80 countries and 400+ albums selected by our experts from around the world.
Wos – “Caravana”
The biggest rock star nowadays in Argentina is a rapper. Wos, just 21 years old, was last year champion in Red Bull Batalla de los Gallos, the biggest free-style competition in hispanic countries. He’s gained recognition in the freestyle scene in Argentina with singles, great videos and lot of collaborations.
Rock music wasn’t singing about the political and economical crisis Argentina was (is) going through. Apart of being a music idol, he was, in a way, the face of an anti-Macri youth. One week before Primaries election in our country, he dropped “Canguro“, an explicit song about bullshit in political speeches. Immediately it was a hit: at the moment of writing this, only in YouTube the video counts more than 86m views – almost the double of Argentina’s population!
Then, the album “Caravana” arrived and everything changed. Praised by critics and fans, the first LP of this young rapper is not only about rap: there’s rock, trap, funk and electronic elements. Wos came up with a new structure for rap albums and proved every song is political. (Rodrigo Piedra)
Julia Jacklin – “Crushing”
With ‘Crushing’ Julia Jacklin delivered an aching, masterful record of illuminating lyricism and lovelorn reflection. Jacklin’s sophomore album secured her place as one of Australia’s most talented and pressing songwriters.
Embracing themes of female empowerment and love, “Crushing” is a tear-stained portrait of a 21st Century woman living Down Under. (Luke Saunders)
Other recommended albums:
• Sampa The Great – “The Return”
• Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Ghosteen”
• Tropical Fuck Storm – “Braindrops”
• Stella Donnelly – “Beware of the Dogs”
• King Gizard & the Lizard Wizard – “Fishing For Fishies”
HVOB – “Rocco”
They are the electronic music export Nr. 1 from Austria: the duo HVOB. Anna Müller and Paul Wallner are touring around the globe from the USA to India, from China to Africa. After being on the big stages and playing the top festivals with live-drummer and impressive light show, they decided to return to their origin, the dark club nights. Their fourth record “Rocco” is an exciting journey from gloomy techno tracks to fragile electronic songs with pop flair. The multilayered soundscapes develop a hypnotic maelmstrom.
Their attention to detail is extraordinary. Paul spent almost two years to find the right bass drum sound you can hear now on the amazing dance-monster-track “Butter”. A song like “A List” combines Anna’s touching voice with soft synthesizer melodies, melancholic piano cords and an almost jazzy drum groove. And the intriguing track “Sync” is, despite the reduced arrangement, a complex masterpiece that Aphex Twin would love.
But “Rocco” is not a hedonistic club-record. On the lyrical level it is a concept album about the process of “letting go”, getting rid of toxic relationships and about the fear of change. To many people, HVOB’s music is not only danceable, but has also a therapeutic impact. A woman from Egypt showed up after a show and told Anna how their music helped her getting through a rough time when she was trying to break up with her boyfriend. She finally managed to live a new life and was so thankful for HVOB’s music. So, Anna and Paul dedicated the record to this Egypt girl called Rocco.
A wonderful story about a wonderful record that not only makes people dance their heartbreak away but also embraces us with heart-warming melodies and sounds spreading the feeling of being well understood. (Andreas Gstettner-Brugger, Radio FM4)
Other recommended albums:
• 5K HD – “High Performer”
• MOTSA – “Perspectives”
• Scarabeusdream – “Crescendo”
• Bilderbuch – “Vernissage My Heart”
• Viech – “Niemand wird sich erinnern, dass wir hier waren”
Sinie Gory – “Sozvesdie Rodinok”
This may sound strange, but Tom Waits has an enormous following in former USSR. Most of the Tom’s epigones would isolate more wild, alcohol-infused aspect of his music and would create whole albums and shows of primitive, abusive and utterly uninteresting boozy rants.
Sinie Gory without a doubt are heavily influenced by Waits too, but instead they turn to more theatrical, artistic streak of his big career. “Sozvezdie Rodinok” (Созвездие Родинок) is definitely inspired by “Franks Wild Years”, but in a good way – it is very capable, creative on its own, and is rather a tribute than a copy.
The bats are in the belfry, the dew is on the moor. How fitting for Tom’s 70th jubilee. (Konrad Erofeev)
Balthazar – “Fever”
The members of Balthazar have not been sitting still between 2015 (“Thin Walls”) and 2019. There’s a huge chance that you recently listened to or at least heard about the dark mysterious Warhaus (Maarten Devoldere), the atypically groovy J. Bernardt (Jinte Deprez) or the more radio friendly Zimmerman (Simon Casier). They all released their own albums, Warhaus even two. Many music fans in Belgium and other countries were wondering which influence this would have on Balthazar.
“Fever” lives up to the expectations by combining classic Balthazar elements with some new ingredients. The bass gets you moving like it used to do, inescapable like a wobbling carpet under your feet. The two voices remain pretty complementary in different ways. The violins are still there, even though Patricia Vanneste decided to quit the band. The drums have never been the most ear catching part of the Balthazar sound but like in most teams, the players in the less visible roles are often the beating heart that puts the cherry on the pie.
Let us hope that Balthazar will not keep us waiting for another five years now. If they deliver another wonderful album, we will gladly excuse them for wait again, though.
I’d like to thank all my friends from the press/venues/festivals who sent me their top 5. You know who you are. (Brett Summers)
BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA:
Various Artists – “Ispod površine”
Podmornica, as a sub-label of Submarine Vibes is dedicated to explore and present Bosnia-Hercegovina’s music creators, mostly young, talented and undiscovered ones. The compilation “Ispod površine” is the first in a series that should bring more new music in 2020, and presents both undiscovered and some already known authors/bands, straight from B&H’s underground electronic scene.
Genre-wise, this is a 13-song combo of downtempo/chill-out/hip-hop to indie electro to drum’n’bass to solo piano numbers – so everyone can find something for him/herself. Hopefully, it’s just the beginning in discovery of young and emerging talents that will emerge from underground in next months/years. (Samir Čulić)
Ilko Birov – “Happy”
Singer-songwriter Ilko Birov brings familiarity with a twist – he does his brand of Americana so well it feels more like a lost classic than a rehash.
Most of the songs on “Happy”, his debut full-length, have been featured on his setlists for years and it shows in the way they sound both minimal and rich – a result of experience, practice and vision. (Svetoslav Todorov)
Liniker e os Caramelows – “Goela Abaixo”
Brazil is going through hard times, both in social and political matters. In the musical community, some artists got the job to show other points of view to the public. But in between releases that encourage people to go to the fight, the group Liniker e os Caramelows emerged, with the proposal of spreading love and affection in a divided society.
In its most recent album, called “Goela Abaixo” (“Down the Gullet”), the transsexual singer Liniker Barros used her voice to talk to people about the importance of taking care of the ones you love.
Meanwhile, the soul-inspired sonority helps deepen further this message. It’s clean. It’s beautiful. Goela Abaixo clearly serves as a light in the dark to make people believe that there’s still hope for this world. (Pedro Henrique Pinheiro)
Laurence Castera – “Les Hauts Lieux”
It grows on you. The sense of melody, the drama. Melodies soar. Laurence Castera’s latest is a mature offering, a solid 10. A collection of songs about resilience and heartbreak, love and pride, with a good dose of poetry. It was the greatest surprise of the year. (P.-A. Buisson)
Como Asesinar a Felipes – “Naturaleza Muerta”
Como Asesinar a Felipes (CAF) are among the most interesting Chilean bands in the recent years. They’ve also been recognized outside of the country, playing as the opening act for Faith No More during the last tour around Latin America, and that group’s legendary bassist Billy Gould has become a constant guest on the latest CAF releases.
“Naturaleza Muerta” (“Still Life”) brings a change for the band, as they replaced the piano and keyboards of their initial albums for the flute and saxophone. They also feature guest singer Camila Moreno on “Días Oscuros”, which is CAF’s first female collaboration. And the participation of Chino Moreno from Deftones in “Disparan (Fill the Skies)” shows their recognition abroad.
“Naturaleza Muerta” is an album whose impacts is based both on its lyrics and sound, showing maturity and creative expansion. They reflect and warn, hide second meanings under the rhythms of hip hop, jazz and winks to progressive rock concepts, but without guitars. (Marcelo Millavil M.)
Hiperson (海朋) – “Four Seasons” (春夏秋冬)
Comprised of four poems that lead singer Chen Sijiang has written over the past eight years, Hiperson’s latest isn’t meant to be a full-on post punk opus much like the Chengdu hopefuls struck gold with on their debut back in 2015 but nevertheless demands your attention.
