Top 5 Best Chinese Albums of 2011: IZ, Ordnance, Hedgehog, Proximity Butterfly and Longshendao

Man it sounds so pretentious to say this… but it’s a title that gets headlines and scores high in search engines so deal with it. There are many reasons why this is not a traditional “best of”, main one being I can’t claim that i heard every album released in 2011 all around the country. From those I did hear though, and there were quite a few, there are a number of standouts.. let’s see how they go:

IZ [ Kolengke ]

If a steel mill could sing, that’s what it would sound like (thanks Sharon)! This has been one of the better records of the year and that for many reasons. It’s pretty darn different from anything available in China that I managed to get my hands on. If you know of something similar, let me know.
Mamer and his crew just put together a beautiful cacophony of sounds and made it work. It’s dark without being too gloomy. The album is actually beautifully simple despite what seems like elaborate compositions with thundering bass lines and percussions. Back in the days, Kazakhs used to write songs about grasslands and plains where they roamed free. Nowadays, Mamer and IZ are city dwellers, it makes sense that they songs reflect their new lifestyle.This is an album that stands on its own in and outside of China as far as I’m concerned! It doesn’t need nor does it ask for excuses!

Hedgehog [2011 DEstroy meMOries]

yup, Hedgehog! The trio has been extremely active recording and releasing demos, live tracks and even a full fledged album in 2011. Still, Destroy meMOries stands out for me despite it being a collection of out-takes and demos. It’s raw, inspired and just generally good! The band’s new lineup is grown up and has meshed quite well. I like raw edgy sounds in general and this one delivers beyond expectations. I actually had no expectations of this record or any hedgehog record as I never was a fan of their old sound. It’s been changed now and I’m looking forward to seeing them play sometime soon.

Ordnance [ To Become a Citizen]

Not their finest record per say but just having them release a record is something special for this band! They’ve had plenty to deal with over the years between performance bans and record bans. So when this one came out, it was a bit of a surprise! Thing is, the album still stands heads and shoulders above a lot of the crap we get in China that is called Metal. Lyrically, these guys are inspiring, still finding ways to stir shit. This is an EP with balls! Check out the lyrics to the title song for reference.

Long Shen Dao [ Tai Chi Reggae]

When I first heard Long Shen Dao play years ago, I never thought in a million years that they would release a record that would make it in a “Best Of” list… Boy was I wrong! Tai Chi Reggae is the fruit of years of jamming, playing, experimenting and finally getting the right sounds together. It’s on par, if not superior, to XTX’s reggae record and I would put it pretty much at the top of the pack for 2011 along with IZ. LSD got their mix of Reggae, Dub, Ska right and they’re paving the way for a new generation of dreadlocked musicians. Another record that doesn’t ask or need excuses. Just beautifully done and executed.

Proximity Butterfly [ Reprieve]

The Chengdu quartet delivered one of the most elaborate records to come out of the mainland this year! It is inspired, dreamy and well composed! The record combines Tibetan hymns with 70s inspired stoner rock, psychedelic grooves and soulful vocals. Tiptoes of Shiva is one haunting song that I have had stuck in my head for a few months. The album is a finely crafted piece that takes the listener on a beautiful and captivating sonic journey that screams “Genuine”. I was a bit disappointed when i say them live but that doesn’t take anything away from this beautiful piece.

Honorary mentions must go to Bad Mamasan’s Jeanine the Wolverine, Rustic’s City of Heartbreak and Horror as well as The Amazing Insurance Salesmen’s Escape. Voodoo Kungfu’s Dark World as well as Rainbow Danger Club’s Where Maps End are worth a mention.
A couple of records came out at the tail end of 2010 that could have been considered but i limited myself to releases from the calendar year 2011. So if you have time, look up Namo, Su Yang and Zhao Yiran for some pretty sweet records.

There you have it folks… These are the best of the best as far as I’m concerned! What did you think?

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