Best Albums of 2014
selected by William Griffith from LiveBeijingMusic

Alpine Decline <BR>“Go Big Shadow City”

Alpine Decline
“Go Big Shadow City”

Alpine Decline have knocked it out of the park with their latest album, “Go Big Shadow City”, produced with the help of Yang Haisong. It’s a hefty piece of work, one that takes everything that the dystopian rock duo does great – ghostly vocals, hypnotic reverb, and atmospheric ‘end of days’ soundscapes that perfectly capture the rust, otherworldly glow, and grime of Beijing like no one else – and refined it in ways that’s ambitiously entertaining and emotionally satisfying in the most unexpected ways.

As the title “Go Big Shadow City” suggests, Alpine Decline have gone big and haven’t missed a beat. Abrasive, beautiful, and bold – one of the most confident pieces of work this year.

♪♫ Listen @ here.

Alpine Decline on Facebook, Twitter, Douban, www.

Ghost Bath <BR>“Funeral”

Ghost Bath

There’s something amiss in Chongqing, cause whoever these Ghost Bath guys are, they’ve jumped straight out of the rabbit hole. And as evident in their debut album, Funeral it’s beautifully disturbing. First, there’s your lead singer hallowing like a madman at the moon, sobbing, shrieking, anything but making recognizable sentences.

On top of that some of the angriest most vivid post-black metal that has graced my ears. It’s some strikingly twisted stuff and packs a hell of a wallop. One that grips you from the start and doesn’t let go.

♪♫ Listen here.

Ghost Bath on Facebook and Bandcamp.

Hedgehog (刺猬) <br>“Phantom Pop Star” (幻象波普星)

Hedgehog (刺猬)
“Phantom Pop Star” (幻象波普星)

Hedgehog have outdone themselves with their latest, expanding their sound into pop territory like never before all the while maintaining their noisy psychedelic-tinted rock ‘n’ roll sensibilities. It’s this balance that turns Phantom Pop Star into perhaps the indie rock group’s best work to date.

From the electronic backing in ‘DDDDDDreaMMMMMM’, to the dual vocals that propel ‘Phantom Pop Star’, to the subdued cello work on ‘Paintings’ and ‘Star Shine’, every stylistic choice surpasses its mark, as the band utilizes every trick and nuance of their sound to elevate their dreamy pop world.

♪♫ Listen here.

Hedgehog on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Douban, Bandcamp.

Moxi Zishi (莫西子诗) <BR>“Open Country” (原野)

Moxi Zishi (莫西子诗)
“Open Country” (原野)

Beijing-based Yi (that’s southwestern Sichuan) musician Moxi Zishi has been steadily making a name for himself these past few years. For starters, he’s collaborated with Dou Wei, one of China’s scenes heavyweight veterans. On top of that, his work has been performed on The Voice of China.

If that wasn’t evidence enough of the waves this young man is making, then let his debut Open Country speak for itself. The twelve-track album is a masterpiece – one that takes utilizes a lot of the traditional Yi minority music features, prominently, rhythm and vocal stylings, but takes an almost improvisational approach to the poetic lyrics spilling forth from the singer. It’s a delicate piece of work that takes its time, finds comfort in the unlikeliest places, and never takes a false step. It’s literally seeped in life.

♪♫ Listen here

Moxi Zishi on Facebook and Douban.

Pairs <BR>“Brief Lesbian”

“Brief Lesbian”

Pairs are back in peak form with their latest and sadly second to last release, “Brief Lesbian” (no one knows how to throw titles around like Xiao Zhong). Conceived with fellow Shanghai artist Reykjavictim (whose synthesizers join the fun) with some help from various Aussie groups, it’s a gut punch of an album – one that wallows in Xiao Zhong’s cynical fraught outlook like never before.

Instead of allowing the emotions and imagery unfold in their usual one to three minute maelstrom, these songs burrow their way under your skin, and berates you to the point of restlessness. Every awkward moment, defeated shudder, judgmental twitch is felt.