Separated between Chengdu and London (where Sijiang recorded the vocals) and representing the shifting seasons and temperaments of its young artists, it’s a beautifully realized EP that puts the bands tender lyrical pose front and center, casting a spell that lingers long after.
And while the swirling angst-ridden guitars may be nowhere within ear range, it’s amazing how much emotional heft and magnetism the band are able to wrangle from their rhythmic interplay. A gem of a release that burrows deep into your soul. (Will Griffith)
Other recommended albums:
• Howie Lee – “Tiān Dì Bù Rén” (天地不仁)
• The Bootlegs (靴腿) – “I Feel Good”
• Poetry in Shorts (短裤里的诗歌) – Wo Hai Xi Huan Ni (我还喜欢你)
• Glow Curve (发光曲线) – “Invisible History” (荒野星)
• Chui Wan – “Eye” (眼)
No Rules Clan – “Pantone”
This decade has been no doubt the most prolific for the national rap, and the best way to close it is with “Pantone”, an album that took seven years to see the light. But the wait was totally worth it.
In 13 tracks No Rules, in company of Alcolirykoz, Vic Deal, DJ Z Kruel and DJ Mad Pee climb to the top and reaffirm why they are the kings of boom-bap, with very clever rhymes that narrate their context, all that means being rappers in Medellín, all kinds of realities that mix street content with shrewd punchlines.
You can feel it took so long just because they wanted to be sure that “Pantone” would be the album of the year and one of the most important albms of the decade. (Sebastián Narváez Núñez)
Other recommended albums:
• Mitú – “Tandem”
• Babelgam – “Mar de Hiladas”
• Los Pirañas – “Historia Natural”
• Flash Amazonas – “Binary Birds and Other Rubbish Surreal Things”
• Las Hermanas – “Masajes”
Neliero – “neliero” EP
This year’s biggest surprise in Costa Rica was defined by Neliero’s psych-pop debut. Although it’s conceived as a short EP, there are plenty of reasons to take this release as one of the most distinguished products in 2019. In 15 minutes, José Daniel Brenes’ musical outfit dazzles a concise, and yet sparkling narrative. Also, as an ambivalent themed album, the EP blends voice distortions, echoes and a quite fuzzy dose of nostalgia (take “YIN” as the most representative example of this).
The short – but captivating – musical collection behind “neliero” EP shows us why (once again) a tiny work can have more to say than an extended opera. Neliero is, at last, an answer to contemporary human appreciations, where attention, time and feelings are commonly associated with short processes. (Alejandro Ortiz)
Other recommended albums:
• Loli Fuji – “Mixtape”
• Dylan Thomas. – “Algunos Recuerdos Distantes”
• El Mundo Entero – “Buen Día De La Bestia”
• Las Robertas – “Together Outrageously”
• Caídas Libres – “Afuera y vacío”
Šumovi protiv valova – “Šumovi protiv valova”
2019 will be remembered as the year when instrumental music beat everything else in Croatia. Even votes from our voting poll show this, because the top three albums are post-rock Šumovi protiv valova, space rock jazz Chui and psych-funk Nemanja.
The band Šumovi protiv valova has existed for more than 10 years, but only at the beginning of the 2019 they managed to finish their debut album with the same name as the name of the band – “Šumovi protiv valova”. They put years of experience into these six very powerful songs, mixing post-rock sound with ambient, kraut-rock, gothic… And everything was recorded analog.
So, if you just want to relax and have the opportunity to go somewhere far far away, “Šumovi protiv valova” is the right album. Just put the vinyl on and your journey begins. Where will it take you? I don’t know, but I’m sure that you will enjoy it, just like our voting poll did. (Siniša Miklaužić)
Selected by: Boris Abramović (music-box), Predrag Brlek (Terapija), Tin Đudajek (Ziher/Vibrabox), Dubravko Jagatić (Nacional), Ivan Laić (Ravno do dna), Ana Patrlj (CIRF), Gorav Pavlov (Ruralna gorila/Potlista), Marin Tomić (Terapija), Siniša Miklaužić (Muzika.hr / beehype)
Rouilleux – “Lycanthropic Sounds”
Yet another soulful transformation of Luboš Rezek’s ever evolving Rouilleux. “Lycanthropic Sounds” is a record of breathtaking subtlety, but at the same time abrasive, demanding. Noise rock meets Current 93. (Viktor Palák)
Lowly – “Hifalutin”
“Hifalutin” is truly a masterpiece by larger-than-life Danish outfit Lowly. Their experimental and beautiful debut LP “Heba” set the stage for one of the most interesting Danish acts in recent years, so the expectations for “Hifalutin” were high – and somehow the band exceeded them.
The album is the perfect example of how to go about making an album that is at the same time unequivocally Lowly without ever get stale or predictable. The vocals by Nanna Schannong and Soffie Viemose are as beautiful as ever, the harmonies are chilling and the overall composition is just a fascinating listen. In short: “Hifalutin” is masterpiece. (Peter Pishai Storgaard)
Vicente García – “Candela”
Vicente bring his 3rd album, in this time he took the sounds of the Dominican Republic another level , you can feel the dominican rhythms and genres with new flavors, a production inspired by the Samana area, a province full of colors and rhythms. He doesn’t invent anything new, not, just make a mix of lot things from our culture, history, and our tales. (Max Cueto)
El General Villamil – “Daga”
In their second LP, El General Villamil brings catchy melodies and some new elements to their lo-fi style. To describe them as surf rock doesn’t make them justice any longer. The group from Guayaquil has managed to approach the genre in their own terms, and, on “Daga”, their latest form is a very pleasent one.
With “Daga”, El General Villamil has released their best record to date and managed to polish their sound to establish their identity. (Martin Cordova)
Wegz – “Gezirat Batal” (جزيرة البطل)
Finding it impossible to write about just one album from Egypt, I will instead quickly present three. Released amongst a prolific outpour of productions, Wegz debut EP, “Gezerat Batal” (Hero Island), is one of the most resounding hip hop albums of the year. Driven by a largely trap aesthetic, Wegz complex rhymes and self-reflective narratives are packed with layers of meaning – at times traveling across melancholia or madness as heard across the album.
Also on my heavy rotation this year was Rami Abadir‘s sophomore solo album, “Aphasia“, with its lush, shimmering synth palettes and harrowing melodic packages. The story of “Aphasia” arrived to further announce Abadir’s penchant for unearthing elaborate electronic sonic textures and uncanny acoustic sounds, it is a stunning listen from start to finish.
Also emerging out of the plethora of electronic releases this year, was J!N‘s debut album release “pink stm & wite ptl” with a fresh sonic direction, combining ambient, and progressive trip hop aesthetic that is as wonderfully atmospheric as it is emotive. (Maha ElNabawi)
Other recommended albums:
• BLUFRANK – “Smell That Thunder Part One & Two”
• KaddalMerrill – “Rain Over Nubia”
• 1127 – “Tqaseem Elharam”
• Abyusif – “Tamam”
• Ritza – “Shoofi” (Look)
• ABOsahar – “The Caveman”
Liis Ring – “Woolgathering”
“Woolgathering” by Liis Ring resembles a long stroll in real and imagined places across an ever-changing landscape where the eye catches glimpses of different colours and shapes, or a soft “hygge” sweater, woven from small pieces of wool. It’s not terribly important where a form or stripe ends and the other begins as there are no primary colours.
It’s quite easy to tag it as a kind of accompaniment muzak for some fantasy simulation or abstract painting or somnambulist pop, led by barely partial, flowing, ambient pulse of a sleepy sleeper, devoid of pumping rhythm and sing-along hooks.
Its elegiac dreamscapes alternate with glimpses of a lakeside country house in Sweden, a temporary rental space, and its field recordings of wildlife collide with bursts of prog, avant-garde as well as gentle nostalgia for an age yet to come. (Ingrid Kohtla, Tallinn Music Week)
Anton Liljedahl – “Summarnætur”
We first heard about the young singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Anton Liljedahl back in 2018, when he published his debut single “Vónarsjón”, a song of exceptional beauty even for Scandinavian music.
Around a year later, this half-Faroese, half-Swedish artist relased his first album “Summarnætur” (“Summer Nights”), which adds five more songs to his repertoire – some of them as majestic, all of them as uplifting as you could expect from the summery title. And the good news is that he just promised that “a lot of exciting things are about to happen in 2020”.
