By the time I’ve written this, plenty of publications, blogs and social media influencers have put up their lists praising everything that pleased their ears and prodded their minds. And yet, the releases don’t stop. Every artist – even in India – sets a date for their release and works towards to it.
Sometimes, a well-publicised release date is just one way an artist really pushes themselves to work to record, mix and master and put out their offering. The quality of releases and consistency in Indian alternative music is more or less at a high, pointing towards a love for something that pushes boundaries but also remains hook-filled. Bengaluru-label Consolidate deserves special mention for its class-apart releases that give much promise for Indian electronic music, even as the masses turn to producers such as Nucleya.
The next-level records from Consolidate include Aerate Sound’s Only For External , Worms Cottage’s To Each Their Own and Aniruddh Menon’s Lovesongs . Bengaluru also brought out a comeback album from prog band Moksha, sublime as they ever were, on Walk Before You Crawl , while hard-core punk had a good year with releases from False Flag, Punk on Toast and Death By Fungi. Here’s what our top 10 looked like, in no order whatsoever.
Menwhopause – Neon Delhi
Is it an ode? Probably not. Is it a dedication? Not even. New Delhi band Menwhopause’s long-awaited album is a gloomy, jaded album in many ways, but that was always their style. They do celebrate the ‘we-are- like-this- only’ attitude in a sense – taking aim at politics, love, companionship and building a sonic atmosphere that almost transports you to the best and worst lanes, roads, houses and spaces of Delhi. Like all good art – and unlike most of the capital – Menwhopause have no pretences.
Dossers Urge – Honest Rage
Shillong rockers Dossers Urge capped off a good year (one that included travelling to New York to record) by releasing their full-length album Honest Rage . The brothers Kom – David, Romeo and Gideon – are proof that nothing beats family. They are eloquent, emotional, trippy and best of all, raging on their album, which is all about the riffs, rock ‘n roll energy and stomping rhythms.
Blushing Satellite – The Union
When we talk of consistency, it can get threatened by line-up changes. In the case of Blushing Satellite, they recovered and stayed true to their original motive – music that can almost heal you. The Union , with its jazz, funk, R&B and all-round experimental bent was exceptional for taking listeners on a sonic journey like few other releases in this space, using length movements but also shorter, light-headed songs that could work as stand-alone singles.
Prabh Deep – Class-Sikh
This is not an obligatory inclusion to tell you that Indian hip-hop is very much a trending topic. Considering it is now getting mainstream attention in the country, New Delhi-based rapper Prabh Deep’s Class-Sikh couldn’t have come at a better time – to take over a space and make it about identity, struggle and of course, fun times too. The Punjabi rapper offers up all this, in a voice that bares an unmatched level of conviction.
Disco Puppet – Princess This
When we mentioned earlier about the exceptional selection that has led to Consolidate’s formidable releases this year, the one that deserves most attention is Bengaluru producer, drummer and vocalist Shoumik Biswas’ Disco Puppet. Princess This is ghoulish, intriguing and amazing all at once. It is like a videogame score if you were in hell, a virus had taken over your game and the cheat codes don’t really help.
Shepherd & Death By Fungi – SHEP//DBF
What a year for Bengaluru sludge band Shepherd, who have called time even as they released one of the most fist-pumping releases of the year, alongside Mumbai hard-core band Death By Fungi. SHEP//DBF features a new turn for Shepherd, who showcase atmospherically crushing music and then give way to DBF, who are noisemakers extraordinaire, ticked off about everything and anything.
It’s the music equivalent of someone breaking something (preferably a glass object) on your head.
Eccentric Pendulum – Tellurian Concepts
Eighteen minutes and a few years on and off in the making, Bengaluru metallers Eccentric Pendulum remain the most forward-thinking lot, even if they take their time. They’re mind-bending themed EP Tellurian Concepts is centred around a world gone to waste, and they match it with harrowing growls, relentless patterns and some of the most interesting basslines you’ll hear in heavy music this year.
Fireghost – Among the Leaves
To be honest, it is tough to pick one release that comes bearing Bengaluru-based guitarist Nihal Anand’s involvement – be it Stuck In November’s First Visit to Camp Telepathy or Deadstar’s Baby Teeth . It has been a fruitful year for Anand, to say the least, because he topped it off by taking to vocals and guitar with a new project called Fireghost, featuring the surprise-released record Among the Leaves . It’s not very often music can make you oscillate between calm and uneasy all at once, but here you have it.
RIVU – The Incredible Journey of Light
Kolkata producer and ace guitarist Subhagata Singha is adept at creating soundscapes that aren’t just about evoking 1980s synth nostalgia on his latest album as RIVU. In just over half an hour, there is a space-themed, vocoder-employing collection of songs that is as much about guitar wizardry as it is about synth wizardry, ambient layers and prog riffs. Singha finds a balance between all this to create a regal, half-orchestral sound that is about as epic as it gets.
Gutslit – Amputheatre
For Indian metal, Mumbai death metal band Gutslit are at the top of brutal party-smashers. Amputheatre follows that perverse joy of torturing and maiming, set to some of the fastest tempos. It won’t be just the vocals you’ll have a hard time understanding, but also the lightspeed melodies, which is a metalhead’s delight on every repeated listen. If you tire of Amputheatre, it’s probably because it gave you whiplash.