Best Albums of 2017
by Lubko Davidovich

5 Vymir <BR> “Novi Imena”

5 Vymir
“Novi Imena”

Kyiv-based group 5 Vymir is known as a relatively successful act on modern independent scene. But it looks like now they’re more concentrated on their success than on the music itself, oblivious to its refinement and elegance, which are largely missing in band’s new full-length.

It’s even titled as “Novi Imena” (“The New Names”), meaning some inner circle of new Ukrainian artists including members of 5Vymir, that has been chosen as a weird concept for the whole LP.

That, actually, is our only complaint, because the Kyiv foursome haven’t lost their undeniable talent. At least, we got a portion of slackered indie rock with post-punk basslines – plain, but good, and it would be even better if the arrangements and playing were not so coarse and demonstrably rock-oriented.

But don’t forget it was 5Vymir who introduced Mac DeMarco’s soft slacker-pop sound to Ukrainian masses few years ago, and that’s a great credit! We like Kostyantyn Pochtar’s timbre, but also must note the second vocalist Vadim Lazarev’s tunes “Svit” and “23”. The latter is, maybe, the most magnificent composition in the tracklist.

Finally, charming and gentle “Shukaiu Den” seems to be the song with the highest potential here – just let it be produced by Martin Courtney, not Peter Chernyavski. Although Pete made not only “one of the best”, but definitely THE BEST Ukrainian album of 2016, this time he did something the guys could easily do by themselves.

♪♫ Listen: “Ламай” + album stream

5 Vymir on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Пошлая Молли <BR> “8 способов как бросить дрочить”

Пошлая Молли
“8 способов как бросить дрочить”

Our the 11th place is the most controversial one. The new Russian lo-fi community, formed around such names as Ghost Hippies, Electrokids, slackers ☂, Pasosh, Sonic Death, inspired the wide variety of younger performers: Youth Resort, Uvula, Homeboy in luv, Dog Rose Princess, The Verbludes…

Most of them are located in St. Petersburgh and have proven to be innovative enough to be noticed by Bandcamp journalists who made an entire editorial dedicated to that not ordinary scene. Its echo has reached the Ukraine resulting in appearance of bands like GASP and Janp. Virtually, Kharkiv city project Пошлая Молли (“Poshlaya Molly” or “Smutty Molly”) is a follow-up of the trend.

Except that Kirill Blendnyi, group’s leader, plays it in a completely new way: a harsh, kitschy sound, deliberately flirting with bad quality pop, could give the impression of unforgivably cheap product, but it has something more than that, including insane nu rave energy and powerful electro-dancepunk basis. Both are borrowed from (as was rightly mentioned by “Afisha” magazine) groups of a decade ago – Klaxons, Hadouken, NRKTK. Not to speak of emo, used here more as a tool and manner of performance than a genre. But all this is well hidden behind the overall loudness and apparent primitivity of the recording.

Like Will Toledo, Kirill does his vocal parts on a cellphone. And while “Teens Of Denial” was made in studio with proper equipment and a bunch of experienced musicians shortly after the first fame and signing to Matador, Poshlaya Molly’s frontman – who is already a homegrown star – still brings his iPhone 7 to sound engineers, even when it comes to filming TV shows, saying: “I’ve already done all arrangements here. We won’t record professionally anything but guitar!”. We’re not big fans of this EP, however, one thing is certain: the release was a true anthem of millennials and a great Spirit of the Times reflection.

Among Eastern Europe youth Molly’s debut was a big hit, that’s why its importance (as well as impact) is huge, and just can’t be ignored in any rating.

♪♫ Listen: “ДАЖЕ МОЯ БЭЙБИ НЕ ЗНАЕТ” + album stream

Пошлая Молли on Soundcloud, Instagram.

Ivan Dorn <BR> “OTD”

Ivan Dorn

One of the most famous producers and artists in the CIS area needs no introduction. This year Ivan Dorn managed to record new album in LA, get caught in political scandal and finally publish his first English-language material.

On the one side, being practically a collection of clichés (funk, house, soul, nu-disco elements glued together), “OTD” is on the other side a rich (the word that appears in Dorn’s songs quite often), non-stop experiment and the most progressive Ivan’s work. The lyrics part originally was built solely on the melodiousness of the sounds and syllables with no special meaning given. That’s why the English phrases alternate with the Russian ones – factually, they all are interchangeable.

