2017 is about to close, and it has been an interesting year for bands and musicians in India. A number of new acts put out their debut albums and EPs, many festivals were organized across the country, and we even had a few notable international acts play here.

We asked some music writers and promoters to contribute to our very first End Of The Year list. The idea was for each person to pick an album or EP put out by an Indian musician in 2017, and write a bit about why that artist stood out for them.

Here is the first part of the list with picks from music writers:

1. Disco PuppetPrincess This (Consolidate)
by Akhil Sood (freelance music journalist)

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One of my favourite ways of connecting with an album is when I hear something and I can picture the uncorrupted process of creation behind the work. Like, I can experience a version of the music before it has a defined ‘purpose’. Here’s an example: Listening to Princess This (by Bangalore’s alternative electronica producer Disco Puppet, aka Shoumik Biswas), which released this year, I get the feeling that it’s been made in a filthy bedroom with empty pizza boxes and wires and cables all over — mostly at night — a process of trial-and- error and minor experiments that seem enjoyable to the creator. I can hear the musician having fun. The abstraction of crafting something out of nothing finds a tangible shape in the 10 songs here. Princess This, as with much of Disco Puppet’s rapidly expanding discography, functions on the edge of insanity. It’s a flawed album (I say this not as a complaint but an observation), but also one that demands a deeper introspection. The music isn’t radically experimental; it’s more speculative than aggressively exploratory.

That’s the space Disco Puppet exists in; his songs have a very specific kind of disregard for form and convention that’s hard to pinpoint at first; it can seem alienating, even. But it rarely descends into anarchy; the songs have a self-regulated restraint and a smart understanding of pop music. It can be exhausting at times, as during bits of ‘Lie Alone’, where you’re left waiting for something you know isn’t coming. On a song like ‘Late Carnivore’ on the other hand, the empty spaces seem to act as a peak in themselves.

An album such as this, at first glance, seems not much more than a disconnected collection of scribbles and drawings compiled together under a common title. But it’s a testament to Biswas’s skills as a songwriter that, upon completion, Princess This seems to make sense in some way. There’s a narrative thread, no matter how loose, tying all these songs into an ‘album’. Musically, it’s the overuse of the Auto-tune, which goes from novel to daring to just a touch infuriating here. But in terms of the bigger picture, it’s an individualistic aesthetic that Biswas has cultivated that sticks long in the memory.

[Listen to ‘Princess This’ here]

2. Aditi RameshAutocorrect (Nrtya)
by Akshay Kapoor (The Indian Music Diaries)

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If I was to add one word to the dictionary which would mean the same as genius, it would most definitely be ‘Aditi’. 27 year old lawyer turned musician, Aditi Ramesh is a genius when it comes to weaving melodies and rhythms. Combining jazz with Carnatic music and adding a whole lot of other genres to the mix is what can be heard on her debut EP ‘Autocorrect’, released earlier this year. The 3-track EP is an explosion of excitement and features vocals in multiple languages, a couple well put together raps and is some of the best fusion music our scene is currently producing. I mean, who can even think of mixing jazz with carnatic classical music and rap?

[Listen to ‘Autocorrect’ here]

3. BlackstratbluesThe Last Analog Generation (Self-released)
by Amit Gurbaxani (The Daily Pao)

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Given the large volume of music that was released this year and how little of it I have managed to listen to, it wouldn’t be right for me to pick a “best” album for 2017. Instead, I’m going to go with the release I heard the most and never got tired of listening to, mostly live. I’ve been for five Blackstratblues gigs this year, a personal record, and each time he played a little more of his new album The Last Analog Generation, a set that matches up to his impressive back catalogue. Like his previous efforts, it’s a selection of blues-rock tunes that deftly weaves in all his influences, from country to metal to pop and R&B. A safe choice? Possibly, but that doesn’t make it any less worthy.

[Listen to ‘The Last Analog Generation’ here]

4. MenwhopauseNeon Delhi (self-released)
by Anurag Tagat (freelance music journalist)

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I haven’t ever lived in Delhi for more than a week tops, but Menwhopause allowed me to understand the capital of our country (an identifier they perfectly address) as if I’d spent an entire lifetime coming to terms with a love-hate relation. Neon Delhi, straight from the title itself, is about how this city glows in the dark – with a loud, blinding attraction to what is obviously gaudy.