Jesse Markin – “FOLK”
“FOLK” is Jesse Markin’s staggeringly rich and fully formed debut album under his own name. It showed the seasoned rapper-turned-singer broadening his musical horizon to soulful indie territory, without losing any of his poignancy and flow as a lyricist. (Erkko Lehtinen)
Philippe Katerine – “Confessions”
Known for his absurd humour, Philippe Katerine – who has become famous since the release of his crazy hit “Louxor j’adore” (2005) – didn’t surprise French people when the artwork for his already 14th album “Confessions” was revealed. Bearing a suggestive nose, like in the video for the great “Stone Avec Toi”, the singer jokes with no taboos about sex or homosexuality (the hilarious “88 %” – in his opinion, the real percentage of gay guys), but also about terrorism and racism (“Blond”, with the actor Gérard Depardieu).
If this second degree can sometimes overtake the musical qualities of the songs, in particular at the record’s beginning, the production and the songwriting are most of the time truly impressive and really unusual for a French artist. Consider for example the beautiful and unexpectedly touching centerpiece duo “Bonhommes” / “Aimez-moi” or the groovy “Une Journée Sans” and “Madame De”, which recall the forward-thinking music of Solange: a lot of artistic decisions actually sound like tributes to United States’ current best nu soul and trap performers.
It’s safe to say that, in the end, Philippe Katerine is able to try any kind of music genre, from electronic pop to hip hop, with equal success. A good reminder that behind these clownish lyrics, hides a true and smart artist. (Gil Colinmaire)
Ilusha Tsinadze – “Yes & No”
Memories and longing often create something very beautiful – especially the hazy recollections of a faraway place you spent first few years of your existence in. These sentiments have permeated Ilusha Tsinadze’s music from the beginning, but they are perhaps most evident in his latest labour of love, called “Yes & No”.
This all comes natural to him – having left Georgia at the age of 8 and cherished his roots ever since, his music reflects his sonic rememberances filtered through the present-day means. While entire work is based on quasi-familiar Georgian folk themes, they are treated in a very personal way that is novel to country’s folkloric tradition. With this melancholic yet subdued approach, he makes the melodies he has borrowed pretty much his own, letting them stand in harmony among his original material.
So, apart from being musically very lovely and ear-catching, everything here, down to artwork being a snapshot of his childhood VHS from late 80s, gives us something aesthetically complete – imbuing us with the endearing feeling of forward-looking nostalgia. (Sandro Tskitishvili)
Monya – “Straight Ahead”
Complicated times sometimes call for straightforward action. Much like Dimitri Hegemann, Monya recently set up shop in West Germany’s densely populated Ruhr region. While the founder of legendary Berlin techno club Tresor opened a subsidiary called Tresor.West in Dortmund, Monya drifted away from the capital to concentrate on family life and composing her new album in her home-studio.
“Straight Ahead” delivers on its titular promise on eleven tracks of noisy, rhythmic industrial techno. The overwhelming and really bleak sonic environment of tracks like “Widerstand ist Pflicht” and “Nachdenken” evoke a relentlessness that can be seen as political in times of concept-laden art music on the one hand and a desperate social climate all over Europe. In the same manner as her No Border No Nation EP released in June, “Straight Ahead” proposes sounds that are radically black-and-white without being defeatist. Rather, the distortion and propulsion of “Gegen die Wand”, “Outro” and the title track convey an energy that could uproot any unjust social order.
Monya’s second album is classic industrial techno, but more than in other contemporary releases, there’s hope in its noisy beats. (Philipp Fischer, selection also by: Jakob Lebsanft, Paul Crone, Antonia Verdier, Yannick Philippe)
Other recommended albums:
• Von Spar – “Under Pressure”
• Fatoni – “Andorra”
• Sascha Funke & Niklas Wandt – “Wismut”
• Die Höchste Eisenbahn – “Ich glaub dir alles”
• Sparkling – “I Want to See Everything”
Jay Glass Dubs – “Epitaph”
Dimitris Papadatos has been an active composer, producer and sound artist, for many years now, releasing music under different aliases as KU, The Hydra and finally Jay Glass Dubs. He has collaborated with many labels such as The Tapeworm, Infinite Waves, Phinery, Inner Ear, Ecstatic Recordings and Berceuse Heroique, to name a few, while his first proper album as Jay Glass Dubs, titled “Epitaph”, came out via Bristol’s Bokeh Versions.
This year, the Athens-based producer, drops into his blender, along with Jamaican-influenced sounds and heavy drums, echoes of ancient Greek mystics and choral music, UK funk and breakbeats, and of course even darker synths, to complete his gothic dub vision. Meanwhile, the appearances from the experimental saxophonist Ben Vince (Curl, Where To Now, Hessle Audio) and the greek vocalist Yorgia Karidi bring beautifully haunted human interferences to his dub techno, which flows endlessly.
2019 was an especially good year for Dimitris Papadatos, with his internationally critically-acclaimed “Epitaph” joining annual Best Of The Year lists like Mojo’s, Boomkat’s or The Wire’s, among others. And though it’s not an easy going album, believe me, it worths your attention too. (Ares Buras)
Other recommended albums:
• Anatolian Weapons feat. Seirios Savvaidis – “To The Mother Of Gods”
• Larry Gus – “Subservient”
• Mazoha – “Μπάσταρδο”
• Electric Litany – “Under a Common Sky”
• Babis Papadopoulos – “Fables of the Useless”
Selected by: Aggelos Kleitsikas (avopolis.gr), Antonis Xagas (mic.gr), Ares Buras (beehype), M. Hulot (LiFO), Markos Fragos (gone4sure), Michalis E (Rodon Fm), Marianna Vasileiou (mic.gr), Panagiotis Stathopoulos (Lung Fanzine)
Mabe Fratti – “Pies Sobre la Tierra”
The composer and cellist Mabe Fratti was born and raised in Guatemala, but she’s currently based in Mexico City – which jumpstarted her recording and touring, resulting in this debut album released in May.
“Pies sobre la tierra” sums up her experiments with violin, electronics and her voice, resulting in a tranquil, introspective experience that’s unique not just in the Latin music scene. With this album, she wrote, she wants to invite us to the world or mental space which is both a place of freedom and illusion.
Other recommended albums:
• Asimov – “Todo Lo Que Buscamos Es Desaparecer”
• Señor del Rostro Solar – “Había Azacuanes En El Aire”
• Retohmorgon – “The Faeries Oracle”
Matt Force – “Matt Force”
Matt Force’s self titled debut album is a Hong Kong love letter to ’90s rap and hip hop culture. A beat maker himself, Matt effortlessly blends jazzy boom bap beat with introspective lyrics.
The album “Matt Force” is definitely worth checking out for all those who are curious about Hong Kong hip hop. (Edwin Lo)
Ricsárdgír – “Rise of the Koala”
For art-fart pop lovers, Christmas came earlier this year.
Hungary’s best trash band Ricsárdgír just released it’s third album which immerses itself musically in the world of festival anthems, country music and eurodance, creating such an artistic eclecticism that can only be characterized by a single word: Ricsárdgír. (Lelle Buzás)
Other recommended albums:
• Maiwa – “Goldfishing”
• Krizso – “Boys in the City – Girls from the Woods”
• Erik Sumo – “Mount Fuji”
• Németh Róbert – “A kibaszott végtelen űr (The fucking endless universe)”
Bjarki – “Happy Earthday”
Some albums feel less like a listening experience and more like a visit to a distinctive physical place with its own colours, shapes, sites and pathways. So it is with Bjarki’s “Happy Earthday” — a one hour trip that takes you over clouds and under waves to empty sunset beaches; through wild rainforests, and over rippling fields, and maybe, at times, into a wild, green version of a future city.
Influences from the giants of the genre are apparent, but ultimately irrelevant, as Bjarki paints from the palette of the canon, making confident strokes that are distinctively his own. There are ambient, midnight blue, star-speckled washes of sound, twitchy rhythms, undulating melodies and floating rhythms, all delivered with a sense of sparky imagination.
After a loud headphone listen, you’ll come out of a comfortable trance, having been taken, for a while, out of yourself, to a new wild future country. (John Rogers)
Peter Cat Recording Co. – “Bismillah”
Peter Cat Recording Co. are perhaps one of the hardest working bands in India right now, and have been for a little while. Having watched them for almost a decade now, it’s safe to say this is their moment in the sun, and I hope that the clouds don’t approach any time soon.