In “Open The Dorn” (that is what “OTD” stands for), author used the “yoghurt language” method of songwriting, starting with the glimmers of ideas, random samples and non-sense snatches of words, then transforming it into fully-fledged songs. As you might imagine, there are absolutely no hits there, but the important point is the OTD’s rawness – it was made just for fun, and it feels like this.

Some say that’s a fault, but when you make electronic music, it can give it a soul.

♪♫ Listen: “Collaba” + album stream

Ivan Dorn on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

Straytones <BR> “Straytones”


While majority of the country’s psychedelic releases are just marking time offering the listener boring, monotonous, out of fashion kind of the genre with a predominance of 70’s hard rock, stoner or pseudo-shoegaze experimentals, this one is a rare gem.

Guitar neopsychedelia, sweetened by Car Seat Headrest-like desperate garage, meets the influences of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, albeit being much slower than the Australian act’s tunes. All they need is a little more carelessness, so desirable in that particular style.

Straytones’ eponymous disc turned out to be their sophomore one, and we still know next to nothing about the band. But who cares? The greatest thing is the music is surely worth enough to press play and even buy this album.

♪♫ Listen: “Long Road” + album stream

Straytones on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook.

Mashlaw <BR> “Mist”


Female-vocal garage rock with teenage sincerity, diluted by intelligent grungy punk – some kind of a bit more contemporary, a bit more lo-fi Ukrainian version of riot grrrl. The word “Mashlaw” is an alias of bassist/vocalist Maria Grigorieva, which comes from her short Masha.

There is extremely interesting musical background behind this tiny and naïve LP: Maria somehow managed to participate in a number of garage punk/slacker rock/lo-fi groups and release a whole discography at a very young age. All these guys together established their own school of underground indie (which had great prospects for becoming a new phenomenon), but were never noticed by media and broke up too soon. One of the outfits, a guitarless power duo called Vokindogu, is certainly worth your attention – so check it out!

There was even a label PMS Inc., formed to support their isolated, almost invisible to most people scene, but again – the label itself has less than 300 followers. And more fantastically, it was totally schoolboys and schoolgirls movement! When such a young persons are given the opportunity to make their music professionally, we’ll undoubtedly get something completely new, childishly ingenious and out of the ordinary, because the juvenile mind is very different, and – as of today – underrated and mostly unexplored in terms of music.

The story of now Captured Tracks-signed stellar Spanish quartet Mourn proves it, but generally teenage bands are not lucky enough to expect any support. Fortunately, Maria (now 20-year-old) at least kept that youngster mentality, and “Mist” has all the craziest energy of the “PMS Inc.”-era groups. We recommend it to those who are fans of Martha, Girlpool, Mourn, even Potty Mouth or early Milk Teeth.

♪♫ Listen: “Зомбі” + album stream

Mashlaw on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook.

Брудні <BR> “Чому Брудні?”

“Чому Брудні?”

The capital’s power duo is often compared to Royal Blood, but that’s a very blurred analogy. It’s even hard to tell for sure, whether it’s garage rock or not, because this strange couple invented their own aesthetics, that looks like nothing we have ever known.

Kyiv-based Brudni (meaning “The dirty ones”) belong to the youngest generation of musicians – “Чому Брудні?”, released only a month ago, is just a debut.

Everything they do is much in fashion now, and their particular “fashion” is always combined with authentic Ukrainianity (in terms of accent, linguistic or phonetic purity and so on), meaning the two are able to mix trends and cultures together for generating something unique, not only to copy the more successful British or American bands.

The tracks themselves are very heavy. Sometimes they sound like genuine metal, but at the same time it’s still 100% indie! Hard to imagine music like this could ever exist at all. And what a frantic chewed-up, rubber guitars!

Without a doubt, the best sound production in our list!

♪♫ Listen: “Чому Брудні?” + album stream

Brudni on Soundcloud, Facebook, Instagram, www.

[O] <BR> “Самий Сок”

“Самий Сок”

New rising star of “Masterskaya” label, founded by Ivan Dorn, with its studio debut. Funky dance indietronica, seasoned with house and beautiful, dreamy old-school synth pads/atmospheres, more pronounced in “Лелека”, “Добре” and divine electrosoul lullaby “Летючий Корабель” (“The Flying Ship”).

