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Top 10 Albums of 2013

features Jan 13, 06:23pm

We take a look back at the top 10 releases in the indie music space in 2013. Tell us who you think should have made the list. 

 

Amyt Datta – Ambiance de Dans

 

 

The dexterity and mastery, the ease with which Amyt Datta shuffles across the fretboard all through Ambiance de Dans­­­ lends the album an intangible, celestial identity. And that’s just the peripheral, outermost layer. A further inquisition, beyond purely the craftsmanship, reveals a record that constructs a mountain of emotions, from empathic and sensitive understanding to sadness to a sense of understated bliss – it’s a wave of emotions allowing the album to flow along its axis at will. Datta, possibly the coolest musician to come out of the country and most definitely a guitar player who ranks with the very best of them, crafts a stirring jazz-fusion record where displays of brilliance are almost taken for granted. And the rhythmic fluidity (provided by Jivraj Singh), complementing the phrasing and sustaining the aqueous resonance of Ambiance de Dans, adds a further level of substance to proceedings. Akhil Sood

Read our full review of the album here.

 

Sky Rabbit Where EP

 


How do you follow up the best Indian indie album of 2012? With one of the best EPs of 2013, of course. Mumbai electro-alt act Sky Rabbit's EP, Where, further refines their sound by cutting back on samples and letting the chemistry between four musicians take centre-stage. In Ayan De, they seem to have found a producer who understands their vision, thus fixing the only weak point on their self-titled debut – the flat production. Raxit Tewari’s lyrics are still obscure and tangential, laced with his deadpan wit but nary a line that lends itself to easy interpretation. The melancholic ‘Over The Rise’ and live favourite ‘Maybe Is Open Tonight’ are the standout tracks from this EP. Bhanuj Kappal 

 

Hoirong – The Resurrection Of The Princess of Woe And Her Vampire Hound Posse

 


Some music is best heard LOUD. Hoirong’s bizarre debut is that kind of music. Loud, scratchy, lo-fi to a fault, and just so memorably melodic, this noise-punk/disco/pop record breeds and actually encourages conflict, as noisy terrains grapple for space with the poppy hooks and melodic explorations that Kamal Singh (ex-Lounge Piranha), aka Hoirong makes. This is a daring record, with very witty and caustic lyrics to boot, as on ‘Fancy Dress + Hindi = Awesome’, which may or may not be speaking about Indian bands singing in Hindi in costumes. And, one underrated element of this album, and Hoirong’s music, is his understanding of sound and tonality (it’s a self-produced record done on a minimal setup). The lo-fi-aesthetic drum has been beaten aplenty, possibly to death, but what’s also noteworthy is that the songwriting seems to be perfectly in conjunction with the way the album sounds.  You can’t separate one from the other – everything falls in sync, and that, more than any individual song (although what a song ‘Super Glue’ is), is what makes this album a special release. (Song names like ‘Bonda’ or ‘Bajrang Bali’ help too.) AS

Read our full review of the album here.

 

Nischay Parekh – Ocean

 


Ocean has the elusive musical quality of colour – a vibrancy that walks hand in hand with wistfulness in this captivating debut by Nischay Parekh. It blends together the less annoying elements that singer/songwriters champion – that of, you know, arrangement, composition, and singing well – with subtle, introspective explorations into the avant-garde (as avant-garde as catchy pop music allows you to go). Thus, a song like ‘Secrets’, with its understated psychedelia, can coexist on an album that also has a song called ‘I Love You Baby, I Love You Doll’ or ‘Panda’. That synchronicity, that harmony of thought, allows Ocean to transcend cheap, manufactured pop tendencies to create a record that retains substance. And the uniqueness of Parekh’s voice, subject of much debate here and elsewhere, also gives the music a very definite character, an identity it can call its own. AS

 

Big City Harmonics Foreward

 


Foreward sways. It grooves, and it bounces. Textural interplay dinked in soft, deep, and velvety bass, guides the narrative of Foreward, embedded in the smooth, mid-tempo electronica territory. The five-song release maintains a consistency in terms of tempo, with the jigs and the tricks displayed within the songs, which make stylistic leaps as instruments shift focus and dense passages give way to sparse terrains to add a meandering vibe to the music. The heavily treated, sporadically spaced vocals add uneasy pockmarks that add newer dimensions to the sound in this very promising debut. AS

Read our full review of the album here.