Having already found some sort of global success, in whatever indie way, with their debut record, the New-Delhi quartet delivered a melodic, melancholic sucker punch with “Bismillah”. The band’s sophomore release firmly places them at the helm of what it means to be a band in India in the year 2019. Be it their astute songwriting, narrative arcs on the album, visual aesthetic, poignant music videos, and most importantly – a live experience like none other – the band have it all locked down.
If there’s a record I had on repeat through the year, or a band I eagerly waited to watch live, it is Peter Cat Recording Co., and I can’t wait for their next steps. Make that leaps. (Naman Saraiya)
Other recommended albums:
• Ahmer x Sez On The Beat – “Little Kid, Big Dreams”
• Kumail – “Yasmin”
• Lifafa – “Jaago”
• Riatsu – “Safe With Me”
• Parekh & Singh – “Science City”
Polka Wars – “Bani Bumi”
From the very beginning, Polka Wars insisted you should listen to “Bani Bumi” in its original sequence, from beginning to end, without any interruptions. One of the reasons is, as they admit, that they really love each song on the album, and they want to share this love with listeners. The band’s energy can also be properly transmitted only this way.
But another reason is that “Bani Bumi”, a fantastic follow up to 2015’s debut “Axis Mundi”, is a story about human emotions, experiences, suffering. For each person, these words mean something different, so we need to hear each other out. These 13 tracks from Polka Wars’ could the a perfect start for that dialogue.
Other recommended albums:
• Elephant Kind – “The Greatest Ever”
• KimoKal – “Aries”
• Jirapah – “Planetarium”
• Vira Talisa – “Primavera”
• Dialog Dini Hari – “Parahidup”
• Barasuara – “Pikiran dan Perjalanan”
Mahan Mirarab – “Persian Side of Jazz, Vol.2”
“Persian Side of Jazz, Vol.2” is the continuation of Mahan Mirarab’s endeavours for a decade to shape and develop “Persian jazz”. “Persian Side of Jazz, Vol.1” (2010) with Wolfi Rainer and Robert Jukic, “Sahel-e Tehran” (2012) with Naima band, “Unity” (2014) with Babak Maddah, “Kahgel” (2016) with Hamzeh Yeganeh and “Derakht” (2017) with Golnar Shahyar are the earlier examples of his efforts.
The Vienna-based jazz guitar virtuoso and one of the pioneers of playing Iranian classical microtonal scales, folk tunes a.k.a maqam, as well as the Iranian rhythms on fretless guitar – inspired by Erkan Oğur, Turkish pioneer of microtonal fretless guitar – tries to recreate a jazzy Persian music that sounds integrated and homogeneous.
As an immigrant, he tries to create Persian jazz with mostly other immigrants, but he is not just trying to employ some elements from jazz music nor creating an orientalist Western music with Eastern elements. This album is the result of life experiences of several musicians in diaspora, who try to form a community and create a music adequate to their situation as immigrant musicians.
In this album, Martin Berauer (bass) and Amir Wahba (percussion) accompany Mahan as the core members of his band, alongside Kaveh Sarvarian (tombak and ney), David Six (piano), Mona Matbou Riahi (clarinet) and his partner Golnar Shahyar (vocals). (Ali Eshqi)
Other recommended albums:
• Damahi – “Dar Man Boro Shekar”
• Maryam Sirvan – “Songs of an Empty Room”
• Abdi Ohadi – “Blue Man”
• Psychic Bloom – “Mysterious Temple”
• Ali Azimi – “Of Love and Other Evils”
Mika Doari – “Bamba In Ikea”
“Bamba In Ikea” (במבה באיקאה) is an impressive showcase of the colourful pop rock of Mika Doari (מיקה דוארי). Her full-length debut album is incredibly tuneful, well-written and perfectly produced. And for that last thing we should mentioned Yohai Mosari, who is also Mika’s boyfriend.
While the third track on this record, called “Far from whiskey“, is the most exciting pop/rock song I have heard throughout 2019, you should also check out the early single “Not allowed”, which has also received video treatment.
I was happy to see Mika Doari’s music is getting some substantial attention on Spotify – hopefully Israeli radio will follow. (David Michaelov)
Other recommended albums:
• Efrat Ben Zur (אפרת בן צור) – “Distant City” (עיר מרוחקת)
• The White Screen (המסך הלבן) – “Sex, Drugs & Palestine” (סקס, סמים ופלסטין)
• Shwartzman (שוורצמן) – “Lehakhlim Mekhalom” (להחלים מחלום)
• Jimbo J and Spa Band (ג’ימבו ג’יי ולהקת ספא) – “What rappers want (מה ראפרים רוצים)
• Schamia (מגרדת) – “Scratching” (מגרדת)
Be Forest – “Knocturne”
“Knocturne”, the third album by this three-piece from Pesaro, is their most imaginative and inspired yet. Be Forest stated they were attracted by the deepest abyss and by the idea of a never ending darkness, and the content of the album clearly reflects this.
Sawa Angstrom – “ICE”
If you like artists like Yellow Magic Orchestra, Cornelius or Buffalo Daughter, try this electronic trio from Kyoto. Their sound, simply, consist of voice, synthesizers and sampler. But it feels there’s much more than that. Their new songs remind me of Björk and other Icelandic musicians, and the harsh nature of this country.
In Sawa Angstrom, all members write songs and arrange instruments together. Female singer-songwriter Marina Kodama sings the way that legendary Boredoms’ guitarist Seiichi Yamamoto loves. The other two acclaimed musicians are male singer and sound engineer Satoshi Yoshioka, who is also a member of chamber pop band Llama, while Jun Hamada also plays as a bassist in funk band Lainy J Groove and supporting YeYe.
As a trio, they bring a new texture to what we in Japan call “city pop”. Surrounded by metallic or noisy beats, their tender voices might actually heal the loneliness of a big city. (Toyokazu Mori)
Hayajan – “Khusouf Al-Ard”
This self depicting album of what seems to be the band’s view of the current state of humanity fools you into its title “Eclipse of The Earth” with an easy upbeat “Yalla Bina” followed by how they perceive the Human Race with “Ardon Wahed” – “One Earth” before they fully discourage a Martian to stay on our planet claiming it’s become “Zubalah” – “Trash”.
Alaa Wardi and friends’ sophomore effort continues to experiment blending different genres from electronic to pop and rock in a more mature sound. That said, their lyrics continue to struggle to rhyme or make sense at some time unless it’s something they intentionally seek to reflect as a band. (Aliaa El Shabrawy)
Galaxy Juice – “Pantagonia”
They tag all kinds of rock on their bandcamp page – alternative, dream, psychedelic, space and synthrock – and it actually seems to describe Galaxy Juice’s music as well as the group’s name itself. “Pantagonia” is the third outing from the Kuwaiti sextet in five years since they debuted and gained attention from all space rock / dream pop music fans around the region.
With just five tracks, this album is much shorter than their previous efforts, “Crystal Dunes” (2014) and “Timnesia” (2016). But the promise of “shimmering and pulsating and bright blast of psychedelic pop” is fully delivered. (Lina Rim)
Tribes of the City – “Rust and Gold”
Latvian shoegaze and dreampop band Tribes of the City is a rare and precious gemstone on a Latvian rock scene. Ten years ago after releasing critically acclaimed and award winning album “Recipe of The Golden Dream” band took a long break and some even started to think that the band does not exist anymore.
But they took their time and after few struggles somehow managed to create this totally magical and atmospheric album – “Rust and Gold” – where contemplative and dreamy sound paints blurry and nostalgic image of the past. (Raivis Spalvēns)
KŌZŌ – “Tokyo Metabolist Syndrome”
The first full-length release from talented Lebanese quintet KŌZŌ, “Post Metabolist syndrome” is a rare gem, an exemplary melding of maths-rock intricacy and noise-laden soundscapes. Recorded and produced by Fadi Tabbal in Beirut’s Tunefork Studios. (Ziad Nawfal)
Paulius Kilbauskas – “Elements”
Respectable Lithuanian composer, performer & experimenter Paulius Kilbauskas spends one year in Bali, comes back with full pockets of captured native sounds, finds his good old Korg MS10 and lays it all together into 7 elements / one album.
