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10 Best Indian Singles of 2020

Exceptional songwriting, inspiring musicianship and stellar artistry stood out this year

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10. Runt – “Last Breath”

From gritty distorted guitars, a mean bass tone, euphoric grooves and extreme dynamism, the song packs a punch

Mumbai musician Siddharth Basrur’s project Runt returned this year with new music after 2017’s EP Rhymes With. The latest offering is a pulsating heavy instrumental track titled “Last Breath.” Although the song is missing Basrur’s signature soaring vocals, it does have plenty of plus points. From gritty distorted guitars, a mean bass tone, euphoric grooves and extreme dynamism, “Last Breath” packs a punch. Basrur produced, mixed and mastered the entire track himself, even going as far as programming drums for the song. – D.B.

9. The Lightyears Explode – “Satire”

The indulgent production, synths and dreamy soundscapes makes for a fun and invigorating listen

Mumbai outfit The Lightyears Explode – comprising vocalist-guitarist Saurabh Roy, bassist Shalom Benjamin and drummer Jeremy D’souza – sound like a brand-new band with fresh electro-pop elements, catchy vocal melodies and songs that will make you want to dance rather than mosh on their recently released new EP Mellow. They kicked off this new era with the jumpy lead single “Satire,” which still retains the group’s crunchy guitar riffs, power-packed drumming, Benjamin’s distinctive bass parts as well as Roy’s signature vocal hooks. Add in the indulgent production, synths and dreamy soundscapes and it makes for a fun and invigorating listen. – D.B.

8. Seedhe Maut x Karan Kanchan – “Dum Pishaach”

The New Delhi and Mumbai collab makes for thunderous trap-metal

Hip-hop artists were easily amongst the prolific in India in 2020, pandemic notwithstanding. In September, New Delhi’s Seedhe Maut dropped their sixth single of the year, this time with producer Karan Kanchan. A beatsmith known for everything from Japanese music-informed trap to dubstep and hip-hop, Kanchan got guitarist Bibhash Buragohain (from prog band Silver Tears and metallers Obstinate) to bring in a thunderous (and dissonant) trap-metal ride that lasts just two minutes but keeps you coming back for more. – A.T.

7. Kalika – “Made Up”

Gripping Carnatic guitar riffs and calming vocal melodies question truths

Having a toxic (and racist) work environment in Maastricht, Holland led Prannay Sastry to write music and amongst other things, he landed up with mystical thoughts about the universe and its lack of truths on “Made Up.” Joined by Sanjeeta Bhattacharya and multi-instrumentalist Jay Kshirsagar on vocals, Kalika slinks from a gripping, warbly Carnatic guitar riff to calming vocal melodies effortlessly, allowing “Made Up” to be an exciting listen each time.  – A.T.

6. Nishu – “Pardo”

One half of Parekh & Singh churns out nocturnal Hindi synthpop

It may not have been the year that held the promise of Kolkata dream-pop duo Parekh & Singh returning to touring (thanks a lot, coronavirus) but guitarist, producer and vocalist Nischay Parekh did get to launch his solo project Nishu. Not too far removed from buoyant synth bloops and beats, Parekh does take to Hindi hooks and synthwave production for a perfect late night bop. – A.T.

5. When Chai Met Toast – “When We Feel Young”

Sometimes, simplicity is all it takes for a song to succeed!

This song by Kochi band When Chai Met Toast is hope, love and positivity wrapped in warm fuzz.  The title track of their full-length debut album by the same name, “When We Feel Young” forges an instant emotional connect thanks to its animated video and uncomplicated production in music and lyrics. Sometimes, simplicity is all it takes for a song to succeed. – N.S.

4. Mali – “Age of Limbo”

While hearing the track one can imagine it playing in a Hollywood blockbuster superhero movie of some kind

The cinematic “Age of Limbo,” off Mumbai-based singer-songwriter Mali’s upcoming eight-track debut album Caution to The Wind kicks off with a melodic drum groove and slowly opens like a blossoming flower with Mali’s elegant vocals, string arrangements, synth parts and contrasting chord movements creating a dark but gripping listen. While hearing the track one can imagine it playing in a Hollywood blockbuster superhero movie of some kind. – D.B.

3. Dhruv Visvanath – “Dear Madeline”

Visvanath confidently launches himself into pop songwriting, retaining familiar breathtaking production

Further wandering into limitless terrain this year with singles, Dhruv Visvanath showcased a range in 2020 that most artists would envy. “Dear Madeline” was the first of seven mesmerizing singles released throughout the year, something that rested on his percussive guitar techniques but also launched itself confidently into pop songwriting, injecting subtle and breathtaking production elements into his familiar, wisdom-bearing croon. – A.T.

2. Tejas – “The Bombay Doors”

For all its grit, complexity and vibrancy, the song is Tejas’ humble ode to the Maximum City

The second single from Mumbai-based singer-songwriter Tejas’ forthcoming album Outlast is the ambitious “The Bombay Doors.” The track, for all its grit, complexity and vibrancy is the artist’s humble ode to the Maximum City and what it takes to live in it. The song’s high energy, multiple sonic layers and infectious vocal melodies in some way represent the madness that is Mumbai. Towards the end of the song, the sonic imprint switches to more of a calming electronica listen as Tejas optimistically sings, “Won’t pass the test/won’t let me out/come let me out/give me tomorrow.” – D.B.

1. Chirag Todi feat. Tanya Nambiar, Pushkar Srivatsal – “Desire”

Musical dexterity, danceability and grooviness are the top three reasons why! 

Musical dexterity, danceability and grooviness are the top three reasons why Chirag Todi’s “Desire” rules our Best-Ever Singles chart. The Ahmedabad-based musician — also a founding member of jazz/rock outfit Heat Sink — doesn’t aim for achievable goals, which is the reason why this glitzy single is the most well-rounded musical gem Indian indie offered this year. New Delhi singer Tanya Nambiar’s vocals are smooth and complement fellow Mumbai singer-songwriter Pushkar Srivatsal (from duo Second Sight) fabulously. Congratulations to the team! – N.S.

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