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10 Best Indian Singles of 2016

Skyhabor’s poignant prog; Divine’s subaltern sass; Hindi funk-rock courtesy Ananthaal

Rolling Stone India
Rolling Stone India Dec 30, 2016
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Skyharbor. Photo: Akshat Nauriyal

Skyharbor. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

1. Afterglow: ‘From Shadows To The Stars’

“From Shadows To The Stars” by New Delhi-based jazz/funk band Afterglow is dedicated to the people that face caste discrimination everyday. Filled with tempo changes, the song has brilliant dynamics that run right through it. Clarinet player Rie Ona’s solos carries the song extremely well, leading the track just like a vocal melody.

Watch “From Shadows To The Stars” below:

 

2. Ananthaal: ‘Haal-E-Dil’

Who says Urdu poetry can’t glide on jazz-funk riffs? Mumbai fusion trio Ananthaal’s second single “Haal-E-Dil” (off their eponymous debut album) is proof that if there ever were any rules for music-and-lyrics pairings, they need to be broken pronto. Watch out for composer Clinton Cerejo and vocalists Bianca Gomes and Vijay Prakash’s delightful idiosyncrasies on this standout track penned by Amitabh Bhattacharya.

Watch “Haal-E-Dil” below:

 

3. Divine: ‘Jungli Sher’

“Jungli Sher” is a ferocious and gritty outline of Vivian Fernandes aka Divine’s journey from the slums of Mumbai to becoming a leading rapper in the Indian hip-hop scene. The beat stays simple with monotone percussion and bass, putting emphasis on Divine’s verse delivery. The lyrics themselves highlight the power of hard work and determination, hailing those who are fighting their dire situations to achieve success in the urban jungle as soldiers.

Watch “Jungli Sher” below:

 

4. GingerFeet: ‘Make Your Stand’

If you’re running short of some #MondayMotivation—or any day of the week, really—look no further than GingerFeet’s inspirational headbanger. The Kolkata/Mumbai-based funk rock act keep it simple and hard-hitting with the lyrics (“You know we can’t get it all/But we still got to try”), but it’s the groovy riffs and busting falsettos that promise to get you on your feet and make your stand.

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Stream “Make Your Stand” below:

 

5. Mali: ‘Dreaming’

Mumbai-based singer-songwriter Mali’s single “Dreaming” invokes many of her childhood experiences the people she met and the way she felt about them. It is the story of a boy, her alter ego, who is growing up. The single was recorded at Mumbai’s Cotton Press Studio with Stuart DaCosta on bass, Jehangir Jehangir on drums and Tejas Menon on guitar. Jehangir and Menon are also producers on the track.

Stream “Dreaming” below:

 

6. Prateek Kuhad: ‘Tune Kaha’

With fans comparing him to Western artists like James Bay, Ed Sheeran and Ben Howard, New Delhi singer-songwriter Prateek Kuhad has made a considerable impact in the Indian independent music scene with his brand of acoustic pop. The light-hearted “Tune Kaha” woos you instantly with its heartwarming strumming and lyrics about young love.

Stream “Tune Kaha” below:

 

7. Reverrse Polarity: ‘Suck On These!’

Is it a comeback? Is it a one-off? Is it a much-needed release from one of the most playful bands in the country? The Mumbai hardcore/ prog band turn to rap and grime a la UK act Hacktivist, but add their own grooves that can make you smile as you headbang. Of course it’s got a fully ribald title, because you can’t expect anything else from a band that still champions a song called “Johnny Horny.”

Stream ‘Suck On These!!!’ below:

 

 

8. Skyharbor: ‘Blind Side’

They tested the waters with their second Eric Emery-sung track late last year, but the real deal was released with a music video following their gruelling North America tour. If Emery had to prove himself as Dan Tompkins’ stand-in, this one sealed it—emoting like the best in the business, triumphant choruses and all. It helps that the song sits just right with the band’s poignant prog that can earn a nod from the djent, rock and metal faithful.

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Stream “Blind Side” below:

 

9. The Circus: ‘Lions & Wolves’

New Delhi-based experimental rock act The Circus brought heady synths, slow grooves and an air of intensity on their third studio album—With Love sees the four member act (comprising members of FuzzCulture, Curtain Blue and Ioish) craft seven tracks of metal-leaning, moody electro rock to the ring. While most of the seven-track release addresses the tumult of relationships, the equally angsty riff-rager “Lions and Wolves” is an exceptional ode to Game of Thrones.

Watch “Lions & Wolves” below:

 

10. The F16s: ‘Cannibal Life II’

Chennai alt rockers The F16s have painted quite the canvas on their much-awaited debut album Triggerpunkte . And while overall the album is a bright collection of groovy, chill pop rock (the guitars sometimes even harking back to the glorious Eighties) “Cannibal Life II,” like a perhaps a couple of other tracks, invokes a deep sense of melancholia packaged in complex rhythms and plaintive wails. Quite the stunner, this one.

Stream “Cannibal Life II” below:

(Releases are listed in no particular order)

Compiled by Nirmika Singh, Anurag Tagat, Nabeela Shaikh, Riddhi Chakraborty and David Britto

 

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