♪♫ Listen here.

Pairs on Bandcamp.

Spice (香料) <BR>“Force Analysis” EP (受力分析)

Spice (香料)
“Force Analysis” EP (受力分析)

The Hangzhou electro rock trio Spice, composed of Chen Chen Chen, an experimental electronic musician and guitarist, Little Drummer, and Yī Lái, return with their third EP entitled “Force Analysis”. And the only question I have for them now is – where the hell is our full-length album already!

Spice is not only proof that there’s a lot happening outside the first tier cities – they’re one of the most innovative, interesting, downright exciting bands coming out of China, period. A band fully invested in their sound – whether it’s taking a groovy beat in the beginning of ‘Hypnosis’ and turning it into an epic psychedelic jam by its end; or giving us a club-ready jam out of ‘Yellow+Black’ – Spice radiates with creating soundscapes that live and breathe on their own.

♪♫ Listen here.

Spice on Douban.

Summer Can’t Fall Asleep <BR>“zzZ”

Summer Can’t Fall Asleep

Zhongshan, a bit north of Hong Kong, is now home to one of the best debuts to come out of China this year. The band – Summer Can’t Fall Asleep. The album – “zzZ”.

The four piece band fronted by the immaculately voiced Kwan is in a league of their own here – six tracks of stripped-down indie rock and roll that’s brimming with life. From the voice, to the instrumental work, even the subtle addition of backing vocals on a few of the songs, this baby works like gangbusters.

♪♫ Listen here.

Summer Can’t Fall Asleep on Facebook and Douban.

The Bricks (板磚樂隊) <BR>“Juncture Fugue” (音渡神游)

The Bricks (板磚樂隊)
“Juncture Fugue” (音渡神游)

Hangzhou ska outfit The Bricks popped up on my radar in 2014 with their latest album “Juncture Fugue” (音渡神游), nine tracks of pure ska bliss.

These guys aren’t reinventing the wheel here – nevertheless, what it lacks in originality it makes up for in pure unadulterated love for the genre. There’s a looseness here that’s infectious, a laid back spirit that makes this record the perfect spring companion.

♪♫ Listen here.

The Bricks on Douban.

Wang Wen (惘闻) <BR>“Eight Horses” (八匹马)

Wang Wen (惘闻)
“Eight Horses” (八匹马)

Dalian post rock gods Wang Wen have returned with their eighth full length album appropriately titled “Eight Horses” featuring eight new epic compositions that the juggernaut band has become known for.

The record has been put together by the fine lads over in Chengdu, New Noise, with post-production work done PK 14′s much respected lead singer Yang Haisong, Ningbo based producer Anzi and Wouter Vlaeminckx, the front man of Belgium indie band Toman. “Eight Horses” is a beautiful stunning album.

♪♫ Listen here.

Wang Wen on Bandcamp, Facebook, Douban.

Xiban (戏班) <BR>“Peace and Prosperity”/”Powder of Five Minerals”

Xiban (戏班)
“Peace and Prosperity”/”Powder of Five Minerals”

Xiban, a multi-national, multi-instrumental troupe that fully embodies the world music category and then takes it even further by incorporating experimental textures and techniques, creating a world of sound that’s invigorates the old noggin. The group just released a double album in 2014, “Peace and Prosperity” and “Powder of Five Minerals”, and they are bonafide masterpieces.

For those who enjoyed Xiao He’s experimental folk allure, to those who get off on the majesty of Hanggai vast soundscapes, or to Second Hand Rose’s love for the intersection of traditional and present – this is album for you. A reinterpretation of Chinese music that’s absolutely mesmerizing – the bands says it best of their profile page – “With a strong touch of rock, ‘Peace and Prosperity’ is our reflection upon the past, a summary before saying goodbye. ‘Powder of Five Minerals’, on the other hand, is the carefree state when we let go and zone out, listen to our heart and give it free reign.”

♪♫ Listen here.

Xiban on Douban.