“Elements“ sound very bright and organic as there are no lyrics, no chorus, no verse. Actually, there’s much more nature than human energy in it. In todays’ zero waste, organic, recycling and at the same time, totally wasted human planet listening to the meditative beats of sun, time and space is the best thing you can think of. (Giedre Nalivaikaite)
Napoleon Gold – “Sunset Motel”
A name born from the half-light of a new day, Napoleon Gold is the ‘nom de plume’ of French electronic producer, Antoine Honorez. To date, Napoleon Gold has built up a global audience, toured extensively, supported the likes of London Grammar, Flume, SOHN and collaborated with producer & rapper T-Pain. His 2018 debut EP was met with praise from music critics and fans alike.
This year, Napoleon Gold released his debut album, Sunset Motel, a 13 track mosaic of Pop-R’n’B, fused with sonic textures of the 1980s. The record opens with a delicate track titled “La nuit je ne dors pas (je pense à toi)” and introduces a mish-mash of musical ideas that are later distorted and elaborated on as the record progresses. Each track ebbs and flows between bittersweet toplines, colourful harmonies and steady, but shifting tempos.
The magic of this record is undoubtedly in the intelligent vocal processing, sound design of each synthesizer and sedated rhythms. These three ingredients react and compound to create a cocktail of retro-futurism that should be sipped and enjoyed mindfully. (Ben Lowe)
LUST – “Tekesima”
Sonically rich, structurally intricate without losing the authenticity of its soul, LUST’s “Tekesima” is like sweet dew from heaven. It’s somewhat amazing that the band makes playing their sophisticated brand of indie rock look so easy when it is rather difficult to pin it down.
Like a restless vagabond, “Tekesima” zips off to the next great idea as soon as you’ve warmed up to one. (Adrian Yap)
Tinariwen – “Amadjar”
The veterans of Tishoumaren music simply can’t stop. They keep exploring new ideas, and releasing great new LPs. In the case of “Amadjar”, their 8th release recorded in Morocco and USA, there’s a rare upbeat feeling, which in the light of their entire catalogue makes it almost their dance album.
It was a wonderful idea for the band to invite North Africa’s chief singing star, the Mauritanian griot artist Noura Mint Seymali (and her husband). There’s also some western import – Warren Ellis and Cass McCombs.
However, “Amadjar’s” most important guest is the desert, even more than in the past. The material was written on the road – or more properly off road – while Tinariwen were traveling across North Africa, writing and contemplating between dunes. (Thomas Mecha)
Other recommended albums:
• Ahmed Ag Kaedy – “Akaline Kidal”
• Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni ba – “Miri”
• Luka Productions – “Falaw”
• Ballaké Sissoko & Baba Sissoko – “Sissoko & Sissoko”
• Tartit – “Amankor: The Exile”
Belafonte Sensacional – “Soy Piedra”
The history of Mexico’s last 13 years has sadly been written in blood. Immersed in violence, it would be impossible for art not to reflect the pain of those who suffer every day… In music, one of the projects that best reflects this atmosphere in our country is Belafonte Sensacional.
Dark at times, bright in many others, their album “Soy piedra” is driven by the deep voice of the singer Israel Ramírez, who is perfectly accompanied by guitar, bass, drums, trumpet, piano and cello. These 11 songs make up a hopeless look not only at my country, but also at the world we live in. One of the highlights is “La noche total”, that in its three minutes goes through different moods, but with a fast pace that doesn’t let us go until the very end.
With that sense of hopelessness, spiced up with blunt punk rock, Belafonte Sensacional give us an album that transports us to a different time, to a different place, to a different state… Hopefully also to a different reality. (Asfaltos)
Ginjin – “Toos to Zoos”
When asked how many music videos Ginjin released in 2019, the 27 year old Mongolian rapper replies: “waaay too many” with a smile. By beginning of December the count was 12.
Garid Gotsbayar, known as Ginjin, started his career in 2007 with the purpose to promote Mongolian contemporary music abroad. Over the years he released numerous singles and even toured Taiwan, China, Japan and South Korea. After 12 years of rapping, he finally decided to record his debut album, which took over the Mongolian charts as well as hearts of young Mongolians.
“2019 was a very productive year” Ginjin adds as he reflects on his Taiwan tour, GMA show, Playtime Festival and recording of his album. “Toos to Zoos”, which could be translated as “From Dust to Riches”, features 14 songs. “My next step is to go more international. That is why I started working on an international album”. (Natsagdorj Tserendorj)
Imane El Halouat – “Chroma Plate”
This debut EP from Imane El Halouat is a beautiful mixture of classic 1990s sound of the then-dominating alternative rock, this young artist’s songwriting talent, and her life experiences – let’s just mention she was born in Morocco, but now lives in France.
“Chrome Plate” includes just 6 short songs, which could have been recorded a decade or two ago, but the EP doesn’t sound like retromania at all. There might be several reasons for that: the quality of her songwriting and captivating, melancholic, but not depressing vocals. If she’s fragile, she’s fragile in the way that makes the listener trust her that’s the right place to be.
The first song we heard from this EP was “How Long (When you’re Ready)” and we’ve kept it on repeat ever since. But any of the other five songs might be your favourite depending on your current mood. (Lina Rim)
BEA1991 – “Brand New Adult”
Was it worth the wait? Definitely. It took BEA1991 four years to follow up her captivating EP “Songs of 2k11”, but her debut album “Brand New Adult” is everything we hoped for. The record has boundary pushing pop songs (“Modern Comforts”), moody lullabies (“My Own Heaven”) as well as thoughtful and introspective lyrics. And make sure to check out those dazzling music videos she has made for the record’s singles. (Jort Mokum)
Aldous Harding – “Designer”
Impressionistic jazz-folk that unfolds with the logic of a dream, and through the subtle use of saxophones, drum machines, xylophones and synthesizers, transcends the traditional folkloric musical traditions it’s rooted in, becoming a set of surreal songs from both a long time ago and a far-flung future. Aldous Harding’s “Designer”, it’s something extraordinary. (Martyn Pepperell)
Mdou Moctar – “Ilana”
An ambassador of Tuareg music, Saharan singer-songwriter Mdou Moctar came back earlier in 2019 with a new LP called “Ilana”, which means “The Creator”, a follow-up to “Sousoume Tamachek“. released on Sahel Sounds.
The album was recorded in Detroit with a number of acclaimed musicians, and has a much more expansive sound than anything we’ve heard earlier from Mdou Moctar. There’s more space and more energy, but Moctar’s hymn-like melodies are still there.
The first single, “Wiwasharnine”, has a strongly psychedelic ambience as well in it, and that only adds to Touareg music’s default mesmerizing effect. (Thomas Mecha)
Other recommended albums:
• Hama – “Houmeissa”
• Kel Assouf – “Black Tenere”
• Abdallah Ag Oumbadougou – “Anou Malane”
• Les Filles de Illighadad & Edmony Krater – “Ambiance II”
• Bibi Ahmed – “Adghah”
Rib – “Rib”
Before you stream their album, I would recommend you to watch Rib’s live video. It’s ca. 56 min representation of their material. The synthesis of free improvisation and strict structure, Rib’s rhythm is characterized as enrichment, and simplification, light, and clarity. You’d be amazed both by the music and the location, the megalithic observatory Kokino. As a huge Hüsker Dü fan, I am sure watching Rib’s video would have warmed Grant Hart’s heart since it was his wish to play a concert in that location.
Two years ago they’ve been on a tour across Serbia, Croatia, and Hungary together with a UK band Fujiya & Miyagi. They became close friends with Ben Farestvedt, Fujiya & Miyagi’s sound tech, and their vocalist David Best. Both of them collaborated on their third album called Rib. David sang on the song “Rotator” which is the only song on the album with vocals, while Ben mixed the album and made it sound more “live”. Their wish was to make this album sound more natural, to express the energy of their live performances. They recorded the material at MKC in Skopje with respected and well-known Alen Hadzhi-Stefanov, Macedonian working for the past 15 years in New York with many jazz artists.
10 songs for a 10/10 album! (Elena Peljhan)
Konradsen – “Saints and Sebastian Stories”
Konradsen’s debut album “Saints and Sebastian Stories” is like a shining light in the dark. It’s composed of delicate layers of mechanical pianos, synths, horns, a lonesome violin and the signature voice of the Jenny Marie Sabel. Together with Eirik Vindgren she forms the duo who, with a little help from their friends, recorded the album.
