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Wrap-Up 2020

Dec 31, 01:21pm

Here are some artists that made art that we should remember (even though this year should be deleted from the records)

The year’s finally over. It took a long time and there is no doubt 2020 will go down as one of the toughest and most harrowing years in recent memory, but the best thing that happened over these twelve difficult months (other than the interminable passage of time) was that artists and musicians in the independent scene continued to make their art. Whether it was at home or over Zoom, the making of music both underground and not so much was one of the few bright spots in a time where anything positive was like searching for a needle in a haystack. So listen to these albums, singles and EPs; if nothing else, they are a reminder that not everything was a hellish blur of hardship this year.

1. Merak – A Fine Mess (EP)

Merak are a Goa duo that’s new to the scene as far as releasing music goes; their excellent three-song EP gives no indication of that though. It’s indie but with so much freedom and emotion; they incorporate heaviness, orchestration and moments of quiet simplicity with great confidence. There’s a bit of everything over just three tracks and makes for a great, immersive listen.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLy7DO5NJaHcXyXjV-lrmXHdRqIgM5je2X

2. The Earth Below – Nothing Works Vol.2: Hymns For Useless Gods

Drummer and everything else-er Deepak Raghu has been dropping gem after gem as The Earth Below for a couple of years now, taking progressive rock, metal and experimental elements to interesting places while writing, and there’s no other way to say it, bangers. His new album is chock full of great production, a concept that doesn’t beat you over the head into submission and strong songwriting; it’s no surprise that it’s another great showing.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6YcAbQydIqE07gPH4lDJ2bn_UfoNBVQk

3. Upatyaka – Luitore Balit

Assamese singer-songwriter Upatyaka speaks about humanity and basic freedoms on this utterly epic single; there is a sense of emotion that you only get from movie soundtracks. Her voice is incredibly expressive, the instrumentation is a multi-country collaborative effort and of course, the nod to her land. The quality here is palpable.

4. Compass Box Studios

This one’s a no-brainer. Ahmedabad’s Compass Box has put out an almost comedically huge amount of great music and video content throughout the year. Even listing every release is a little silly and will take up far too much space; Heat Sink has put out good stuff, Chirag Todi’s new single is fantastic, the two compilation albums of the studio sessions they’ve had over time are immaculately produced, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Just go to their channel and immerse yourself.

https://www.youtube.com/c/CompassBoxMusic/featured

5. Serpents Of Pakhangba – Self-Titled

Amogh Symphony’s Vishal J. Singh is behind this completely insane project that put out its first album in 2020. There aren’t many words that can describe the 45 minutes of music here that sound particularly sane, so there’s no point even trying. It’s like 21st century Zappa on an assortment of drugs; the instrumentation is amazing but dissonant, the vocals are equally nuts and the songs take turns that- well, just embrace the craziness and do not miss out.

6. Blurple – Time’s Not Normal

Blurple are a little Chennai band that should be listened to. Their single ‘Time’s Not Normal’ is their best effort this year, a slinky bit of r&b-tinged indie pop with a killer bassline and the kind of vibe you’d need after a long day. Get the mood lighting set up and prepare your late-night Instagram quotes for this one.

7. Fakeer, The Arc – Ikigai (EP)

Bengaluru is rebounding from a lot of its live venues shutting overnight; a move that did no favours to its burgeoning and inventive scene. A vehicle for this is jazzy hip-hop, a tradition many bands are getting into. Rapper Fakeer teams up with the band The Arc for this dynamic, endlessly groovy and wonderfully produced release. The vocals are melodic, the raps are solidly and of course, the rhythm section is outstanding. It’s good to see hip-hop grow up here.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_k36KM1YbVhCyghXMPIyXRg1NFxIr_pGRo

8. Savera – Swim/Landfill

Mumbai singer-songwriter Savera hits his straps with his two latest singles. The indie sensibilities of the songs are backed by some truly gorgeous strings and orchestral touches; the grandiose nature of these elements really lifts the otherwise quiet and rainy-day vibe of his vocals and guitars. These are some of the best-written singles this year.

9. Krameri – Hampstead

Another phenomenal indie release, Vadodara artist Krameri delivers a stunning album of melancholy piano-driven tracks with the most tasteful electronic instrumentation you’ll hear this year. It’s non-intrusive, it’s low-key and it will surprise you every single time. It’s folky in places, epic in others, and subtly modern throughout. Her vocals (think the modern folk a lot of pop artists are using these days) are evocative to add to all this. This album should not be missed.

https://youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_mCYtzIOw-uD1N56U9rtIU5FZB8yvyQMWA

10. Hoirong – Hope & Light

Probably the album of the year, rock band Hoirong crafts a detailed, raw and delightfully noisy album of tracks that punch you right in the face. There’s meaning to the chaos here. The twelve songs have a sense of deliberation and careful orchestration, so sure, while there is some dissonance and moments where the band catches you off guard with its lack of gratification, it all makes sense as an uninterrupted listen. That’s the right way to listen to this excellent effort; it deserves your time.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_myILvza0n29MINRZgDdA3Qa3n1KRQZCRw

11. Seedhe Maut

There’s no point picking any one of the singles Seedhe Maut put out this year to feature because they’re all hits. Azadi Records made a smart as hell decision to sign the Delhi duo a while ago and pretty much everything they’ve put out this year is top-draw. ‘Do Guna’ is possibly the outright catchiest of their singles so far, but their braggadocious verses and rage-filled raps on ‘Yaad’ and ‘MMM’ hit like a ton of bricks. There’s not much more to say; your ears will do the rest.

https://www.youtube.com/c/SeedheMaut/videos

12. Digee – Tales For Your Broken Heart (EP)

Jaipur whizkid Digee is razor-sharp with the production on this short but strong genreless EP. He goes through a whole bunch of sounds and influences at breakneck pace over six short songs and shows an incredible amount of versatility. Hip-hop, lo-fi, emo, electronica, trip-hop; it’s all there. His melancholy and lovelorn vocals float over it all and tie the whole thing together. This release is only sixteen minutes long but feels like a year of music has been compressed into a really dense, impactful EP. Must listen.

https://open.spotify.com/album/298Z63HTZH1YSuzGRQl7Jv?si=TfWCdujpR2KoEQOshl6i1A

There is a hell of a lot of other great music that came out this year and it’s incumbent upon us to search for it. We’ve covered a lot of it over the year but there is even more to be found from every corner of the country. Musicians have still put out material in an industry that was already incredibly difficult to stay afloat in before there was a worldwide pandemic. Hell, we owe it to them to at least appreciate and support their art, even just by listening to it to begin with.

Goodbye 2020. Onward and upward and a Happy New Year!

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