10 Best Indian Albums of 2015
Blackstratblues leads; Daira offers earworms; Albatross gets dramatic
2015’s 10 best Indian album releases included Warren Mendonsa’s longÂ overdue bluesy perfection, audaciouslyÂ raging metal courtesy of Zygnema, saccharine sweet pop straight out of Awkward Bong’s bedroom and so much more.
The following list is in no order of ranking.
1. The Universe Has A Strange Sense of Humour ”“ Blackstratblues
One of India’s most prodigious blues guitarists, Warren Mendonsa took a good six years to release his third album but it was worth the wait. This is what we said of this album when it released in March 2015: “Thirty five-year-old Mendonsa has mined his life experiences and a range of influences ”“ surf rock via The Ventures, the Derek Trucks school of blues and traditional Maharashtrian percussion even ”“ for the blues-driven collection of tracks, slated to release this week….The Universe has a Strange Sense of Humour sounds like it hasÂ recaptured Mendonsa’s past and reinforced it with the present. The result, when you look at how Mendonsa has grown as aÂ musician and a producer, is no less than perfect.”
2. Daira ”“ Daira
The Hindi rockers from Mumbai who came togetherÂ less than a year ago prove their mettle on this debut self-titled record. The eight-track album is replete with riff-heavy anthems as well as lilting ballads, all of which carry the same energy that you might experience at a stadium concert. The five-member band, which comprises vocalist Piyush Kapoor, guitarists Chaitanya Bhaidkar and Vikalp Sharma, bassist Govind Gawli and drummer Pratik Kulgod, make a formidable gang and with their debut record, look set to resurrect the Hindi rock scene in India.
3. Ananthaal ”“ Ananthaal
The new supergroup’s eponymous album is a showcase of the versatility of its core members ”“ Clinton Cerejo, Bianca Gomes and Vijay Prakash. There’s pop, funk, rock and jazz and the band masterfully blendsÂ Western harmonics with Indian folk and classical styles. Much like the diverse music tastes of its members, the band has covered a lot of terrain linguistically as well. While most songs are in Hindi, on “Inayat,” you can hear them singing in Punjabi of the sufi variety, and on “Manasellam Megham,” the trio shows off their command over Tamil.
4. Khwaab ”“ Aswekeepsearching
The Ahmedabad/Pune/Mumbai-based rockers’ first studio album is definitely more hostile-sounding than their previous offering ”“ the 2014 EP Growing Suspicions. It can be attributed to its metal-leaning band members ”” Pune experimental metal band Noiseware’s drummer Gautam Deb and bassist Bob Alex are now part of the band. Sarmah has also roped in Noiseware guitarist/producer Adhiraj Singh to track the album. In a short span of time, Aswekeepsearching has found a cosy niche as one of the frontrunners of the post-rock scene and this record only secures that position.
5. What Makes Us Human Is Obsolete ”“ Zygnema
Bred from college festivals, homestead venues such as B69 and Marine Center, Zygnema knows how to set a crowd on fire. Their second album was all about enraging and then engaging people on songs like “The Phoenix Effect” and “Shell Broken Hell Loose”. Drawing from technical groove-masters Meshuggah [“In-Kog,” “Invidious I”] while still retaining their love for American thrash/groove legends Pantera, What Makes Us Human Is Obsolete is the best fuel for going from zero to pissed off we’ve heard this year.
6. The Future Of Yesterday ”“ Pozy
On The Future of Yesterday, seasoned Mumbai guitarist PozyÂ has composed, written, arranged and played guitars on all tracks, and brought on board his long-standing music companion Alvares to offer her vocals on all tracks as well as lyric-writing skills on a select few. The album features bright, sunny-day tunes, and at 25-odd minutes, it is a compact and enjoyable little record which consolidates Pozy’s position as one of the most talented guitarist on the music circuit today.
7. Stereolithic Riffalocalypse ”“ Shepherd
In addition to impressing every doom and heavy music blogger, critic and stoner out there, Shepherd’s psychedelic, warped combination of rock, hardcore punk and sludge gets our vote for being the freshest metal-leaning music this year. Vocalists Deepak Raghu [drums] and Namit Chauhan [guitars] harmonize in that devil-may-care bluesy vocal tone, while bassist Abhishek Michael adds groove upon groove, making each riff mightier and grimier than the last on songs like “Bog Slime,” “Stalebait” and “Spite Pit.”
8. In The Brightest Corners ”“ Awkward Bong
Who knew Ronit Sarkar [formerly of punk bands Blek and The Lightyears Explode] could whip up saccharine sweet pop melodies! The singer-songwriter who has adopted the name Awkward Bong presents a whole bunch of pleasant tunes on In the Brightest Corners,Â from the honest “You Don’t Have to Hide” to the mellifluous “Spaceship”.. Awkward Bong started as a solo ”˜bedroom project’ in 2014 when Sarkar finally got down to writing and recording songs that had been swimming in his head since college. Although Sarkar does perform solo sometimes, the project is now a bigger setup.
9. Fear From the Skies ”“ Albatross
This album is Mumbai horror metal band’s third release after Dinner Is You  and The Kissing Flies . What makes it stand apart from aÂ traditional heavy metal record is its ominous theatricality. While guitarists Vigneshkumar Venkatraman and Nishith Hegde bring all the drama with their sharp tones, vocalist Biprorshee Das mimicks, growls, snarls and does spoken word parts. The music itself veers between prog and death metal, while staying grounded in the heavy metal zone, courtesy drummer Jay Thacker’s rolls.
10. Legions Awake ”“ Inner Sanctum
The Bengaluru thrash/death metal band’s album comes after six years since their debut EP, Provenance.Â Legions Awake is a giant stompfest from start to finish. Inner
Sanctum do it all ”“ from the openerÂ “Wake of Destruction,” to the slow-building “Reflections Of The Past,” the all-out double-bassÂ madness of songs like “Realms of Oblivion” and the crushing grooves of the title trackÂ “Legions Awake.” They save best for last, with the second half of the album ramping up on straight-up metal on “Tainted Soils” and going into their most intense fit of rage yet, on “March of the Wounded.”