Best Albums of 2015
picked by 15 Belarusian critics
words by Dmitri Bezkorovainyi

Brutto <BR>“Rodny kraj”

“Rodny kraj”

Brutto is a new band of Sergey Mikhalok – the former leader of Lyapis Trubetskoy, which is the most successful Belarusian rock unit of the last two decades (split in August 2014), known for antiglobalistic and socially charged songs.

This is Brutto’s second album, a welcome return to form and modern world topics after the imperatively simple debut “Underdog” (September 2014), which was devoted to sport chants and dismissed by many critics as primitive.

“Rodny kraj” (“Родны край”, meaning “Native land”) reminds of the latter day Lyapis Trubetskoy with a more modern sound. The powerful title track is sung in Belarusian (whereas almost all other songs are in Russian) with autobiographical lyrics.

After being banned to play concerts in Belarus, Sergey Mikhalok lived in the Ukraine for the most of two last years. Video for “Rodny kraj” is also a special treat.

♪♫ Listen: “Rodny kraj” + album stream

Brutto on Facebook, YouTube, Soundcloud, VK.

Kazalpin <BR>“Sniezhki/Schnee”


Kazalpin is an international joint project of the Belarusian vocal ethno trio Akana (Belarus) and experienced Swiss jazzmen Albin Brun Alpine Ensemble.

“Sniezhki/Schnee” (“Снежкі/Schnee”, or “Snowballs/Schnee”) is their second album. And just like the 2013 debut effort, “East Side Story”, it was recorded and toured in Switzerland, and released on the German label Double Moon.

Taking Belarusian folk songs as a basis, musicians infuse them with international world music and jazz influences. Despite the clear split in vocal (all-Belarusian) and instrumental (all-Swiss) duties, arrangements of tracks come from both sides to a harmonic result.

It made this record yet another practical example of music having no boundaries. And it brought Kazalpin a nomination for “Best Folk Album” at awards.

♪♫ Listen: “Svatki-bratki” + album stream

Kazalpin on Spotify.

Zmitser Vajtsiushkevich & WZ-Orkiestra “Nasha pesnia”

Zmitser Vajtsiushkevich & WZ-Orkiestra “Nasha pesnia”

Ex-member of the prominent folk band Kriwi, Zmitser Vajtsiushkevich (Змитер Войтюшкевич) started his solo career in early 2000s. His music is mostly a mix of singer-songwriter and traditional pop styles, using the poetry of prominent Belarusian and sometimes even foreign poets as lyrics, including Russia’s Vladimir Mayakovsky, Sweden’s Katarina Frostensen, Poland’s Rafał Wojaczek and others.

With more than 15 solo albums in 15 years, many hits and huge respect for his work, he is one of the modern day’s Belarusian music cult figures and one of the three local artists not allowed to play concerts in Belarus. “Nasha pesnia” (“Nasha pesnia”), or “Our Song”, is as a kind of patriotic collection, with songs about the country, land and spirit.

Interestingly enough, it brings together various layers of such songs. From well-known hymns of 19th/early 20th century through Soviet-era songs to completely revised renditions of 2000s hits he co-wrote himself and several new songs, including “Zhyve Belarus”, or “Long Live Belarus”.

♪♫ Listen: “Zhyve Belarus” + album stream

Zmitser Vajtsiushkevich on Facebook, Soundcloud.

Nizkiz <BR>“Lirika”


This rock four-piece comes from Mogilev, a regional centre in eastern Belarus with population of about 365,000.

They first gained recognition in Minsk in 2012 through their eponymous debut album, which was well-received by music critics and even nominated for several awards.

Actively gigging after that, playing festivals in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine helped them prepare ground for “Lirika” (“Лірика”, or “Lyrics”), which is the second full-length in their discography.

Nizkiz are good in mixing energetic alternative-tinged rock with great melodies, but their main weapon is the memorable voice of the singer Alexander Ilyin.

“Lirika” also shows progress in the band’s songwriting skills, proved by such numbers as “Bud moyey zvezdoy” (in Russian) and especially “Tsyaper i daley” (in Belarusian).

♪♫ Listen: “Tsyaper i daley” + album stream

Nizkiz on Facebook, VK.

NABR “Nasha avtonomnaya boevaya raketa”

NABR “Nasha avtonomnaya boevaya raketa”

NABR is an alternative rock band from Brest in south-western Belarus, right on the border with Poland and Ukraine.

The group was formed by members of several prominent local bands like Plum Bum, D_tails and Alt+F4. They started in 2013, releasing one-off singles and are still concentrating mostly on studio work instead of live concerts – they have played only three to this date.

Their debut album, “Nasha avtonomnaya boevaya raketa” (“Наша автономная боевая ракета”, or “Our Autonomous Combat Rocket”) is a powerful mix of guitar riffs and syncopated drums, all enhanced by fx and heavy sound production.

Melodic verses, narrated rather than sung by frontman Vovka Plumbum, are followed by bursting choruses. One can admire the variety of sounds, moods and influences on this full-length, which won “Best Debut Album” at the recent awards.