“Saints and Sebastian Stories” is rich in devine and everyday details. The album is one of those albums where you can press play and just zone out. And those albums are quite rare to find these days. (Edvard Granum Dillner)
Janoobi Khargosh – “Survivors”
“Survivors” is the sophomore album from Waleed Ahmed, also known as Janoobi Khargosh. It’s a brilliant, nostalgic throwback to ’80s synthpop, but in a way that never feels superficial or pandering. Ahmed manages to blend the modern with the retro, and standout tracks like “Hum Kal Mein”, “One” and “Survivors” are an absolute blast to listen to. (Abdul-Rehman Malik)
Shabjdeed & Al-Nather – “Sindibad el Ward”
If anyone ever thought hip hop was dead, “Sindibad el Ward” by Shabjdeed and Al Nather, proves it isn’t, and that the Middle East is its new breeding ground.
Thematically, the album – released on BLTNM – is complex, dealing with topics of nihilism, classism, spit through socially and self-reflective lyrics, where the Israeli occupation continues to be felt subversively throughout.
Musically, Al Nather’s productions oscillate between trap and drill aesthetics, with rattling beat drops, infectious rhythmic patterns, and guttural basslines. (Maha ElNabawi)
Other recommended albums:
• Jowan Safadi (جوان صفدي) – “Stay Away From the Mid-Evil East and Sing for It”
• Bader Azem – “12AM”
• Sotusura – “Saleh Alalhan”
• ILLIAM – “Before Bed”
Sismo en Bucarest – “Indigentes”
If you visit Lima and have a walk around the city streets, you might notice how local music mixes, more and more often, with foreign sounds. This Peruvian project called Sismo en Bucarest seems like an extreme of this trend, and it’s not just about how far they have found inspirations. As the name suggests, it’s Romania, and more precisely this country’s tradition. “Indigentes” is also extreme beucase of the method it employs, which is sound collage and plunderphonics. Whether you like it find it unbearable, this album is nothing you have heard this year, and possibly nothing you have ever hear. (José Luis Mercado)
Ourselves The Elves – “Self Is Universe”
With exquisitely arranged collection of indie rock anthems, dream pop lullabies, and alt-country jams that toe the line between getting lost in the familiar mundane and finding comfort in ruins, Ourselves The Elves’ “Self Is Universe” explores complicated lives and relationships which could be revelatory in any context, but piercingly honest and diarist in how it was conceived.
It’s the band’s most affecting set of confessionals and observations yet: a record that navigates a universe revolving around planets and sad souls, misfortunes and hopelessness, illusions and dreams, intimacies and indefinable feelings, devastating loses and small wins.
Eternal love is impossible, families and friends can tear us apart, but in Ourselves The Elves’ universe, there’s a reason to hope and live even when the world is slowly crumbling apart into pieces. The album offers a blanket of sunshine for the forsaken and lost, disadvantaged and emotionally trying, even for a just a temporary period of time. (Ian Urrutia)
Babadag – “Šulinys”
Fronted by Ola Bilińska, Badabag is a project dedicated to exploring musical traditions from Poland’s eastern borderland. On “Šulinys,” they take on sutartinės, traditional polyvocal songs from neighboring Lithuania, and rearrange them in contemporary fashion. What results is a dazzling mix of traditions, languages, and musical styles.
Beautiful folk melodies and arresting polyvocal harmonies pass smoothly into psychedelic grooves and cosmic rock vibes, creating a mystical sonic world that seems to have a life of its own. “Šulinys” feels like a spiritual journey, touching something deep within us, regardless of where we come from.
“Šulinys” came out in the very first days of 2019, and such early releases tend to get forgotten as the year goes on. But for both of us, it turned out to be the album we’d keep coming back to again and again. (Artur Szarecki & Mariusz Herma)
Selected with: Daniel Brożek, Bartek Chaciński, Marcin Flint, Przemysław Gulda, Paweł Klimczak, Michał Klimko, Jakub Knera, Bartosz Nowicki, Lech Podhalicz, Rafał Samborski, Jędrzej Słodkowski, Jarek Szubrycht, Piotr Szwed, Jacek Świąder, Łukasz Wawro, Michał Wieczorek, Bartek Woynicz.
David Bruno – “Miramar Confidential”
Semi-reality (or semi-fiction, as you like) is once again the strong dish of this musical buffet, for which David Bruno was inspired by a series of murals with the inscriptions “Adriano Malheiro Caloteiro” – which appeared in late 2018 in Gaia Coastal Zone – to create the proper universe of this album. From the Miramar, sun and beach to the Steven Seagal or Jean-Claude Van Damme films was a snap, and so is born this “Miramar Confidential”.
Debts, seafood, lawyers, disasters, windshields, guitar solos and synthesizers harmoniously intersect in a complex and conceptually Portuguese plot such as cod fishing or ceramical dogs. (Paulo Homem de Melo, Glam Magazine)
Other recommended albums:
• Lena d’Água – “Desalmadamente”
• DJ Nigga Fox – “Cartas Na Manga”
• Zarco – “Spazutempo”
• Slow J – “You Are Forgiven”
• Montanhas Azuis – “Ilha de Plástico”
• Mayra Andrade – “Manga”
Fantasmes – “Fantasmes”
Having spent years building up a reputation as one of the island’s most furious live units, psych rockers Fantasmes seemed to slowly retreat into other projects during the back half of the decade. Their surprise comeback album – the group’s first full-length release since Redness Moon in 2012 – delivers an uncompromising vision of darkness born out of loss and resiliency.
Fantasmes began as the humble bedroom recording project of singer-songwriter Mario Negrón, whose sleepy, trippy balladry hazily recalled the pop experimentation of latter day Beatles and foreshadowed Kevin Parker’s early work in Tame Impala. It quickly evolved into a full-fledged band and paved the way for a full-time recording studio and practice space – Casa Fantasmes in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Both developments resulted in increased sonic experimentation for Negrón and his collaborators, who confidently explored tension, structure, and texture, infusing krautrock sensibilities into their subsequent studio output.
The band’s new, self-titled album does not aim to reinvent Fantasmes’s sound, but clearly exists as a restatement of purpose. Paired down to just Negrón and percussionist Daniel Sierra, the project benefits from a more personal, focused approach.
An air of resignation hangs over opener “Fool At The Door”, like if someone’s last grasp towards the dying light had barely registered as a sigh. Within the confines of its plodding rhythm and tightly wound guitar lines, operating cog-like, Negrón delivers the loveliest melody on the entire record, offered as a taunt to the song’s titular fool – “there’s nothing else for you to lose”. And the whole thing gets bleaker from there on out…
However, as harrowing as the experiences that inspired it might have been, Fantasmes bring a powerful, meditative calm to the proceedings, making the journey through this record a rewarding – even restorative – experience. (Alfredo Richner)
Other recommended albums:
• Orquesta El Macabeo – “Décimo Aniversario en vivo en El Nido”
• MIMA x International Dub Ambassadors – s/t
• Skeptic Música – “El Show de Friki”
• iLe – “Almadura”
• Avandra – “Descender”
Sarra – “Drum închis”
Sarra Tsorakidis has been involved in filmmaking for many years now, as a graduate of film directing at the National University of Theater and Film in Bucharest. “Drum închis” is her first proper incursion into the music world. The EP contains just five tracks that take less than fifteen minutes, but each one is an intense and memorable experience that deserves a repeated listen.
“Drum închis” is also a showcase of what modern pop music is. You can describe it by naming emotions (intrigued, enchanted, hypnotized, once relaxed, once slightly unnerved) rather than genre names (electronic? electro? R&B? alternative?). It certainly does help that Sarra is accompanied on this release by a number of acclaimed producers, Inana, Plevna and Ion D.
Maslo Chernogo Tmina – “Kensshi”
Angry, uncompromising noir hip-hop influenced by jazz, trip-hop and blues. Maslo Chernogo Tmina (масло черного тмина), which means Black Seed Oil, released an album where each track seems to be influenced by a different genre. One could be a jazz suite, and another is an extreme blues full of nerve and passion.
As the result, “Kensshi” is much more than “hip-hop”. It is a work of voice, music and unique talent. (Artem Shenfeld, Другая Музыка)
Other recommended albums:
• Vtoroy Etazh Porazhaet – “Kraynosti”
• Dolphin – “Kray”
• Samoe Bolshoe Prostoe Chislo – “Navernoe, Tochno”
• AIGEL – “Edem”
• Kedr Livanskiy – “Your Need”
• Kira Lao – “Тревожный опыт”
MSYLMA – “Dhil-un Taht Shajarat Al-Zaqum”
This album has many connotations from Qur’an and religious backgrounds, and it makes it hard to review without having these nuances in mind. Maybe that’s why this album’s become quite popular outside of the region, who listeners are free of pre-conceived judgements.
