2023 has inarguably been a record year for us at Melt Records. Over the year, we’ve released well over 70 new songs from our talented roster of artists and that’s more than we’ve ever done in the past. As an independent label, we never put out music that we don’t sincerely believe in; we love every single piece of music we put out. At the same time, we felt it important to recognize the “best of the best” – the chosen few that have somehow stood out among the many awesome tracks we’ve had the pleasure of putting out this year.
There’s no objective way to measure “best” when it comes to music. But if there were, we believe it would be on the basis of impact; not revenue or number of streams, not technical proficiency, but in how it has moved the people who happened to hear it. And what better way to measure that than to get the consensus of a select group of listeners who live, love, and breathe music.
The categories below have been voted on anonymously by at least twenty people from the Melt Records staff, our roster of artists, select audiences, and members of the music press. All releases between January 1st, 2023 and November 30, 2023 have been considered for the recognition. For Best Pop Rock Track, Best Alternative Track, and Best Extreme Track, each voter was allowed to choose up to three of their favorite tracks.
Without further ado, here are the BEST OF MELT 2023 winners for Best Pop Rock Track, Best Alternative Track, Best Extreme Track, Best New Artist, and Album of the Year! (Click the link to skip over to the category.)
Best Pop Rock Track
Best Pop Rock Track represents one end of the spectrum of musical styles we find ourselves working with, covering everything from hip hop and electropop to singer-songwriter and folk. These are the tracks that make you tap your feet to the beat or cry yourself to sleep, whichever works for you.
Garnering 40% approval from 20 voters, the Best Pop Rock Track for 2023 is…
Chelsea Dawn – “Butterfly”
Butterfly was Chelsea Dawn‘s second single release of 2023 and it was a big one. The track features a larger arrangement with tinges of 00’s indie rock nostalgia as appropriate to the song’s themes of childhood innocence, in contrast to Chelsea’s usually more folksy, minimalistic sound. Butterfly was also the first recorded track to feature Chelsea’s full band lineup, though band members Law Tanatan (drums), MJ Litorja (guitars), and Abe Jun Esquibel (bass) had been long-time collaborators in her previous releases including Chelsea’s other release this year, Ohio.
The track was released to streaming in October, alongside a fun music video and Chelsea’s first Manila performance at 123 Block alongside indie legends and mainstays Ciudad, SOS, Munimuni, and more. In 2024, expect more new music from Chelsea, including a currently hush-hush project with an overseas pop rock act!
Runners up: Chelsea Dawn “Ohio” (30%), Vincent Eco “If You Leave” (30%)
Coming in a close second is Chelsea Dawn’s first release of the year, Ohio, a bubbly ode to her home base of Dumaguete City and a crowd-favorite singalong at her local shows.
Tied with the same number of votes, Vincent Eco‘s If You Leave was the most streamed of all the tracks released in 2023 and it’s no surprise why. The memorable track showcases Vincent Eco’s already established songwriting prowess, producing a slow, sad waltz that everyone who’s been in a relationship can easily relate to.
Best Alternative Track
Best Alternative Track represents the middle of the spectrum, from pure unadulterated alternative rock to its various subcategories like post-rock, shoegaze, dream pop, and more – this is the music that outsiders and “the cool kids” can all agree on!
Garnering 47.8% approval from 23 voters, the Best Alternative Track for 2023 is…
KRNA – “Dream Again”
After going through lineup changes in the last two years and growing in leaps through high-profile online performances and extensive touring throughout the Philippines and overseas, the band’s new and even better sound comes to fruition in the catchy new track.
Dream Again was released on October 27, with its equally mesmerizing music video coming out shortly thereafter in November. The track is the first single to be released off the band’s upcoming album which is to be their first full-length release Kireina, slated for an early 2024 release. The new album will be available not just on digital platforms but is expected to be released as a 12″ vinyl as well — definitely something to be excited about in 2024!
Runners up: monopolice “A Fine Day For A Swim” (34.8%), UJU “The Sun is in our Eyes” (34.8%)
Newcomer monopolice released their debut single A Fine Day For A Swim in the first half of the year to a hot reception from Cebu’s local indie fans. The track’s 90’s/00’s vibe screams nostalgia but at the same time, establishes the group’s distinct alternative rock sound to set the stage for their future releases.
Tied for second place, UJU‘s titular track from their latest (and sadly final, for now) album, The Sun is in our Eyes, is the third most streamed of 2023’s releases. The dream pop band from Dumaguete has long established their connection with a loyal fanbase, and it’s a connection that has only been strengthened through their latest collection.
Best EXTREME Track
Best Extreme Track represents the heaviest end of the spectrum, including punk, hardcore, metal, and experimental music. The tracks in this category are made for the pit, for wallowing in despair, or for a mindblowing listening experience.