♪♫ Listen: “Alisa” + album stream


Super Besse <BR>“63610*”

Super Besse

A post-punk/coldwave three-piece Super Besse caught public attention just several months after coming together in autumn 2013, when being a virtually unknown band they were selected for Tallinn Music Week 2014.

Their performance there was so convincing that no matter they were singing in Russian, many other festival appearances in Europe followed leading them to the release of their debut album on I Love You Records (Latvia, worldwide) and Louderthanwar (Great Britain).

“63610*”, named after the postal code of the namesake town in France, is built on danceable rhythms with bassline riffs, minimal atmospheric verses meeting loud choruses with a punk feel.

All this led by a neurotic voice of Maxim Kulsha – declaiming or shouting in various parts. Toy synthesizers and drum machine add up to the final result, which is very melancholic and energetic at the same time. Nominated for “Best Debut Album” at awards.

♪♫ Listen: “Posmotri na menya” + album stream

Super Besse on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, www.

Kassiopeya <BR>“Krestik”


Kassiopeya (Кассиопея, or Cassiopeia) is a trio of a long-known Minsk indie music/art personas. Two of them, singer and keyboardist/arranger, have been working in the State Youth Theatre as actor and sound engineer. Since early 2000s, they have been doing Kassiopeya records in their free time with a guitarist friend.

They came to public attention only in 2008 with a release of their best-of collection on Russia’s prominent Snegiri indie label. Kassiopeya’s music is a joyous post-modernist synth-pop with a wide range of influences. Their lyrics are full of absurd, but humorous moments.

They come from the so-called “small human” in a modern world – confused and trapped, pathetic and funny at the same time. This time it’s about religion and love, meaning of life and fear of death. And with “Krestik” (“Крестик”), which means “Cross”, they earned nomination for the “Best Indie Pop/Electronic Album” at awards.

♪♫ Listen: “Zhelezny drovosek” + album stream

Kassiopeya on Facebook, VK.

Krambambula <BR>“Chyrvony shtral”

“Chyrvony shtral”

Krambambula (Крамбамбуля) is a project of a Belarusian rock legend Lavon Volski, former leader of Mroya and N.R.M. It started in 2002 as a kind of quality party music project – humorous songs about mostly alcoholic drinks of different countries, then holidays of different countries and other fun.

After a quick rise to popularity through several massive pop hits, they were banned to play concerts in Belarus, so the project became more alternative by music and concept.

Nominated for “Best Rock Album” at awards, their new album “Chyrvony shtral” (“Чырвоны штраль”, or “Red Ray”) was announced to be a farewell before “leaving to the woods” to become a guerilla unit.

Alternative rock is easily married here with jazz and funk. Songs about love to motherland and readiness to fight for it here are mixed with military love stories and war time parties. Talk about serious things through smile and irony.

♪♫ Listen: “Kab my kali kamu chago” + album stream

Krambambula on Facebook, VK.

Re1ikt <BR>“Lekavyja travy”

“Lekavyja travy”

Re1ikt started their career in 2005 in a small industrial town Svetlogorsk in South Eastern Belarus, then moved to the closest regional centre Gomel (with half a million people) near the boarders of Ukraine and Russia, and finally to Minsk.

Their music has been changing a lot too, from grunge to alternative rock with art-rock textures and growing Belarusian folk influences. They also switched from Russian to Belarusian in their lyrics.

“Lekavyja travy” (“Лекавыя травы”), which means “Healing Herbs”, is a perfect combination of rock and folk – complex and powerful, sophisticated and harmonic at the same time.

The album is a constantly changing landscape as the band easily switches between sheer electric distortion and subtle acoustic sound without losing the vibe.

Rearranged folk songs of their native Palesie region work well with their own Belarusian literature and folk inspired songs on a record that brought them the title of the “Best Rock Album” at awards.

♪♫ Listen: “Lekavyja travy” + album stream

Re1ikt on Facebook, VK.

Shuma <BR>“Zhnivo”


Shuma is built around the female singer Rusya, who came to Minsk from a village in Gomel region (yes, a compatriot of Re1ikt) in the beginning of 2000s.

First, she was singing with an alternative rock band Indiga, then with an electronic outfit CherryVata, and then with folk projects Akana and Kazalpin (see their album at No.9).

Shuma brings together her experiences in the last two genres and even some people from these projects, including Alexei Budzko (ex-Cherryvata) and Nadzeya Chuhunova (one of Rusya’s two co-singers in Akana and Kazalpin).

There’s probably nothing so much new to mixing folk songs and electronic music. But on their long-awaited debut album, “Zhnivo” (“Жніво”, meaning “Harvest”), they brought this mixture to a new level unprecedented for Belarusian music.

The record also offers the highest quality of sound production thanks to an all-Belarusian team of Alex Scorpio (who left to work in the US halfway through the album recording) and Nick Cherny. “Best Folk Album” and “Album Of The Year” at awards.

♪♫ Listen: “Pojdu žy v lies” + album stream

Shuma on Soundcloud, Facebook, VK.