10 Best Indian EPs of 2019
From experimental debuts to fusion offerings, this year was filled with eclectic and promising releases
MOSKO — Teeth
If you’re looking for a sonic delight, look no further than New Delhi dance-rock act MOSKO’s debut four-track EP Teeth. Helmed by vocalist Kavya Trehan and guitarist Moses Koul and accentuated by bassists Abhinav Chaudhury and Amar Pandey as well as drummers Karan Malik and Suyash Gabriel, the record includes a belting opening track in “Smooth” and moves to the jumpy breakdown-friendly “Mosey Pants.” The EP also delivers a mellifluous listen with “YDEK” and ends with the euphoric glitch leaning “Drance 109.” Throughout Teeth, Trehan’s hooky vocals stand out while Koul’s intricate guitar work creates quite a treat for the ears. — D.B.
Pacifist — Greyscale Dreams
Firing an opening salvo to seek the ever-necessary introspection into modern existence, Mumbai post-hardcore band Pacifist breathed into the music circuit some much-needed substance. Piecing together the best parts of American artists like At The Drive-In, Fugazi and Converge, Pacifist’s debut EP took on keyboard warriors (on the chaotic “Reactionary”), societal and political apathy (the simmering “Double Down”) and lived up to the moshpit-provoking dissonance legacy of the subgenre. “Pedigreed” is suitably wiry and peppered with calls for “jump!” but the title track changes everything. Pacifist reach into a shattered part of 21st-century urban living, occasionally swinging and kicking with a punk bridge section, but ultimately settling down amongst the shards. — A.T.
The F16s — WKND FRNDS
Chennai alt-rockers The F16s hit all the right spots on their beautifully arranged new four-track EP WKND FRNDS. A labor of love that was in the works for a few years, the record is packed with diversity, harmonies, synth-driven effervescence and dance-y elements that sit well with slow-paced burners. Opening up with the moody “My Baby’s Beak,” the band space out on “Boudoir” before going all synth and melodic with “Amber.” The closing title track sums up the entire EP well with a range of musicality featured in it — from guitar licks, groovy drum parts and claps, plus a memorable vocal harmony when frontman Josh Fernandez pleads “Why don’t you stay.”– D.B.
Prabh Deep — KING
A followup to his 2017 breakout debut LP Class-Sikh (produced by Sez On The Beat), New Delhi rapper Prabh Deep’s EP KING is a record that isn’t afraid to keep switching up the sonic palette. Transitioning from the dark trap and bass blends of his first album to smooth jazz hooks, melodic vocals, eclectic basslines, guitar riffs and groovy synth with KING, the rapper reinvented his sound with the self-produced record. Bringing bassist Harshit Misra aka Hashbass and keyboardist Archit Anand on for the semi-autobiographical “Maya,” the first single from the EP, Prabh Deep surprised listeners with just how experimental he could get. The rapper wasn’t a lone wolf either on KING, getting fellow Punjabi rapper HRJS to lend vocals on the groovy “Khat” and harmonization by Tansolo on the melodic “King.” The one thing that didn’t change? The rappers evocative socio-political commentary, proving once again that Prabh Deep’s voice wouldn’t be lost in a sea of trends. — J.X.
Vaisakh Somanath — Thevai
Kochi-based Tamil singer-songwriter Vaisakh Somanath brought his much needed wide-eyed worldview, measuring it out in spoonfuls of groovy, saxophone-leaning soul and R&B on his four-track debut. Somanath talks about changing society and oneself in his calming lilt, delving on alternative living as though it’s an option long ignored. You’re rarely going to hear songs about homeschooling (“Pattampoochi”) and sustainable living (“Neelavaanam”) delivered as succinctly and cinematically as Somanath has. Environmental conservation might be the need of the hour, but Somanath isn’t going to shout about it, rather offering a sweet song about living within one’s needs and looking at the world through the eyes of love (“Thevai”). It’s layered, intelligent pop at times, although Somanath does allow himself one escape route on the upbeat, jazz-leaning love song “Mayapenne.” — A.T.
