By Anurag Tagat
Pandemic-related projects might still be the order of the day for Indian artists, but there are songwriters who dig a lot deeper as well. Some provide succor and others provide perspective on cancel culture, while the heavier acts stick to their guns and fire out intense new music. Check out our May rundown of favorite releases below.
Khurdari – Rahul Nair ft. Anand Bhaskar
Composer Rahul Nair calls on seasoned singer Anand Bhaskar for a moody electronic pop Hindi track called Khurdari. With Bhaskar (from the Anand Bhaskar Collective) helming lyrics and production coming from !NSANEZ, Nair taps into a break-free state of mind, one that’s aspirational and uplifting. It stays in the region of a bass music driven track for the most part but also throws in subtle guitar melodies. What stays in your head, of course, are Bhaskar’s distinct, motivational lyrics as well as a lead synth melody.
Enemy – Easy Wanderlings
On the first release from their upcoming EP Caught In the Parade, soul pop collective Easy Wanderlings address the age of Cancel Culture and how it creates enemies out of our fellow being. The band serves up suitably mellow yet sometimes unsettling rhythms and a tinge of psychedelic guitar work as vocalists Sanyanth Naroth and Pratika Gopinath sing about how exhausting it is to want to satisfy and please everyone while expressing oneself. It feels like a nuanced handling of a contentious subject, helped by empathetic lyrics which don’t hold back.
Metal or Nothin’ – Against Evil
Part of their just released new album End of the Line, Visakhapatnam heavy metal band Against Evil go for gusto on their chugging, headbang-worthy, fist pumping song Metal Or Nothin’. The music video is crowdsourced from their steadily growing global fanbase, mirroring the lyrical intention behind the track as well. There’s something refreshing about Against Evil’s approach to traditional metal, offering something new even amidst the most familiar elements of songwriting.
Machine Learning – Of Lambs and Lions
Among the newer projects on the block, Bangalore act Of Lambs and Lions are ominous and draw from progressive rock/metal lore for a concept-driven debut song called Machine Learning. Led by Abe Varghese on vocals and bassist-composer Abhishek Pradeep, the band heaps on bright riffs and anthemic, emotive choruses about a rebel group who are fighting machines crafted by artificial intelligence in the not so distant future. Varghese’s call of ‘Hey, are you listening?’ sticks almost immediately, which means mission accomplished for Of Lambs and Lions.
Nothing Wrong In Not Being Okay – Huyana
With her previous releases like Is It You? and In My Head, singer-songwriter Huyana aka Varshita Ramesh took the buoyant electronic route but she sticks to simple, honest acoustic guitars on her latest song Nothing Wrong In Not Being Okay. Accompanied by a music video that showcases her amongst friends, with a cat and on her own as well, Huyana puts forward a vulnerable side to her that she’s completely okay with, going over straightforward, relatable lyrics about the state of our minds.
593 Vol. 1 – Ranj, Issamood, Clifr
Bangalore-based vocalist Ranj teams up with friends and producers Issamood and Clifr for a sparkly, genre-hopping EP that was created entirely during the lockdown. The four-track EP showcases an unshakeable exuberance in Ranj’s vocals on songs like Attached, while Schoolbus maneuvers expertly between early 2000s pop and hip-hop, aided by rapper Tintin adding a darker streak to the track. Then there’s £ Me and Come Thru, which place Ranj and her collaborators as musicians who have their finger on the pulse of the kind of music the world loves right now – soulful, playful and quick.
Narcissus – Mocaine
Previously part of his EP Portrait of Dali, Delhi rock artist Mocaine (Amrit Mohan) bursts out the door with the song Narcissus, part of his latest album The Birth of Billy Munro (releasing later this year). Where some may be familiar with a heavy hitting, grungy live version from the EP, this seven-minute rager gallops and seethes at the perfect temperature. Mocaine reaches his boiling point during the choruses, reaching there from a slithering pace in the verses as he introduces two characters from the concept record that is The Birth of Billy Munro. Narcissus slams hard and gets suitably psychedelic as well, thanks to basslines by Kabir Agarwal and intense drumming by Varun Sood.
Vestigial – Suhaas Kumar ft Karan Khurana, JonHammond and Faris Khan
Jaipur-based guitarist Suhaas Kumar is slowly and steadily representing the new wave of young bedroom prog artists. His latest single Vestigial calls on Karan Khurana (a vocalist based in Prague), Canadian vocalist JonHammond to handle the growls and Mumbai singer Faris Khan to take on clean vocals. Vestigial unravels with ambitious prog intent that you could term a cross between djent and older bands like Dream Theater, swerving between breakdowns and searing solo work.
MLMSML – Bhayanak Maut
Just when you feel like the more seasoned Mumbai metal bands have been sitting things out due to the pandemic, Bhayanak Maut return with an acerbic, heavy hitter of a track. Punctuated by a style of lyrical humor that’s morbid and distinctly championed by BM, this gargantuan song pulls no punches in staying true to their sonic signature as well. Vocalist Aman Virdi is incisive in his growls about internet activism, the song dips into a wide-as-valleys chorus that reveals the full form of the song – “My life, my soul, my liver.” It’s an harrowing offering that wants to offer something new on every listen.
Superpower 2020 – Lifafa
Sure it was intended to have been released last year (as the title suggests), but that doesn’t make New Delhi producer-singer Lifafa (Suryakant Sawhney)’s new album Superpower 2020 any less exciting. Across eight tracks, we hear the familiar Lifafa who’s wily and sardonic, whether it’s about love or the state of the country, but also the producer who loves to experiment and allow it to take him to dark, unchartered territories, like the noisy closing track Mandir.