#ReviewRundown: January 2021
We give our verdict on new releases from Minaxi, Whale In The Pond, Eternal Returns and more
Shivang Arora – Fantasy and Folklore EP
In as much of a wistful somewhat mumbled whisper, singer-songwriter Shivang Arora aims for a melancholic wintry sound reminiscent of frontrunners like Prateek Kuhad. While there’s sparse instrumentation that plays up Arora’s emotions on “Make Me Happy Once Again,” the artist takes more of a shoegaze, emo turn with electric guitar melodies on “The Song I Never Wrote.” In that slowcore style that’s probably informed by American act Cigarettes After Sex, Arora is skillful but not exactly standout throughout. Plaintive tunes like “Say Something” can be an apt mood-setter, though, if you’re in the mood for gloomy bops for late nights.
Jay Sharma – Ode To a Hill Girl
Udaipur-based producer-singer Jay Sharma might just be repping the lo-fi producer circles in his city, because his debut album Ode to a Hill Girl has all the key ingredients for sad boy hours. A percussive flair run breaks up booming beats and Sharma moves through the haze with his vocals. “My Everything” with its punchy warbled sample leads the way, although Sharma’s melancholy vocals provide what might just be the best hook on the 10-track album. It’s fairly simple stuff lyrically and it gets even more familiar in Sharma’s low, pitch-corrected delivery. The 22-year-old is saved more by his production than the despairing lyrics, as he scatters across samples and skits to create a cohesive album, even if it’s not always coherent.
Eternal Returns – Reprieved To Totality
Thane metal band Eternal Returns scale dizzying heights when it comes to brutality on their new record Reprieved To Totality. As someone who have absorbed a lot of different styles (and speeds) of metal into their own songwriting, it’s no surprise to see them pack it all into five tracks across 27 minutes. The shortest track on the record is the four-minute death metal melee “Misaba,” which makes it statement well enough – complete with vocalist Narendra Patel’s puerile growls. “Dreaded Chains of Obscurity” and “The Bull of Minos” tread a longer, totally intense path but Eternal Returns regularly switch into foreboding intros on tracks like “Salamander the Sorcerer” to keep things suitably grim. “The Rise of Shoukoma” is also telling of just how much the band has polished their studio craft, delivering cutthroat metal that supersedes all their previous singles. The bar is now set high.
Ehsaas – Baawre EP
Ahmedabad rock band Ehsaas trudge happily into the path of wide open philosophizing on their debut EP Baawre. They’re celebrating those “insane towards passion,” as they describe in their note about the record. The title track plugs into a pensive, refreshing sound that has a can’t-fail chorus. Nostalgia is fueled on “Kal Ki Yaadein” with a saccharine folk style (later reprised in a piano-led iteration) and there’s familiar filmy sonic strains injected into the melodies on songs like “Mein Haari” and “Ek Anjaani,” although Ehsaas draw listeners away from anything too cliched, sticking to moody rock that could just grow into a bigger, arena-ready sound.
Whale In The Pond – Dui EP
On their third collection of songs – arriving quick after their debut album Dofon in March last year – Kolkata indie folk act Whale In The Pond are unstoppably breathtaking at every turn as they gleefully dig into Sylheti-language excursions with Dui. Considering more experimental for the band owing to its birth during the lockdown, the violin-inflected sound is raucous, even if short. Nimble string plucking morph into imposing, chasmic melodies and the mood changes to a somewhat more lighthearted affair on “Dui Thappor,” featuring percussion from Sambit Chatterjee (from post-rock band Aswekeepsearching and metallers What Escapes Me) and violinist Lucia Thomas. It’s a groovier, campfire kind of jam, which makes Dui showcase two ambitious yet fun-loving versions of Whale In The Pond.
Minaxi – The Zia Trilogy
Brooklyn alt-rock band Minaxi – fronted by Mumbai-bred guitarist-vocalist Shrenik Ganatra – released three EPs (Luna, Isra and Noor) through the course of the pandemic and have put it all together for a wavy, shoegazing listening experience called The Zia Trilogy. In their own dream-rock way, they tunnel through bright and breathy (“Thistle Toe,” “Naina”) and cozily comforting (“It’s Got Me”) songs. Cavernous guitar melodies wash over seemingly understated rhythms, but Minaxi build the mood formidably, especially on journeying songs like “Smile,” “Full of Love” and “Intezaar,” the latter featuring a wailing guitar riff that gets instantly drilled into the mind. Ganatra’s Hindi delivery on songs like “Sehra” injects a new kind of energy just for the use of language alone, aided by guitarist-songwriter Liam Christian and drummer Steve Carlin. In all, The Zia Trilogy makes a worthy addition to a shoegaze/psych rock fan’s collection.