I think we can safely dub 2013 as “The Year of the EP”
Going through all the records i got and looking back at all the gigs I did go to, there’s definitely been a preponderance of mini releases with Hanggai even putting 2 of them out within a few months and good old Djang San opening the floodgates just to name a few. It’s damn hard to decided whether to include them in a roundup of best records or not. I decided to put the cutoff at 5 new songs for them to qualify.
I’ve also gone on the record saying this was a pretty dismal year for live music in China but as far a recorded stuff, we haven’t done too bad. There’s been some gems that came out and this list is just representative of what i’ve actually listened to. IZ released a record that should be on here but i haven’t been able to get my hands on it yet.
So, let’s see how this year shaped up, and they’re not in any particular order:
Dou Wei 窦唯 — Calamity Gold Curse 殃金咒
On long ass song, a lot of testicular fortitude. It took me a while to realise and understand what the dark one did with this latest effort. It’s sheer genius! Heck, this is my kinda of instrumental metal! Dark heavy beats with Tibetain sutras chanted over them. it just makes sense and it sounds pretty darn kickass. I don’t think we got a shot at listening to this live but i would pay good money for it.
Baishui 白水 – Diary of Broken Sounds 碎音雜記
I don’t like their music.. i really don’t! but i can appreciate when a record is well done and when the band actually puts thought and effort into getting something out. If you’re into post rock and folk, this one weird hybrid is exactly what you’ve been looking for.
Shan Ren 山人 – Listen to the Mountain 听山
I reviewed this album earlier and went to the record release.. loving both!
This is a band that just doesn’t do labels or stick themselves in the confines of a box. They take the box and piss on it, then light it on fire! Tracktor Metal is alive and well!
Black Panther 黑豹乐队 – Who We Are 我们是谁
I’m the first one to be surprised that i’ve included the ageing veterans in this list. But that’s for a good reason: Who We Are is a solid effort that stood out from the crowded music scene. New singer, same old goodness, upgraded for a 2013. It definitely doesn’t sound like Chinese record.
Low Wormwood 低苦艾乐队- The Watcher守望者
Lanzhou Lanzhou was good… The Watcher is a statement! Everything about this record is thought out down to the cover design. Low Wormwood has just added themselves to the list of bands that are taking a stand on social issues and trying to raise awareness. It helps that the lyrics and music are pretty darn good to. Maradona Football and The Train Leaves Soon are 2 of my favorite tracks from the whole year.
XTX 谢天笑 – Illusion 幻觉
I hated this album when it came out! I thought of it as a cop out and piece of garbage! By the end of the year, XTXs take on Massive Attack and his new shreds have won me over. It’s not mental masturbation folks, there is a lot of thought again put in this album. i made the mistake of holding Modern Sky’s actions against him and i was wrong. Anyways, this record is like a fongus: it just keeps growing on you.
Buyi 布衣乐队- 出发 Exit
They’re the folk rock troubadours of China! An honest to goodness band that just keeps rolling and, in many ways, the Chinese Music equivalent of a hot chicken soup. The latest record is earthy and rocking, just like the band. Losing Zhang Wei on guitar, a year on, seems like a blessing in disguise and it shows on the record.
Pk 14 – 1984
Yes, I’m on the bandwagon now. Two of the best performances i’ve seen over the last 13 months were by PK 14 at Yugong Yishan. Now, i’m not confusing band and record, they’re 2 different things. That said, 1984 is solid effort that doesn’t make excuses. lyrically, musically and conceptually, this is a CD that stands on its own and doesn’t to hide. Forget that they’re a Chinese band! with 1984, PK 14 proved that they’re just once hell of a good band.
Second Hand Rose 二手玫瑰 – Stealing The Show 一枝独秀
Earworms of the year award goes to this baby! I just can’t get it ouf my head and as soon as it comes up on my playlist, i get a little smile on my face. That’s good enough for me to endorse it as kickass. I’m ecstatic that good old Er Shou is back where they belong and not living off past effort but still trying to be relevant.
Nine Treasures 九宝乐队 – Nine Treasures 九宝
I’m a fan of the band, I’m a fan of the music, I’m a fan of the record. In an otherwise boring year, Nine Treasures stood out head and shoulders over the the crop of newcomers. Their self titled release did nothing to diminish that. It’s Hanggai on speed.
Voice of Wuhan 武汉之声
This one is highly unusual.. i usually pick records by one band. However, i seldom get a chance to try new things like this. A whole slew of Wuhan based rockers got together an put up their calling card. some of the songs are not that good but i’ve been pleasantly surprised by The One and Chinese Football. Good to hear new stuff from outside of Beijing.
Residence A A公馆( Residence A)- THE LOVE OF THIS TIME这个时代的爱
yes, it’s an EP but it’s got 5 songs and it’s really Res A at their best. Their debut album always felt like it was lacking something and not quite representative of the band. This EP on the other hand has captured their energy and their feel. I can put it on, close my eyes and feel like i’m listening to them live. And any record that can get this old grouch off his ass and into the dance floor is ace in my book.
Stable Condition- Randy Abel Stable
I’m a homer but i gotta say that the record was good. It fell a few notches short of making it to that list up above and that’s mostly a statement on the quality of the other releases. Great effort by the gang and i look forward to their new CD hopefully soon with “paddy o’sheas” on it. See my earlier review
Song Dongye “The North of Anhe Bridge” 《安和桥北》
A weird ass album that is extremely representative of good old Song. I like the experimentation and the vision that has gone into making it. It’s not exactly to my liking either but i can appreciate quality when i hear it ( as long as it’s not post rock).
Illness Sickness – Illness Sickness
As Bass player Tom likes to say, they’re not a fucking post rock band. I agree! They’re a good kick ass band and have released a beautiful memory for all of us that saw them. it was 1 song short of making the above list.
Rainbow Danger Club – Souvenir
The goodbye album from one of Shanghai’s most intriguing outfits. They’ve taken me on many a musical trip and were all that. They were all that! Unfortunately, the transient nature of expat life made it so that their career was cut short. They did give us a beautiful parting gift.
There you go y’all… these are the ones i’ve enjoyed. Hanggai could have been on there, Discord as well but i had to draw a line somewhere. How about you?