every listener feel welcome and at home, ” he said.

A jingle-music composer, we first heard of Buenafe last year as one of the composer-interpreter finalists at the Philpop competions. He said “lyric-wise our songs mainly appeal to Pinoy millenials. With lots of ‘hugot’ lines and (an) overall feeling of being ‘sawi pero kaya pa naman.’”

Sound-wise that means Buenafe, with lead guitarist Jin Solomon, bassist Kim Casim and drummer Ram Gloria’s songs feel like a throwback to a time when power ballads were king. Their early 2019 release “Nandito Pa” certainly sounds so.

They take it further in their latest song “The Silence Here.” It has all the hallmarks of soft rock: Atmospheric lead guitar work throughout, a backbeat that crashes in only before the high points in the chorus, and as the band would put it, “a melancholy start” that eventually “ends in anthemic chaos” (call it whatever style you want, bro, we think it’s solid songwriting).

Down by 18

Down by 18

The boys of Pusakalye have their own take on the sounds of the times. The Guadalupe Viejo, Makati-based band which includes bassist Lester Binoya, guitarists AG Cawili and Ian Mante, keys player Almond Mendoza, drummer Ace Perez and singer Oli Tayo describe themselves as the purveyors of ‘melo-poetic pop rock.’ Pusakalye’s roots similarly stem from the Pinoy band explosion of the ’90s and is, judging by their past song releases – including tracks include the acoustic tinged “Kulimlim” and “Kapit Pa,” a tad edgier despite the overflowing sentiments about love and letting go.

Their latest release “Kahit” is no different. They say it is a song about being “certain in uncertainty.” About that “one moment when you are stuck between staying and letting go, and each step you take forward, moves you two steps back to where you are.”

Feel Day in action at Route 196

Feel Day in action at Route 196

Then there’s Down By 18. A tight little unit that includes core members Walter Dumagan and John Gerald both on vocals-guitars, John Gerald Ajero on guitar and drummer Arvin Morilla. The occassional session players join in (Erick De Leon and Johannes Horena).

A hard-gigging band used to zipping up and down Metro Manila and the provinces, Down By 18 may be a pop band but they pepper their sound with early-aught pop-punk flavors and sounds.

For their debut, though, they go (you guessed it) the ‘hugot’ route in the mellow, heartfelt acoustic-tinged ballad “Piring.”

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