It helps that this is a band I’ve had the privilege of seeing despite being a rare visitor to their city – at Ziro Festival of Music, as well as the Orange Festival in Dambuk, Arunachal, where they chopped up a Modi speech (heard on ‘Maybe Who Knows’) and then that time I took a train to see them and Faridkot in Chennai. It’s morose, mocking and psychedelic, which explains why Jeet Thayil can just show up and do a spoken-word bit and vanish. It won’t take another six years for the next one, I hope.

[Listen to ‘Neon Delhi’ here]

5. Dossers UrgeHonest Rage (self-released)
by Arjun S Ravi (RedBull India)

https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/816962751432159232/3S-fuF9B_400x400.jpg  https://f4.bcbits.com/img/a3927569287_16.jpg

The number of contemporary Indian ROCK bands producing music that merits any serious conversation is a single digit figure. The art of the three-minute riff-rocker is dead. The ones who are doing it at all are usually presenting a budget version of the global rock flavour of the week, and the rest are so far gone, they’re post-rock. Enter three brothers from that last bastion of hair metal in the country, Shillong. Dossers Urge has been around for a while, initially peddling a supermarket brand of alt-rock that was common to many of their Meghalayan peers. But over time they put in the work, understood their roots, tightened their chops, and eventually, landed on an enviable sweet spot. Honest Rage presents an assured trio, still raw and unpolished, but musically original and fresh. I’ve had this album on loop since it came out and can’t recommend it enough. ‘Mother’ is easily a contender for Song of the Year.

[Listen to ‘Honest Rage’ here]

6. Prabh DeepClass-Sikh (Azadi Records)
by Bhanuj Kappal (freelance journalist)

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In 2017, no Indian album has stuck with me like Prabh Deep’s Class-Sikh. He’s got such a great voice with a dynamic range in texture and tonality, and he’s got great flow as well, but what really sells it is the stories and the way he tells them. He takes simple, everyday events and transforms them into these anthemic songs of defiance. There’s dark humour, there’s lots of aggression, there are moments of naked vulnerability. Sure, the production could be more varied and some of the skits fall flat. There have been records that have been more innovative in terms of composition or sonic world-building. But for my money, none of them have been as accessible, immediately enjoyable and just plain fun as Class-Sikh.

[Listen to ‘Class-Sikh’ here]

7. Dhruv VisvanathJungle (Self-released)
by Mae Mariyam Thomas (Maed In India)

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So I always find it difficult to bring myself to pick the best album of the year. And though last year it came easy to me (Donn Bhat’s Connected & Ramya Pothuri’s We Never Left EP) this year has proved to be tougher than usual. Firstly I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t heard every piece of music that was released this year. Just whatever I see flash on my timelines or what I get sent by artists. Also, living in an era where the idea of the “album” is slowly dying and instead singles and EPs become the norm, I’m struggling to pick just an album. So I’ve decided to break the rules (I’ve never liked rules very much, too restrictive).

My criteria for my choices are simple – what indie music was I obsessed with. When I say obsessed I mean playing that EP/single/album on loop for days, weeks, even months. When I looked at my collection of 2017 music, the one that stood out for me this year wasn’t an entire album, but one single. Dhruv Visvanath’s ‘Jungle’. Early one morning this song was sent to me via whatsapp. Odd place to listen to music but why not…. and Jungle was nothing I had heard that year. Dhruv Visvanath continues to reinvent himself while still sticking to his guitar spanking roots. He has grown as an artist and his music has cultivated an ability to pull you to him with such ease. If ‘Jungle’ is an inkling of his album ‘The Lost Cause’, I wait like a beggar for alms.

[Listen to ‘Jungle’ here]

8. RuntRhymes With (Self-released)
by Neerav Gupta (Wall Of Noise)

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Runt’s 2017 debut EP ‘Rhymes With’, may sound like a regular alternative rock release, but the background of how the record came about is a tribute to embracing technology and progressing with your music on your own terms. Siddharth Basrur is known as the frontman of a number of bands but on this EP takes the reins into his hands by playing guitars, bass, and singing all vocals to bring this record into the light.

It’s a tough task to compose and record an entire album of music yourself. I would know, I’ve tried for years. The choice to do so is proof that the music cannot wait. Through current music technology, anyone can give life to their vision. Basrur is a seasoned songwriter and, on these five songs, digs into his past for some introspective and personal lyrical material.

[Listen to ‘Rhymes With’ here]

Read part 2 of the the list with picks from promoters and collectives here

What was your favorite album from 2017? Let us know in the comments below!

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5 comments

  1. You guys missed ‘Shalimar’ by Achint which was reviewed by ‘Musicmandir’. Brilliant album from the ex-frontman of Rosemary. :)

    Like

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