Meera – I’ve Never Been Happier To Be Lost
Ahmedabad-based musician Meera Desai’s debut EP I’ve Never Been Happier To Be Lost is a saccharine, sonic probe into the questions of life. The airy, upbeat opener “Divine” is an inquiry into faith and feels as liberating as the stripped notion of belief itself. Featuring the sound of waves, “Salt” comes next with its emotive string section during the bridge, exploring the story of the Indian-Tamil boy Pi from Yann Martel’s bestselling book Life of Pi. The folksy “Homes” has elements of jazz and the EP closer, “Distance,” dances on a bed of pulled guitar strings, the melody rippling beneath Meera’s vibrant, evocative vocals. There’s a haunting, almost airy and crystalline sound to I’ve Never Been Happier To Be Lost, strengthened by the gravity of Meera’s lyricism which in its simplicity, is infinitely profound. — J.X.
Jatayu — Chango Tales
On their debut EP, Chennai jazz-fusion band Jatayu take a page from the book of greats like John McLaughlin, but also carve out their own voice in the process. Anchoring the sound on their five-track EP Chango Tales are collaborations with seasoned German violinist Holger Jetter and Swiss instrumental group Krond-Flast. With wonderment and a soul-seeking mind, Jatayu go from flittering Carnatic guitar riffs (“Shringara”) and dexterous jazz rhythms (“May I?”) to seriously sinister psychedelic jams (“Pazhi”) to emerge out of a shell with euphoria (“Chango”), choosing tropical (read: South Indian) hues. — A.T.
No Honey – Future Like
New Delhi alt/electronic trio No Honey’s debut EP Future Like is almost hypnotic in its sonic potency. Diving deep into synth with its haunting opener about toxic relationships, “Sit Back”, No Honey gets it right with immersive lyricism amidst melodic keys and the swell of vocalist Abhilasha Sinha’s boomy vocals. “Alone Tonight” leans on producer and guitarist Keshav Dhar’s background (guitarist of rockers Skyharbor) to talk about the pace of love, bringing in elements of prog rock and an emotive guitar bridge. It’s followed by the bass leaning, pop induced love track “No Honey.” Percussionist Suyash Gabriel really comes into his element on the EP closer “Courage,” layering the drums to build an uptempo, groovy dance track with emotion. As electronic as Future Like is, it experiments with rock, pop, ambient and more to deliver a sound that makes you anticipate the trio’s next offering. — J.X.
Swadesi x Bandish Projekt – Khulle Naagde
Following up their 2016 collab Katal Kalaa, bass music don Bandish Projekt and hip-hop crew Swadesi returned with something even more hard-hitting on Khulle Naagde. With Swadesi now including MCs Maharya and the mercurial 100RBH, the EP opens with a silver-tongued turn from MC Mawali on the seismic opener “Antariksh.” To the call of “Aamhi Kon?” (Who are we?), “Khaari Baat” blends ethnotronica with an acerbic takedown of the class divide. Whether it’s Tod Fod calling out truths (the bass-break heavy “Kathore Satya”) or 100RBH throwing down one of his most incendiary verses on “Jhand,” Khulle Naagde proves just how unstoppable a pairing like this can be. — A.T.
SkyEyes – SkyEyes
New Delhi psychedelic/blues outfit SkyEyes channel a mixture of American rock bands Creedence Clearwater Revival and Lynyrd Skynyrd on their debut four-track eponymous EP. The record features strong vocal sections by Diyatom Deb and emotion-soaked instrumentation from drummer Akhil Kumar, bassist Barun Sinha and guitarist Sushant Thakur. The guitarist shines across the EP with his raging riffs and sweet solos. The EP opens with the easy listening and breezy “Mad Man’s Tale” before we hear the emotional power ballad “Betrayal” while “Last Train” is a total jam song. The closing track, “Letter To My Father,” pairs the melancholic lyrics with bashing rock. SkyEyes have packed a punch on their debut EP, we await to see what they have in store next. — D.B.