One thing is sure: this debut by Mecca-based producer and singer-songwriter is a unique piece of music unlike anything we’ve heard across the MENA scene and beyond. (A.S.)
Buč Kesidi – “Euforija”
When Buč Kesidi emerged on the Serbian music scene, they were a trio and their musical style was deeply influenced by indie-rock a la Arctic Monkeys or the Strokes. Later, they became a duo, with guitarist Luka and drummer Zoran as the only members, so they started to experiment with electronic and retro-pop sound.
Last year, their groovy hit “Nema ljubavi u klubu” announced what we could expect on the new record and later they released another banger “Đuskanje ne pomaže“, which helped them to gain a respectable audience. Now, as we have the complete album, we can say the final result is just astonishing.
The concept behind “Euforija” is trying to explain today’s youngsters, going through a night out in a club, from “Subota” (Saturday) to “Nedelja ujutru” (Sunday morning). There are plenty of familiar situations including dancing, alcohol and drugs, expectations, desires and disappointments, while catchy, melodic rhythm won’t let you stay in one place. This is one of the best records in the last decade when it comes to Serbian alternative scene. (Nemanja Nešković)
yeule – “Serotonin II”
The first time yeule (Nat Ćmiel) appeared on beehype was in our Best of 2017, with her inspiring EP “Coma”. Her whispery vocals and shimerring electronica are now in full bloom on her first LP, “Serotonin II”, and it’s really been worth waiting for such full-length debut all these (seven!) years.
It starts with a short track called “Your Shadow” and ends with “Veil of Darkness”, and in between you’ll meet angels, butterflies, and a space cowboy. Ćmiel loves to travel and this record is as much a journey as music can offer, coherent sound-wise but colourful and indicing diverse emotions over the course of the listening session.
yeule says: “It’s difficult for my mind to stay in one place. I can go back to revisit the person I was in my dreams. I see them as multiple people. Sometimes they talk to me, but I’ve cut most of them off because they start screaming in my ear.”
Other recommended albums:
• susurrus – “Ultra Orange”
• Forests – “Spending Eternity in a Japanese Convenience Store”
• MYRNE – “In Search of Solitude”
• Adia Tay – “Kintsugi”
• Disco Hue – “The Yearbook”
Ultrazvuk – “Ultrazvuk”
What began as a side project of two hip-hop friends from different generations turned out to be one of the most influential Slovak albums of 2019. Vec is a local hip-hop legend, an ever-present father of the Slovak scene. Tono S. is ten years younger and well known for his wordplays and lyrics avoiding strong language. So what happens when you mix these two elements together? Two things, actually.
Firsty, you get a fresh dose of superfunny lyrics (“Ultrazvuk”) and absurd stories (“Postráž mi Emmu”) you want to listen to on repeat. And secondly, you get a collection of societal observations which describe the state of current Slovakia better than majority of books or newspaper articles.
In 2019, Ultrazvuk somehow managed to combine these two often contradictory approaches and made an album which could be played both in clubs to hip-hop die-hards and on squares during anti-governmental protests. What more could they hope for? (Viera Ráczová & Filip Olšovský)
Other recommended albums:
• Analogrunner – “Kolorika”
• Blanch – “Delusion”
• Isobutane – “Do Machines Dream?”
• Lyrik – “Ja”
• Walter Schnitzelsson – “Sugar Kids Won’t Stop Screaming”
Balans – “a vam je jasno”
Forget glossy production and fully fleshed-out songs: this year’s gem is a rough one. Balans is the hypnotic lo-fi brainchild of Andrej Pervanje and Kristin Čona, as accessible as it is absurd. Released by the prolific ‘bedroom recordings’ label ŠOP Records, this album confidently peeks out of the musty practice space into the wide world.
The musical means are minimal: deceptively simple, kraut-infused bass lines dominate while the tinny drum machine barely keeps up and sneaky guitars set accents. Kristin keeps throwing the listener little melodic bones, disguised as yelps and howls, and convincingly drifts into borderline psychedelia. The simplistic, repetitive lyrics may appear mundane, but perceptivness is palpable in the fury of Andrej’s delivery every time his good-humored, out-of-context ramblings tip over into bursts of manic croaking.
As the songs go on in their muffled glory, all echo and crackle, the twitchy upbeat pace turns more ruminative in the second half. But listen through to the end – and then find an excuse to go see Balans live. With an immediate emotional connection between band and audience, that’s where the fireworks really go off. (Matej Holc, selection by ex-HrupMag team and friends)
James Deacon – “The Calling”
Johannesburg-based multi-instrumentalist, James Deacon’s debut EP ‘The Calling’ is packed with some serious soul! Deacon’s mixing of genre’s like hip-hop, indie and blues is infectious and will have you uncontrollably bobbing your head head, and I’m absolutely loving it.
At first listen, I immediately thought of Kaleo lead vocalist JJ Julius Son’s dominant and effusive voice and it reverberates throughout the EP but in particular on the track “Not Givin’ Up”, where it grabs you by the ears and takes you on a wild ride. The album twists and turns through genres which I find refreshing, especially in a time where most artists stick to one particular genre and albums can become quite bland.
In the end, “The Calling” has a little something for everyone and I see big things for James Deacon in the future. (Nic Berti)
Cosmos Superstar (코스모스 슈퍼스타) – “Eternity Without Promises”
“Cosmos Superstar”. It’s a huge, maybe exaggerated moniker. But if you hear Han Jeongin’s music, you will understand where this name came from. Starlight is shining upon the beautiful synthesized melody all around her soundscape, and her voice graze through the gleaming light like a comet. In this space, you can’t miss the trace her comet-like voice has drawn. Those things make her the superstar in this cosmos.
However, it arouses a perplexing feeling. Why this kind of clear and transparent voice makes me want to cry? Why this superstar is cruising among the far starlight? Why it looks like her music yearns for eternity, but without definite promises? The timbre of Cosmos Superstar’s voice is flat like glass, but she subtly trembles her voice to create ripple on its even surface. With this trembling voice, she sings out ephemeral moments that feel like eternity. The moment when Ruby was sleeping quietly, the moment when teenagers endlessly repeated their pledges, the moment of summer after 70 years…
“I concluded that there is no eternal thing in this world. Ironically, that truth relieved me a lot.” Cosmos Superstar explains that this record is about the things she loved once and gone now. And this album is created. It exists, and remembers. It tells, even after all the things are gone, “we” can still exist and move on. For me, “Eternity Without Promises” is the one album that rekindles the power (or, belief) of the personal relationship between music and person. That truth relieves me. (Guwon Jeong & Jeon Daehan)
Other recommended albums:
• Lim Kim – “GENERASIAN”
• sogumm (소금) – “Sobrightttttttt”
• Yerin Baek (백예린) – “Every letter I sent you.”
• NET GALA – “re:FLEX*ion”
• Summer of Thoughts (생각의 여름) – “The Republic of Trees”
León Benavente – “Vamos a volvernos locos”
The 44-minute album “Vamos a volvernos locos” is, without doubt, one of the albums of the year. If someone thought they could not overcome their previous works, they were wrong. Their’s maturity in their lyrics, increasingly elaborate and better produced sound, and songs that leave no one indifferent.
It’s hard to sum up the whole album in just a few words, but if we have to – “Vamos a volvernos locos” is a very solid material, with a wonderful production, and unforgettable music themes that will become the heart of León Benavente’s live shows, ones that we will certainly not want to miss. (Jorge Martinez, YTSI)
Other recommended albums:
• Mucho – “¿Hay alguien en casa?”
• Viva Suecia – “El Milagro”
• Derby Motoreta’s Burrito Kachimba – s/t
• Novedades Carminha – “Ultraligero”
• La Casa Azul – “La Gran Esfera”
No Suits In Miami – “I Hope That No One Sees Me”
I’ve been longing for an album that doesn’t make me wanna switch over to my new-music-playlist and this year “I Hope That No One Sees Me” really captured me. This debut album of starts off with some enchanting guitars and after that I’m stuck.
No Suits In Miami don’t make music to change the scene or the music world but they make music that makes me remember what it’s all about. The DIY-spirit, the emo-parts, the indie-guitars and the shoegaze-glance takes me back to what defines meaningful music. It’s not a surprise that they hail from the southern parts of Sweden, just like Radio Dept and Hater.
