Time to take a look back at the bands and artists that enticed, delivered, and stood out above the rest – from the new comers turning heads, to the old guard taking it to new levels, to the prized few who left too soon – this is for the true forces that made the last year such a blast.
Hands down, the best newcomer of the year. The duo, which formed from the ashes of a former band I had once highlighted in my year end review, Inner Mongolian trope Horse Radio, broke onto the scene this year (despite their complete lack of promotion and unrecorded material) like a sledgehammer. Simply put, Lao Du and Dala are operating on a whole other level and are exploring uncharted territories, finding solace in every beat, every note, and most of all every silent moment. Post post kraut rock is just scratching the surface. Otherworldly. Whether it’s at School, DDC, fRUITYSPACE, or even Temple, the twosome are forging their own sound on their own terms.
There’s nothing more satisfying then stumbling upon a new band that immediately lights a fire in your chest. I wasn’t quite expecting to be won over so quickly by the young psychedelic shoegaze outfit Last Goodbye but my oh my, how these kids lit up DDC when they performed back in September. Poised, skilled, and with plenty of swagger to snare, they caught the attention of many late this year. And while the band only formed this year, one listen to their demos on douban and their recent surge of performances across Beijing suggests 2017 is going to be very kind to these kids.
Rookies of the Year
Alright, so new is exactly correct here – but this was certainly the year of The Twenties for us at LiveBeijingMusic. The guitar-driven band with an affinity for writing infectious hooks straight out of the 90s continued to evolve and hone their sound. And it is this constant propelling momentum that helps the band stand on their own – while other bands would be content playing the same old stuff, The Twenties relish grappling a new song and nailing down that tempo change. Indie rock never sounded so alive.
Band I Saw The Most
One of last year’s picks for best newcomer quickly ascended to a label contract (please don’t ruin this one Maybe Mars) and a solid fanbase – Lonely Leary played a heck ton of shows this year and I simply couldn’t get enough of it I suppose.
Electronic Artist of the Year
While I still haven’t mustered the vitality to fully enjoy an evening of hitting the dancefloor at Dada, I am finding myself more and more enthralled by some of the musicians climbing the ranks in the electronic scene. And after putting out my favorite electronic record of last year, I’ve been catching more and more of iimmune (Hsing Jiango of Glow Curve), whose been managing pulling off some of the most imaginative, synthetically pleasing sets this year. His keen ear for structure and rhythm coupled with his ear for texture and aesthetic is just the bee’s knees.
Bands to Keep An Eye On
Seriously one of the most infectiously fun bands out there – fast and loose, jocular, no holds barrel hardcore music that’s elevated ten-fold simply by the fact that the band looks like they are having the absolute time of their life – charisma in loads. Not even in the inebriated, scrappy, bad boy image that many punk bands shoot for – but in a happy-go-lucky, white tee workout session kind of way. There’s really nothing like it and there’s no one as red-blooded as these cats. This is how you do hardcore, folks.
Making a splash in the post rock scene is quite the endeavor – already an over saturated genre in China, most bands reach a certain level, hit their quota of audience participants (higher than usual), and simply rust and deteriorate from there. That’s where She Never Sings Our Songs differs – the band seems very much aware of their place in the field and thus have actively strived to stretch their arms and explore every nook and cranny of post rock – lots of math rock riffs, mischievous breakdowns, and even a bit of shoegaze melatonin. There’s no telling where the band will head in 2017 and therein lies the beauty.
Social Boar, which emerged from the dispersing of Fake Weed and Mammals, basically used a three-month block to get their name heard, and it worked like gangbusters – by the end of their run they were already one of the most exciting and unpredictable bands – still waiting for that album release! Alpine Decline – that was one that stung a bit more. And while the band is in no ways kaput, their time in Beijing was embedded in their more recent albums, and in many ways were one of the few bands here that were using their environment as a springboard. An emotional ‘see ya later’ – it’ll be interesting to see what Jonathan and Pauline cook up back West.
To the rest: Cave Hand Rod – we hardly knew ya. But please do return. We need more bands with a very un-PC view of life. S-Mud – I was super stoked to have you join our School showcase but alas, band issues. Baxian Chophouse – schoolin in Singapore – boooo. Boiled Hippoooo – too soonnnn?!
LBM Badge of Honor
Streets Kill Strange Animals/Glow Curve
To the bands who have stuck it out through time, and who have aged like wine – this one goes out to you Glow Curve and Streets Kill Strange Animals, Modernsky’s two shining stars (aka likely their least profitable bands), who have stepped up their game without selling out one iota – hitting one of their performances in the past year was a guaranteed good time.
And Beyond Beijing
As far as bands go – don’t think there was a better performance this year then Hiperson at the CDC Punk Festival in Chengdu. Just a spellbinding performance. To prove it wasn’t a fluke, the band performed in Beijing as well, where they were joined by Fazi (formerly The Fuzz), who made a mighty fine impression on me as well (plus they have a sweet ass song about Xi’an – the city which continues to fascinate me, for better or worse). At the wonderful Concrete & Grass Festival in Shanghai, I was treated to a killer set from Chinese Football in the early afternoon and another from Wang Wen just as it got dark. And kudos to the bands from abroad who kicked ass – including Metz, Die!Die!Die!, Thug Mills, Jambinai, Guitar Wolf, Sunflower Bean, Mr. Sterile Assembly, and of course Godspeed You! Black Emperor.