Best (And Worst) of 2012
Our picks of the year’s best albums, gigs and moments on stage
It was a packed, feisty, golden year for the Indian alternative music scene. Artists were emboldened despite or because of top cops disrupting a booming festival season. Here are the highlights from 2012
Sky Rabbit gave us a plush new sound, Split took us back to the punk rock days and Swarathma reinvented themselves for their second album. Here’s our list of the best releases this year in alphabetical order
The Silent Sea
Three years after they released their debut Grounded In Space, Delhi band Advaita launched the much-awaited second album The Silent Sea. “Mo Funk” with a furious rhythm section crafted by Mohit Lal and “Meinda Ishq” that established sarangi player Suhail Yusuf Khan as an equally skilled vocalist scored high. Even if the eight-member band hadn’t drifted too far from the sound of their debut, The Silent Sea underscored the fact that Advaita stand peerless both on stage and in the studio.
When Indus Creed launched Evolve this year, we plugged in expecting a ride back into the Nineties. But the band threw us off with their newfound chops. The album included mature, prog rock tracks such as “Come Around” that were in the now, showing bands half their age how it’s done.
Karsh Kale’s Cinema took long to hit Indian shores [it released in March 2012 in India a year after its international release], but the collaboration-packed album was worth the wait. Papon, Monica Dogra, MIDIval Punditz among others featured on the album that seamlessly wove together Indian classical sounds of the flute, santoor and tabla with electronica.
The Story So Far
Few harness the raw intensity of folk as well as Assamese singer Angaarag Papon Mahanta. The extraordinarily gifted singer jumps the wall between folk and electronica with ease, contemporising traditional folk tracks such as “Boitha Maro Re,” an Assamese boat race song and “Jonaaki Raat,”
an Assamese ballad from Papon’s 2004 release by the same name. Besides folk, Papon renders dreamy pop rock tracks such as “Chhoti Chhoti Baatein,” that leave no doubt that the star of
this album is his vocals.
Blinding White Noise: Illusion & Chaos
Delhiguitarist Keshav Dhar has lived out every bedroom studio guitarist’s dream – to have your music heard. Not just by the odd group of people on MySpace (where Dhar started out under the name Hydrodjent), but by the likes of Marty Friedman (former guitarist with metal veterans Megadeth) and Daniel Tompkins (former vocalist with prog metal band TesseracT). Other metallers on the album include Bhayanak Maut vocalist Sunneith Revankar (who added his growls on “Insurrection,” “Trayus” and “Aphasia.”), Goddess Gagged guitarist Devesh Dayal and sessions guitarist Vishal J Singh.
The Mumbai electro rock band found themselves a new name, a new drummer [Harsh Karangale] and delivered a slick debut. Brand new tracks such as “Sweet Smile Diving” alongside old Medusa-era hits such as “I Become I” and “Anti-Coke Ganpati” made it to the album whose brilliant production threw the sound completely out of the park. If you’re looking for a sound to surprise you, then this is it.
The long-awaited full-length release from the Mumbai alt rockers didn’t have a single track that shouldn’t have been there. The 13 politically-incorrect songs on Counting Perfume capture their angst from early hits like “Pig Society” and newly-written songs such as “Return To Bicameralism.” What makes Counting Perfume specially worthy are the throwaway lyrics from vocalist Garreth D’Mello: “All you people driving cars/Sitting smoking fine cigars/Everyone with bank accounts/My punk rock days are gone” on “Punk Rock Days.” It’s been 10 years since the band was formed, and there’s no better way to celebrate than to finally release your first album.
Sridhar/Thayil’s 13-track album’s sound is as whimsical as its title. STD, which we called “most experimental Indian indie has got” features the band’s penchant for drama. It has gems like the jazz-tinged “Here in the Morning”, the popstatic “Single and Praying” and bluesy “Present,” the unmistakably sunshiny track “Bring Me Rain” for the less adventurous listeners and the Hindustani classical mash-up that is “Punk Bhajan,” that make the album the year’s biggest cross-genre romp.
One of the ambitious second albums to be released by a band, Topiwalleh, saw Bengaluru folk rock band make a marked departure from the buoyant sound of their debut. Swarathma went for a darker, heavier sound in tracks such as “Ghum” and “Koorane,” pulling both off on stage as well. Not that the second album lacked cheer. Tracks such as the disco-driven “Naane Daari,” showed off producer Loy Mendonsa’s brilliant craftsmanship and also resulted in a dance-floor jam with Dualist Inquiry later in the year. Swarathma took big risks and we’re gladder for it.
3 Wheels 9 Lives
When Bengaluru’s Thermal And A Quarter decided to put out a tribute to their hometown, they had to give it their all. So we got a 20-track double album with some of their older tracks such as “Simple Be” and “Mighty Strange” as an added bonus. In TAAQ tradition, the sound is built on blues and jazz and you’ll hear a nod to Coltrane on “In The Middle,” but if it’s pure fun that you’re looking for then the super groovy “Metre Mele One-And-A-Half,” a take on Bengaluru’s autorickshaws, should hit the spot.
Click on page 2 for our other picks of the year