Maybe the best thing with this album is that the amazing slow parts (like the song “Rockballad”) is a perfect combination with the more mangled segments. It’s an album to live with, through everything. (Fabian Forslund)
Stahlberger – “Dini zwei Wänd”
Stahlberger have returned with “Dini zwei Wänd” and presented themselves with new energy and a fantastic way of getting into your brain. The music is sometimes dark and brooding, the melodies are electronic.
All of this comes in the contrast with intense lyrics and a refreshing view of life in Switzerland. Different and daring. (Michael Bohli, ARTNOIR.ch)
Lilium (百合花) – “Burnana” (燒金蕉)
A unique band represents the brand new music for the modern future with the combination of Eastern and Western elements. “Burnana” is the debut album from the most acclaimed band Lilium which has been nominated and earned many different music awards in Taiwan.
Produced by the music wizard Sonic Deadhorse, they put the traditional Taiwanese opera, Nanguan and Beiguan music, children’s folk rhymes into a non-traditional western rock’n’roll style. (Cheng-Chung Tsai)
Other recommended albums:
• John Stoniae (知更) – “Ting-Tso Liu” (劉庭佐)
• Our Shame (凹與山) – “Good Things Happen” (一切好事都會發生)
• イルカポリス (海豚刑警) – “Call me when Night go Blue” (豚愛特攻隊)
• Ying-Da Chen (陳穎達) – “Off Peak Hours” (離峰時刻)
• Non-Confined Space (非 / 密閉空間) – “Flow, Gesture, and Spaces”
Junlaholaan (จุลโหฬาร) – “Junlaholaan” EP
This trio from the Sakon Nakhon in eastern Thailand has been around for just about year, but their inconspicuous folk songs have attracted hundreds of thousands listeners. Similarly, their self-titled debut EP that was made internationally available earlier this year takes just about 20 minutes to listen, but it contains some of the best songwriting Thailand has to offer these days.
Even if you can’t understand the lyrical (and lynguistic) gimmicks, simply let yourself get immersed by Junlaholaan’s melancholic atmosphere and, gradually, soak in their beautiful melodies. That should be quite enough to make you keep this EP on repeat while we’re waiting for Junlaholaan’s proper full-length debut. (Worranat Kongchankit)
Other recommended albums:
• Solitude is Bliss – “Please Verify That Your Are Not a Robot”
• Plot – “Plot Anon”
• Plasui Plasui – “Plasui Plasui”
• Dead Flowers – “Lost”
• Anatomy Rabbit – “Holland Lop”
Ifriqiyya Electrique -“Laylet el Booree”
Everyone who has seen Ifriqiyya Electrique live on stage knows it’s one of the bands that presents itself in full only during a live encounter with the audience. Their shows are intense, mesmerizing, and scary. Yes, there’s a good reason kids are usually not invited.
Fortunately, studio recordings are capable of transmitting at least some of their energy and tribal magic into the listener’s ears and soul. “Laylet el Booree” is probably be among the most intense, mesmerizing, and scary things that came out throughout last year not only around the Mediterranean. (Lina Rim)
Other recommeded albums:
• Emel Mathlouthi – “Everywhere We Looked Was Burning”
• Arabstazy – “Under Frustration Vol. 2”
• Haythem Mahbouli – “Catching Moments in Time”
• 4LFA – “Each 1 Teach 1”
• Bellakoud – “The 8 Ways Album”
Damla Pehlevan – “karmakader”
Damla Pehlevan’s debut album has many traces from the last 30 years of the Turkish music scene. You can feel all the fashion and soul of these decades while listening these beautiful and well arranged songs.
Like all beautiful debut albums, “karmakader” is also telling Damla’s story of growing up and reaching her maturity. I believe that with all its powerful songs, this LP will be an immortal album. (Emir Aksoy)
Other recommended albums:
• Altın Gün – “Gece”
• No Land – “Pusulası Kaybolmuş”
• Simge Pınar – “Güzel Şeyler”
• Ayyuka – “Maslak Halayı”
• Baturay Yarkın Trio & Nağme Yarkın – “Anadolu’nun Renkleri”
Tik Tu – “Ulitakis”
If you could magically transform 10 songs into an object, Tik Tu’s album “Ulitakis” would definitely become a patchwork blanket. Compiled from different pieces, yet professionally stitched together, it allows to stay warm and trip away to the most bizarre dreams. Euphoria with an open finalу? You got it in “Banana”. Psychedelic reggae? Check out “Introvert”. Mystical folk vibes? Listen to “Kotku”. This approach is applicable to each song of the release.
On top of that, musicians managed to mix three languages (Ukrainian, English and – surprise! – Lithuanian), creating a separate character for each track. Sometimes it feels like Tik Tu have added everything they could find for the record – from cassette recorder and kakofonator to flutes and authentic percussions.
However, it sounds pretty natural, as musicians worked on the album for about three years and took their time to mix it all together. Get ready to feel cozy and smile all the way, while listening to “Ulitakis”. (Dartsya Tarkovska)
Alucinaciones en Familia – “Alucinaciones en Familia II”
I’m mostly a film enthusiast, so I can’t stop thinking of “Alucinaciones en Familia II”, the second album by the band of the same name, as “The Godfather II” of this year in Uruguayan music.
As Coppola’s masterpiece, the latest album by the rock band led by Pau O´Bianchi (one of Montevideo’s most prolific and complex voices) goes deeper in its construction of its landscapes and characters that stumble through climatic scenes of musical ambition. The songs in “Alucinaciones en Familia II” take the listener into a wild ride of melancholic optimism, if such things exists.
Taking the first verse of the album into account, “Hoy cualquier luz puede ser un sol (“Today any light could be a sun”), one could argue that Alucinaciones en Familia is shining brighter than ever. (Pablo Staricco Cadenazzi)
VINILOVERSUS – “VVV”
VINILOVERSUS’ fifth studio album is a sensual and magnetic collection of songs that prove why they’re still one of the most important outfits in Venezuela’s indie rock “scene”. And why to this day, they’re the biggest inspiration for many new bands as well as the ones that appeared after their breakthrough at the end of the last decade.
In this album, we hear a band at the peak of their maturity, trying to take the powerful and explosive riffs from Rodrigo Gonsalves’ guitar to a more dense and deep sound based on synths. “VVV” is their best record since 2012’s “Cambié de Nombre”. (Alejandro Fernandes Riera)
Ho Tram Anh – “Low”
A stunning beauty. A grand engagement. Darkness has never been so spectacular and frightening. Ho Tram Anh, through her three new songs, talks about her soul, her search for the last remaining pieces. But at the same time, “Low” EP is a requiem for the existence, for a world of which meaning is absent, and there’s only ultimate desolation left.
The music has transcended beyond artificial borders of motivational state-own college rock or indie music singing to the collective lovey-dovey mood of millennials. This is the narrative of the self and only the self. Beyond the organizations and the clubs, the “us” and “them”, the overlapping chains of herd instinct, is an unique voice of music. (Nguyen Trong Nhan & Vu Trung Kien)
Other recommended albums:
• Cá Hồi Hoang – “Hiệu Ứng Trốn Chạy”
• Limebócx – “Electrùnic”
• Vothana – “Không Bao Giờ Nộp”
• Tiny Giant – “Flying Mouse”
• Ngọt – “3 (tuyển tập nhạc Ngọt mới trẻ sôi động 2019)”
El Khat – “Saadia Jefferson”
This is the debut album of El Khat (القات), a widely commented band led by Eyal El Wahab, a Yemenite Jew and a former lead cellist of the Jerusalem Andalusian Orchestra. Other musicians of the band come from Morocco, Iraq and Poland.
On “Saadia Jefferson” (سعديا جيفيرسون), Eyal El Wahab decided to process traditional folk songs from Yemen through contemporary and quite global inspirations, plus their unrestrained imagination of the quartet’s members. So beside guitars, trumpets, sequencers or darbucka there are such home-made instruments like percussion and string instruments produced from olive oil and tomato cans, petrol canisters, bicycle wheels, jerry cans, broken shelf or a rope.
Add poignant vocals to the mix and you get one of the most original album’s we’ve heard recently. With such an idiosyncratic release you can’t predict whether someone will love it or hate it, but we can promise “Saadia Jefferson” is something you haven’t heard not only within the orbit of Yemenite music. (Lina Rim)
Other recommended albums:
• A-WA – “Bayti Fi Rasi”