Coeli’s ‘Here Today’ Signals the Arrival of an Exciting Musical Talent
The singer-songwriter’s debut EP is a brief but remarkable showcase for her elaborate compositions, tender writing, and fully expressive voice.
by Emil Hofileña
Still taken from COELI’s “Magkaibigan o Magka-Ibigan,” feat. Miguel Guico
That thing some people like to call Original Pilipino Music is a spectrum as diverse and indefinable as any other country’s music scene. But there’s still a special comfort in being able to return to a classic sound that’s undeniably Filipino—that sound rooted in folk songs and Spanish music, bright with acoustic guitars and string instruments, and penned with unabashed sentimentality. There are ways to make this formula bland, and then there’s Coeli’s first EP, Here Today. In four intricately arranged tracks, the singer-songwriter-cellist reminds us of the high emotion this style is capable of reaching, and the purity of experience it offers.
If any of this still sounds ordinary, Here Today quickly dispels those doubts by kicking down the door with the opening track “Magkaibigan o Magka-Ibigan,” which was also released in 2017 as Coeli’s first single. The song begins with a question, “Saan nga ba tayo nagsimula?” played in a burst of strings and harmonized vocals, before sliding into a playful waltz. It’s surprisingly ambitious, with Coeli’s incredibly expressive voice seemingly possessed by an older soul. She fluctuates between frustration and pure infatuation, and the song—for all of its dynamic shifts in pace—smartly allows this tension to remain unresolved.
The following tracks aren’t nearly as adventurous, but they continue to display how deliberate Coeli’s songwriting choices are. The lullaby “Puno,” which features guest vocals by Clara Benin, is light as air but never stagnates. Forgoing the full-bodied instrumentation of the previous track, Coeli still manages to thread a complex, evolving melody through nothing but guitar, cello, and two voices. And the title track, easily the most accessible offering on Here Today, takes the full band approach. It can’t help but feel more conventional in comparison, but she still finds space here to flex her vocals, especially her textured lower register.
But while Coeli’s voice is the biggest takeaway from the EP, the final song, “Under a Bluer Sky” makes a case for her writing. It opens with an intriguing, hesitant admission: “Once I was an / Empty slate, lifeless / Tree rooted in my father’s shaken faith.” It’s these specific, personal touches that keep the song from being a straightforward motivational anthem. But before she reveals too much, the record is over. Here Today might end up feeling all too brief for some, with the first half carrying much more replay value than the second, but it’s a powerful debut that effectively showcases everything this artist is capable of. If the rest of Coeli’s career is as exciting as this, then the music scene is all the better for it.