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2018 In Review: Albums And EPs You Should Not Miss Out On- Part 1

Dec 25, 12:21pm

Projects released throughout the year in 2018 that might be worth your time and attention. 


2018 was in many ways one of the most and least innovative years of Indian music in a while; one extreme was a continuous run of formulaic and uninspired Bollywood and popular fluff while on the other end was envelope-pushing music that was unafraid to be fresh and take risks. Here are some projects released throughout the year that might be worth your time and attention. They have been grouped by trend for your convenience.


1. The Acoustic Invasion
2018 was a big year for artists low on personnel and stripped down, more skeletally arranged music. As much of a bandwagon-jumping trend this might be, there was no shortage of well-written, well-produced music that didn’t for a moment feel shallow or clout-chasing.


Cinema Of Excess – Bring Back The Sound



Cinema Of Excess knocked it out of the park this year; a flurry of shows that culminated in a set at Nh7 Weekender Pune started off with the release of this fantastic EP. Featuring clear, no-nonsense production and a quiet, no-frills sonic palate, ‘Bring Back The Sound’ showcases the sharp songwriting and superb musical chops of its members. There is really nothing the songs on here try to hide behind; it’s just really well-performed, solidly composed acoustic music. Note: the lyricism on here is commendable and befitting a class indie release.



Visita – The Ascent Of Mount Purpose



Visita is a fingerstyle acoustic guitarist from Hyderabad. This is a sprawling concept album made with nothing but one solitary acoustic guitar. Yeah, you heard that right. It’s a metaphor for life’s journey and the struggle therein told without vocals, lyrics and is devoid of all instrumentation save one guy and six strings. It’s very interesting to hear the music still jump genres and styles and evoke different moods with such a sparse soundscape. Of course, it helps that Vivek Venugopal (the aforementioned one guy) is really good at his instrument.



Morning Mourning – Is This Biodegradable



This is a short little album featuring retro keyboards, a guitar and a voice (Shantanu Pandit) singing into a computer Skype microphone. It is the kind of album you will find a billion of online, but doesn’t fall into the trap of sounding low-effort and shallow like most of them. This release is intimate and welcoming. Pandit’s lyrics are personal and his performances are too; the stories about his childhood and how he has changed since then are endearing and familiar.



Dhruv Visvanath – The Lost Cause



Dhruv Visvanath is the archetypal singer-songwriter. He’s a crack acoustic guitar player, solid vocalist and deals with a range of themes that deal with life and how bad of an investment humanity can be. But he has imbued his latest album with the scope and sonic variety of a festival-hopping indie film. There’s space and expansiveness in his compositions and (sometimes) a quiet confidence in his vocals. Recommended for travel.



2. The Mellow Indie-Pop/Rock/? Deluge
For a reason that is hard to pin down, soft tones, smooth vocals and warbly keys sounded better this year than in the past. Maybe full-on rock music is truly a dinosaur (more on that in the future) or people just gravitated towards making music that was calming instead of a firestarter or a call to arms (Let’s beat the f***ing system, guys!). Anyhow, there was an absolute ton of evocative, detailed music under this banner. Here are some selections.



When Chai Met Toast – Believe



Fine, this release isn’t particularly obscure or anything, but Kochi-based When Chai Met Toast have gone from a short-term memory name to a big ol’ headlining act in no time flat, and this EP makes a great case for it. The band is nothing if not a hit factory, and the four songs on ‘Believe’ and certified earworms. They’re catchy as hell, impeccably produced and difficult to not hum. Expect to hear these songs being yelled by a crowd at a festival near you.




Mahesh – Accept



Bangalore’s Mahesh has been a man about town in the indie scene for a while now. Starting out as a singer-songwriter, this release sees him recruit a bunch of talented musicians to put out a full ensemble project. What that results in is one of the most polished releases this year. The performances are amazing, the production is oh-so crisp and Mahesh crams as many influences as he can into five tracks. Even so, ‘Accept’ is a coherent and thoroughly enjoyable experience from start to end.



Second Sight – The Violet Hour



Mumbai’s Second Sight put out one of the best debuts this year; ‘The Violet Hour’ is an indie record with tons of atmosphere and mood to spare. The album is a thinker’s paradise that is unafraid to challenge the listener. It has spoken word, esoteric lyricism, haunting background instrumentation, wailing strings, the whole package. Unlike many releases, this EP stands out because it is contemplative and doesn’t make any compromises just to be more accessible. Also, watch out for the vocal jousting between the act’s two singers.



The Earth Below – Dreams Of A Thousand Stillness



Deepak Raghu is a drummer (of the bands Shepherd and Bevar Sea) who put out a solo EP this year that took a complete 180 from the metal context of his previous projects. It’s a bit left of centre and a bit weird, but that’s what makes it fun. Raghu liberally coats his meandering, slow-build songs with tons of fuzz, reverb and walls of sound; once you’re in, you will appreciate the Bowie-era theatrics, the noise-influenced dissonance and the more modern prog-tinged jazziness all the more.




Prateek Kuhad – cold/mess



Yeah… is there a need to write about the year Prateek Kuhad has had? He’s gone international in a big way, now has a host of people backing him, had a song featured in an episode of ‘Lethal Weapon’ and packs out every damn venue he chooses to visit. One would assume he has a bunch of skeptics and naysayers (however small); this EP will probably change that and put all doubts to rest. It’s watertight in its songwriting, produced brilliantly, sounds absolutely superb and is easily one of the most re-playable bodies of work this year.




3. Balls-to-the-wall, Screaming, Euphoric Rock/Hard Rock Albums – A Thesis
Uhhhhhh… at least in the international scene, there’s been a lot of… maybe next year? Maybe next year.

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