Garnering 63.6% approval from 22 voters, the Best Extreme Track for 2023 is…
SHVRIKEN – “SEKIGAHARA”
SEKIGAHARA is only SHVRIKEN‘s second track on streaming platforms after their self-released debut single Hellwalker, but it already achieves more than just cementing their place in Cebu’s local metal scene. Innovative on multiple ends, from their groovier take on heavier-than-thou metal riffs, their unique storytelling themes and inspiration, and their iconoclastic visual approach on both the materials that go with their songs and their live stage presence, SHVRIKEN is set to be a force to be reckoned with, and SEKIGAHARA is proof of that.
The band’s immediate plans for the coming year are not yet set in stone, but with the momentum they’ve got from their first two drops as well as their relentless live performances in big events like Threadfest 2022 and Cataclysm 2023, it’s not at all far-fetched to expect even greater things from this band in 2024.
Runners up: Irrevocable “Generational Curses” (50%)
In second place is Irrevocable‘s gem of a track “Generational Curses“, a unique traversal of hardcore punk and midwest emo, and the titular track to their 2023 sophomore EP. In typical Irrevocable fashion, the track is both fun to jam to while evoking deep social relevance in its lyrics. “Generational Curses” is still available on 10″ vinyl!
Best New Artist
While 2023 saw many of our label mainstays elevate to new heights with their latest releases, we’ve also had the pleasure of introducing new artists who banded together or, at least, have only begun releasing music to digital streaming just this year. For all the good we’ve seen happen in 2023, the arrival of these awesome new acts had to be some of the best!
Garnering 59.1% of 22 votes, the Best New Artist for 2023 is…
The members of monopolice are no strangers to the music scene. The band could practically be considered a “supergroup”, formed by members of veteran Cebu indie acts such as Bottle Rocket, Honeydrop, Mandaue Nights, Sunday Sunday, and more. So it should have come as no surprise how well crafted the band’s first two releases, A Fine Day for a Swim and Perfume, would turn out to be.
Yet somehow, the band’s debut this year still went above and beyond any expectations. In addition to releasing their first two singles (with Perfume also featuring a music video the band produced themselves), the band has prolifically made the rounds in Cebu’s live music circuit, performing several shows to delighted crowds throughout the year, including a headlining show to launch the single, Perfume. Not a bad start!
In 2024, the band is set to release their debut album, a full-length that we can’t wait to release to you. Stay tuned for more great things from monopolice.
Runner up: Turnpike (18.2%)
Cebu’s freshest hardcore sensation Turnpike didn’t just hit the ground running in 2023; they tore down every wall that stood in their way. The band was prolific in their debut year, launching an EP You vs. Everyone You Love at the bend, then later transitioning into two singles with a new, darker sound, Angels Weep and Fatal Cleansing. A new single, Breaking Your Peace, is set to kick off 2024 and the band’s sophomore album is set to drop in the same year. The band is also set to perform live in Metro Manila for the first time this February 2024.
Album Of The Year
Some say the album is dead, but not us! There’s nothing quite like sitting back and listening for an hour to your artist telling their story through a beautifully curated collection of their songs. We released a few great albums this year that are still on repeat in our playlists, but one has stood just a cut above the rest.
Garnering 25% of 24 votes, the Album of the Year for 2023 is…
UJU – The Sun Is In Our Eyes
When UJU released the initial two singles, Promises and We Should’ve Walked But We Ran, in 2022, they deliberately set the stage for what would turn out to be a highly anticipated sophomore album. The Sun is in our Eyes, released in January of this year, is nothing short of a masterpiece in what, sadly, was the band’s swan song prior to calling a hiatus.
The titular track, The Sun is in our Eyes, has been one of the most streamed songs among those we released this year. The 6-minute opus is chock full of UJU’s signature lo-fi, reverb-drenched vibes and, as with the rest of the album, bittersweet themes that the Dumaguete duo has come to be known for — of friendships and love, and their inevitable dissolution as people move on to “greener pastures”, a story arch so easily relatable to those who call a university town like Dumaguete City home.
While we can only hope to see UJU back in form in the future, we have the gift of their discography to enjoy for the timebeing. If you haven’t listened to The Sun is in Our Eyes yet, do yourself a favor and stream it now!
Runners up: Odd “Where The Sun Is Shining”, Francis Cang “Sky Burial” (16.7%)
Odd’s pandemic opus Where The Sun Is Shining was a labor of love that saw them from being all together in one place to each being in different corners of the globe. Without uttering a single word, the band flawlessly tells this tale through their glorious, dynamic instrumental arrangements.
Francis Cang’s artistry with the axe likewise shines in a collection of previously released instrumental pieces previously released and have now found their place in an EP. While the technical skill that went into Sky Burial is impossible to ignore, what truly sets the collection apart is Francis’ unique ability to tell a story and evoke different emotions with the notes he plays (and doesn’t play).
And that wraps up our list of this year’s BEST OF MELT awardees!
Of course, these are just a tiny few of the many great songs and albums that came out this year. Check out the Spotify playlist below to listen to all our 2023 releases.
And to those who have supported us and, more importantly, our roster artists throughout the year and even before that, we express our deepest gratitude! We hope the music has changed your lives (or at least given you a few hours of joy) in some way and we hope to bring you even greater things in 2024.
Happy new year, everyone! May your 2024 be awesome!