Seemingly emerging out of nowhere Qingdao’s The Bootlegs is a breath of fresh air – an endearing jangly bit of lo-fi surf pop that hits all the right buttons. Founded by lead singer Zhao Hong at the mysterious No Future Club in the coastal city, the bedroom project eventually morphed into a full-fledged band rounded out by Zong Zhen and Da Chuan. A mix of rustic cowboy frontier ambiance and lo-fi surf-gaze charm, their debut feels both engrained in the past and embattled with the future, striking a chord somewhere between grainy nostalgia and adolescent deviance, as each guitar riff and bass groove charges forward into the sunset. A striking debut that feels tailor-made for the indie scene at this current moment.
Zafka, aka Zhang Anding, the Beijing-based sound artist, experimental musician, and “youth culture expert” who wowed us twice this year with two releases on Shanghai’s emerging play rec label, returns to close out his trilogy with ‘The Incomplete Contract’. Still demonstrating the artist’s penchant for ‘playing outside the box’, Zafka dials it down for his third outing, veering away from the heavier, more statically charged beats and aiming for something more sublime and soothing, evoking a more improvisational aura that adheres closer to free jazz albeit with more fragmented chopped up arrangements. It’s a beguiling twist the artist’s buoyant and offbeat charm and one that goes down nice and easy.
Immerse yourself in the instrumental rock of The 16th Floor, the post-rock band that’s been steadily building its sound since their formation in 2015. Treating every track like a one-act play or dream-like movement, the band checks off all the boxes required for a satisfying post-rock romp – injecting rich emotions as they lead listeners through peaks and valleys of atmospheric tension, before abrasive bursts of catharsis. Meticulously assembled and dense in its sound, it looks to envelop the eardrums and seemingly stop time itself as it takes universal themes and feelings and splashes them onto a larger canvas that slowly reveals itself. Let your guard down and it just might gradually melt your heart.