With heavy doses of city-pop and 90s era alternative rock (that guitar church on ‘Out of Focus’ slays me every time), there’s no denying that Cheesemind, the Xiamen-based band is shooting for a wider indie pop audience. But when you do it with as much craft and lyrical elegance as these cats, made up of members of the now defunct The White Tulips (arguably the pioneers of the city-pop/shoegaze resurgence), you can’t help but fall in love. It’s snug, tender, with a keen pop sensibility that sneakily worms its way into your brain whilst making one nostalgic for the breezy small-town beach life that exists only in your mind. Never forceful, but always aware of their ability to move (more like floor you), Cheesemind is indie pop music made with integrity and a bygone appreciation for the past and more importantly the influences of daily life and all the moments that keep us moving along (and as they put it ‘make your sense of loss a bit lighter’). A gem of a debut.
Shoegaze is having a hell of a year here in China and RUBUR, the Shanghai band that’s been chipping away at the scene since 2014 bombard the genre with vitality and precision on their long-awaited debut LP Evening Sitdown Vision. Chock full of wispy walls of sound, swirl-inducing guitar dissonance, and emotionally frail vocals, the band hits their target square in the heart before adding upon them layers and layers of surprises – the bridging jangle that propel ‘Sleepless Dream’, the fragmented lyrical heft of ‘Delilah’, and the cool-headed noise rock beat of ‘Fish Ball’ – making it an album that rewards repeated listening as you find yourself drawn to a different lover each spin. There’s a turbulent, transcendent beauty at play within RUBUR’s palette – a modern day poetic urban bent beneath the layers of noise and splintered , simmering decay that pierces deep.
Britpop garnished with surf rock, city pop, and laid back psychedelic music, Orange Ocean, from the sleepy third-tier city of Jinan, bring some foot-tapping energy and charisma to their music on their new EP Spring Tide (coming off of their late 2018 EP Wavy Shape). From the moment that guitar hook hits your ears on ‘Summer Cozy Rock’, you know you’re in for something wildly catchy. Instead of leaning into their Britpop foundations and the ‘try hard’ juju that turns many of the genre into light-weight indie pop crooners, Orange Ocean seem to relish the youthful energy and melodic machinations that went into bands like The Beatles and Oasis, putting them more in line with the wave of city-pop and indie pop bands that have been injecting the young indie scene over the past couple years. If they can keep that spunk alive, I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from these lads in the near future. The perfect summer EP.