Trigger warning: The content below mentions depression and suicide.

At the height of the Philippines’ strictest quarantine measures, the ECQ (Enhanced Community Quarantine), in 2020, JRLDM released “Patiwakal” (Suicide), his artistic distillation of the communal distress surrounding the pandemic. His music and the themes that define it struck a chord among Filipino listeners: misery needs company.

Despite, or maybe because of, its extreme (and vivid) nature, “Patiwakal” and the Lexus-assisted “Parasitiko” (Parasite), prompted an important discussion about mental health. Following JRLDM’s signing under Warner Music Philippines’ Music Colony Records, JRLDM gets raw in “Lason” (Poison), where he rap-sings about reaching for the bottle, a continuation of his previous songs about battling depression and a vivid portrait of mental illness and the human struggle.

In his debut album, Mood Swing, JRLDM surprisingly packs sonic treats that enable him and the listeners to access vulnerability in its severe forms but done so with empathy and at times, tenderness. Guest features from Pinoy rap heavy-hitters such as Gloc-9 and Loonie, as well as rookie MC Jikamarie, help balance Mood Swing’s themes and execution. The album allows JRLDM to work through his emotions with a cinematic flair.

The album format was not only able to expand JRLDM’s creative ideas but also test out different approaches to the deadpan style he’s already known for. In “They Say,” we can hear him crooning; “Sayko” shows several versions of Jerrald Mallari: rough and volatile in one minute, reflective the next. “Para Sa Sarili” (For Myself) sees JRLDM experimenting with fluctuating melodies, making each syllable burst with character. “Eh Papaano” (So How) mixes an attractive shift to production, the vocals embodying a melancholic yet delightful tone thanks to the chemistry between JRLDM and Jikamarie.

Mood Swing allows JRLDM to humanize struggles instead of glorifying them. It’s sympathetic and careful, sensitive yet powerful. It’s not about finding quick resolutions (or maybe not even about even finding one at all), but about why and how working and living through it is just as necessary.

If you’re going through a crisis, help is available. If you’re in the Philippines, connect with the National Center of Mental Health Crisis Hotline at 1553 (Luzon-wide landline toll-free), 0966-351-4518 or 0917-899-8727 (USAP) for Globe/TM subscribers, and 0908-639-2672 for Smart/Sun/and TNT subscribers—available in English and Filipino, 24/7. If you’re in Southeast Asia, connect with your local crisis hotline here. Please be informed that the list is not exhaustive.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

MC Galang contributed to this review.