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2021 Year In Review - Part Three

Dec 31, 03:45pm

So long, and thanks for all the fish!

Well, here we are. 2021 is officially a wrap. This wasn’t 2020 by any stretch of the imagination, but it was far from rosy. As we all continue to struggle to recover from a pandemic we are still very much in the middle of (no matter what anyone would have you believe), there was still something objectively positive to it all. Music, of course. We’ve come to learn that indie artists are much stronger and dedicated than anyone thought, pushing through a pandemic and all this sadness in the world to make art that we could consume and cheer ourselves up with. This was clearly felt (Spotify’s Indie India playlist is growing 90% per year among other things); music has been one of the beacons of joy and support in these times. So, we’re going to wind up the year with a few albums you should check out.

 

Second Sight – Coral

 

 

That Mumbai duo Second Sight has enough talent to pull off this album is one thing. That they have the foolhardy confidence to even attempt it is a whole ‘nother. They cover all sorts of sounds and influences over forty-odd minutes of music, but it’s nowhere the mix and match that you would expect. This is a remarkably cohesive release that jumps from jazz to pop to orchestral music to a Spanish bolero (yes, that’s true) with a common theme somehow running through it. Possibly one of the most entertaining bits of musical tourism you’ll come across.

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Meewakching - Thengmankhre Hee Ado Lakpa, Eikhoidi Sikhiba Kuire Erolnungda

 

 

The title of this striking indie rock release means ‘It Was Too Late For The Boat To Arrive, We Were Dead Long Ago Underneath The Lake’. Imphal’s Meewakching play their hearts out on this album, full of musical references any 2000s indie band would be proud of. This is music for those moments that defined your angsty teenage years turned up to 10; passionate vocal delivery, untethered performances and a rawness to the presentation that is just right. If you’re into reliving that turbulent time in your life, use this for your soundtrack.

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Sungarden – Textures

 

 

Aditya Ray is a producer and artist who experiments with ambient electronic fare on this album. The music here isn’t particularly accessible for everyone, to be fair; it consists of four tracks, all approaching the ten-minute mark. The songs are a mass of drones, synths and general atmosphere that don’t particular aim for any particular vibe or mood. What is interesting about ‘Textures’ is that it puts the listener in the driving seat and asks you to absorb it however you wish. That makes it a surprisingly versatile listen.

 

Mali – Caution To The Wind

 

 

Singer-songwriter Mali has been doing rather well of late, with a bunch of solid releases under her belt. This new album is her first full-length and it’s a short-ish affair. However, what that allows her to do is pack the album wall-to-wall bangers. This thing is stacked with fantastic hooks, some very, very smart instrumentation and pretty modern writing. This is good indie-pop that’s held to a high standard; there is pretty much no second wasted, and so it’s a captivating listen. Note: listen to the whole thing in sequence.

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Shubh Saran – Inglish

 

 

There’s a lot to be said about fusion and how difficult it is to pull off, but polymath Shubh Saran does a truly incredible job doing his genre justice on the rollicking ‘Inglish’. He weaves his Indian influences into a jazzy, mathy and altogether captivating blend of genres without overclogging his music with too much variation. It takes a hell of a lot of talent to take such sonic risks. There are so many ideas, so much detail on the album that a repeat listen is guaranteed if not essential. Here is a journey well worth going on.

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Midhaven – Of The Lotus And The Thunderbolt

 

 

Metal band Midhaven take a few interesting turns on this winding, conceptual record. The band takes many a cue from sludge and prog to more ‘traditional’ metal sounds on the music here, but they never let a particular turn stagnate. Choruses, skull-crushing riffs and solos melt into each other here, giving rise to songs that feel like continuations of an overarching story. There is a lot of variety to be found, but the songs live in a loose concept that deals with the personification of time and the effect it has on the universe. That sounds pretty lofty, but it sounds equally grounded and therefore excellent.

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Mocaine – The Birth Of Billy Munro

 

 

Delhi’s Mocaine takes concept albums to a whole new level on this effort; the album serves as a soundtrack to a novella and a short film (yes, as one unified project). There’s a fair amount of tightrope-walking one would expect from having to handle three art forms at the same time, but Mocaine doesn’t bother bothering and just goes for it? What do you get? A riff-filled rock project about a man who feels wronged by his world and thus decides to make it pay. That’s a badass story in itself, and it is supported by some strong guitars, great grooves and some really clean rock songwriting.

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Blackstratblues – Hindsight Is 2020

 

 

That this Blackstratblues album is a feast of instrumental blues and rock doesn’t even need to be said, of course. Warren Mendonsa and co. have long since established that pretty much everything they put out is going to be fantastic, but maybe that isn’t the point of ‘Hindsight is 2020’ at all. There is a tenderness in this album (a sort of dedication and musical ode to his daughter) that is deeply emotional once you find it. Of course, to do so, you have to first navigate through song after song of fantastic playing (duh), superb instrumentation (duh again) and some truly incredible grooves (and duh). It’s a release you will come back to again and again.

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Six Flying Whales – Return To Sea

 

 

This one comes a bit out of left field, a prog-folk offering from Bangalore musician Mayur Nanda. He throws all sorts of things into this fun and psychedelic project from progressive rock elements to funhouse influences you’ll hear in some sort of circus-y project (at least, that’s the image it conjures up). There’s more; the album is presented as sixteen vignettes, as it were, with barely any songs crossing two minutes in length. This does result in something of a sensory overload, but it’s so, so satisfying. ‘Return To Sea’ pulls you in and out of its world almost at will, hitting you with short stabs of songwriting and all the while keeping you fully entertained. Going off the beaten path is either horrific or rewarding. This is the latter.

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Tejas – Outlast

 

 

We waited for this album for a fair amount of time, and by all accounts, so did Mumbai songwriter-guitarist-singer Tejas. This album was recorded a while ago but got delayed by the pandemic. But when it did come out, boy, was it worth the wait. Tejas basically takes his already excellent songwriting chops and lets them explode into colour; songs bombard you with one musical influence after another, suddenly switching moods and palette without so much as a second of warning. This release truly has everything; funky grooves, full-on rock ballads, great riffs, insane playing, and some pretty intimate lyricism. It would be a crime not to give it the time it requests.

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Well, that’s about it. Please stay safe, please keep listening. Happy New Year!

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