That trick, as a very specific part of topical today ‘90s revival, was trendsetted in Ukraine for the first time by Olya Dibrova and her former band “DVOE”, who released a very underrated, but absolutely landmark for music fashion “Suite” EP, full of 90s grooves.

Like them, [O] is yet another female-fronted boy-girl tandem, but we were fascinated by how the singer reveals all the hidden tenderness of Ukrainian language, with a delicacy that only girls can do. And using of diminutive suffixes only adds more loveliness to the already cute songs ^_^ Hope they’ll become the next big thing in their homeland.

♪♫ Listen: “Мушечки” + album stream

[O] on Soundcloud, Facebook, Instagram.

Me’leron <BR> “R”


Once in good old 90s I had a dream: me and my classmate sitting on the floor of giant ancient three-storey library, surrounded by beautiful garden below us, decorated with massive statues, and then I go to the window and see one of those stone faces came alive, spinning and making thunderous noises, with red beams coming out of its eyes.

Me’leron’s album cover looks like occasional screenshot of that tasty childhood nightmare, while the music is manoeuvring between Temples and Tame Impala. We were afraid recruiting the Sinoptik’s bandleader Dima (who acted as the producer here) might ruin the original charm of the group and partially these fears are confirmed.

Dima’s more rude and guitar-obsessed approach has led to putting trite hard rock over the gentle, way more modern electronic neopsychedelia, what happened, for example, in “So Dear To Me” and, to a lesser extent, “Monaco” and “Russian Cocktail” (thankfully, it didn’t damaged the whole songs – only since 3:03 and 4:17, respectively).

But nevertheless, this six-track psychedelic creation is brilliant! So fresh and shiny, that it clearly deserves to be included in UA best-of-the-year top.

♪♫ Listen: “Beam Of Light” + album stream

Me’leron on Facebook, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Instagram.

Stepan I Meduza <BR> “Прощение”

Stepan I Meduza

Kyiv-based duo Stepan I Meduza is notable for creation of their own genre – “science pop”. Although it’s just another low-profile branch of synth pop and new wave, maybe the only place where you can find similar aesthetics is Rush discography between 1982 and 1987: crystal clear, sublime, perfectly calibrated melodies with ultramodern philosophy and science fiction themes (originally brought to the music world by Neil Peart).

Stepan I Meduza added to this already incredible mix the forgotten spirit of old soviet adventure movies, more electronic arrangements and mastery of the Russian language (a rare thing, ironically), which led to very harmonic merge of lyrics and music. New album sounds a lot like “retrofuturistic Depeche Mode” – if you’re really enjoying “Construction Time Again”, you’d most likely love it. “Прощение” LP is softer than most classic Stepan I Meduza songs, but at the same time it is dynamic enough to have real hits (listen to “Весна” or the title song, for example).

This record would definitely be #1. It isn’t only because there is nothing new here – only a continuation of what “Stepan I Meduza” were doing for the last three years on theirs previous EPs and longplays. But music material from it does not become worse – it’s simply unbeatable!

♪♫ Listen: “Прощение” + album stream

Stepan I Meduza on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Зэ Джозерс <BR> “Спор” EP

Зэ Джозерс
“Спор” EP

I’ve always felt province can give us much more than it did. There are more “space” for musicians to dream, to think, to contemplate, and finally, to compose. Somewhere at the end of the world the best music is born: Skryabin, raised on forests of a tiny, but progressive Novoyavorivsk, caught between Poland and Ukraine; Mike Oldfield, who created his masterpieces right on the hills and meadows of England; remote, insular New Zealand of The Chills, The Bats and The Clean; or confirmed hick Martin Newell, inspired by endless rural fields – just to name a few.

Зэ Джозерс (it’s a transliteration of “The Jossers”), though, aren’t so outstanding melodists as the guys mentioned above, and, what is more, aren’t melodists at all – their passion is a dissonant, atonal guitar work with complex rhythm structures, which they do with equal genius. Take a look at the time signatures: 5/4, then 4/4, then it goes 6/8 and even 11/8, changing again to 5/4 – and that’s just in one song, maybe the simplest album piece called “Фэилор”. But the hardest part is to make that complexity easy-to-perceive, invisible to an average ear – and Jossers did it well.