 

The Lightyears Explode! The Revenge of Kalicharan

 


Mumbai pop-punkers The Lightyears Explode! made the transition from ‘promising’ to ‘certifiably good’ with their debut album, the kitschy and catchy The Revenge of Kalicharan. This is intelligent, engaging pop-punk, with a side helping of garage-y riffing. The lyrics are full of idiosyncratic humour and pop culture references both Indian and universal ("Bring on the night, bring on the fun, I fought the law and won"). Opener ‘Kunj Gutka’ is a high energy anthem for Bombay's pill-popping stoner scene as they threaten to bring the house down and come out on the streets, while the eminently danceable ‘I Am A Disco Dancer’ pays tribute to the classic Mithun song while also being a scathing commentary on the indie scene's commercialism and hipster dick-waving — "The counter culture makes its pockets fatter/ We're the underground our dicks are larger". They get bonus points for the many times I got to see Mumbai’s hipsters shout along to that line during their live sets. BK

 
Skrat – Brings Out The Big Guns

 


The stream of joyfulness that runs through most of Bring Out The Big Guns is quite endearing, if at times stomach-churning cheesy. But that’s Skrat – the album has this innate sense of hook and melody. Behind the youthful style of composition lies a maturity in the construction of the songs – monotony barely sets in as the band juggles different moods and approaches within the realm of what can loosely be termed ‘indie-alternative-pop-punk-rock’, and the vocal delivery really holds things together as the singer displays a daredevil balancing act between catchy/hooky and substantive, meaningful melodies. Possibly the best part of Bring Out The Guns is that the songs stick on in the memory, they leave an impact long after the short 34-minute album is over. AS

 

Tajdar Junaid – What Colour Is Your Raindrop

 


Tajdar Junaid’s masterpiece is a stunning collection of contrasting moods, atmospheres, feelings, conditions. It’s a score to a film that you create in your own head as the narrative of What Colour Is Your Raindrop shapes and crafts itself through the course of the 10 songs, right from the opening strums of ‘Though I Know’ to the very last breath that album-closer ‘Yaadon ki Pari’ breathes. The style of composition and arrangement, admittedly influenced in form by Yann Tiersen and Gustavo Santaolalla on the mostly-instrumental record, adds a vivid emotional upheaval that words or lyrics wouldn’t quite do justice to. This is a record that poses many questions, and just as many open-ended resolutions – all it requires is a certain space of mind and an openness and willingness to absorb the depths of the music. AS

Read our full review of the album here.

 

The Circus – Bats

 


The riff monster-like nature of Bats makes it a frantic listen, packed to the hilt with an inescapable energy. A melodic sensibility runs through its course, with the effects-heavy jiggery-pokery on the guitars and bass adding a degree of oddness to Bats. The textural vocals, finely processed to settle into the mix whenever required, are quite possibly the highlight on this action packed record, with songs like ‘Spontaneous Combustion Love Song’ and ‘Insert Name Here’ taking on a greater life thanks to the melodic delivery. What’s more – this is the band’s second full-length and third release in total, displaying a longevity and an urge to constantly write new material and, in turn, progress musically. AS

Read our full review of the album here.

 

SundogProject – Hex1/Visions

 


This one’s a very uncompromising record (obstinate, even) that requires repeated listens, concentration, and also a certain bent towards approaching music that tries to push boundaries. It doesn’t always succeed, but Hex1/Visions creates a certain space for itself – it exists in and of itself and manages to wrangle out a considerable ‘human’ experience behind the hundreds of layers of guitars, snyths, electronic sounds, odd percussions, the occasional spattering of noise too. It gets gloomy at times, and is mostly brooding, with songs like ‘Parhelion’ or ‘Hole’ taking their time to develop fully, but underneath the gloom lies the emancipation. The vocal melodies – which whisper, scream, shout, croon in equal measure and take ages to fully entrench themselves in the consciousness of the average listener – offer a very different take on notions of familiarity. The experiments here are challenging, but just as fruitful as other music that listeners are probably far more accustomed to. AS

Read our full review of the album here.

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