Emergence of such a high-level band in a small, godforsaken Kalush could be a sign the Ukrainian province is already beginning to truly realize its potential, what may soon lead to another music revolution, capable of bringing completely new styles and new kind of worldview into the state’s scene. The group’s previous CD, titled as “Unsupported Bravery Of Local Kids” (with the relevant philosophy in it) only confirms the process is already in motion. “Спор” EP offers us the intellectual, sophisticated post-punk, what makes Serhiy Voronov almost a Tom Verlain – or Richard Hell-like figure among his fellow countrymen.

By the way, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth and Guided By Voices lovers may also find this music attractive. Don’t miss the deep, cathartic “Odds and Ends” lyric video – The Jossers refer to it as a coded message, and I was told there are lot of Easter eggs here.

♪♫ Listen: “Давай Еще Раз” + album stream

Зэ Джозерс on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

Terry Phao <BR> “Запах Моря” EP

Terry Phao
“Запах Моря” EP

Terry Phao emerged in 2014 – exactly when “new ukrainian wave” had begun. At first, they were almost lost among the large number of talented musicians, remaining clearly underrated despite their music contributed much to the current zeitgeist.

Formally being a collective, in fact Terry Phao can be considered an one-man-band, as the founder Taras (Terry) is the only permanent member and the core of the group, acting as the songwriter, vocalist, keyboard & guitar player. Curiously, now he is the most rapid-changing Ukrainian indie artist, demonstrating a constant moving forward and style development.

“TP” is often presented as a Kyiv outfit, but what’s less well-known is that Terry was born in a small Galician town Chervonograd, that turns him into a part of so-called “Provincial Revolution”, mentioned above. In 2017 the project published two EPs: the first one, “Не кажи” (“Don’t say”), which we would also recommend, was a nice new romantic piece in the best tradition of legendary West Ukrainian synth pop trio “Скрябін” (“Skryabin”), but of course more indie-arranged.

The second outing, “Запах Моря”, is a completely different story. Unexpected electronic surfpop and post-punk elements, Ukrainian continuation (and even further development) of what Jonny Pierce and Jacob Graham once did, makes it head and shoulders above the previous Terry Phao’s work. The only thing that does not allow these guys to become “the next Drums” is a lack of a proper sound producing.

The opening theme “Не бачити,не чути” is an unique successful symbiosis of electronic indie and a slide guitar (!), which is commonly used in blues or classic/progressive rock and has nothing to do with modern lo-fi/slacker generation. Have you ever heard something like this? We haven’t. Layered, polyphonic backing vocals in all three tracks have proven to be a great addition – Terry has again shown himself as a gifted melodist.

♪♫ Listen: “Подих” + album stream

Terry Phao on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Peredmova <BR> “Абетка”


Vlad Zarichnyuk is hardly a newbie on the Ukrainian scene. Kostopil-born lo-fi producer played in a number of original groups (The Pleroma, Night Dew Call, Kelbas), founded his own label “Dobryi Bober” (“The Good Beaver”) and… is barely known even to local critics because of his almost ideological devotion to underground movement.

He even lives his life in a “bedroom pop way”, releasing songs on hand-painted cassettes with few copies run, doing all the recordings/rehearsals in the kitchen or bedroom, and never playing live outside his house. However, it did not prevent him from recording genuinely landmark stuff.

The newest project “Peredmova”, which is, maybe, a little bit more public, launched a new phase in Vlad’s creativity. Music has changed too – now it’s a cleaner, carefully composed and well-designed blend of dreamy surf, twee pop, delicate shoegaze and relaxed sunny trip-hop. Here one can find many similarities with early Beach Fossils – Peredmova could easily be some another resident of Captured Tracks.

They’re also probably one of the most modern-looking and american-sounding Ukrainian bands as of today. Being an entirely western phenomenon, Peredmova simultaneously represents the purest Ukrainianity – with all its traditional baroquity and anfractuosity, visible through the ages in folk art, classic Ukrainian literature, cossack-era painting and architectural forms.

Clever use of phonetics helped the language to reach its full melodic potential and thus enrich the songs themselves – not an easy thing to do. Such instances can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and in this case “Абетка” is a clear successor of “Shuma”, last year’s outstanding Tik Tu debut.

♪♫ Listen: “Казкові сонцепади” + album stream

Peredmova on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.