Seemingly emerging out of nowhere, Chengdu’s Code-A intrigues with their twisty and charming self-titled debut, which finds the young duo, made up of Xiao Long on guitar, vocals, and keyboard, and drummer Xiaoshun, piecing together an electrifying sound that’s both sexy and tender. There’s an offbeat melodic charge to their sound that seamlessly mixes in rhythmic electronic beats and lo-fi folk stylings that jumps between head-bopping numbers and slow burning love songs. It’s pop music that manages to feel fresh and aesthetically full of ideas. The duo blurs line between sugar-coated pop and infectious indietronica so effortlessly – one minute you’re feeling guilty for being some easily swayed, the next you’re hopelessly in awe of the curve balls they throw out. It’s cheeky, expertly crafted, and utterly delightful for those who enjoy a little sugar in their coffee – and the emergence of a new talent we’ll surely be hearing more of in the future.
Hebei-born folk artist Xiao He – known for free-wielding genre-bending and acute avant-garde folk musings returned last year with Echo. Originally released as a collection of videos via streaming platform Tencent, and then released via WeChat, the album eventually found a more permanent home on QQ and am I ever glad. It may not have the improvisational mischievous streak his earlier work established (though it still bubbles up time to time), but his command of tone and melody is still very much at play here as well as his brazen innovative use of modern and traditional instruments. An carefully assembled, intricately layered collection of songs that mesmerizes – a tender, and full-hearted contemporary folk album that’s brimming with life and cinematic wonder.
The Guangzhou renegades Mercader return with their sophomore release ‘Self Technology’. Derived from ‘Technologies of the Self’ – Foucault’s philosophical concept to cognitive enhancement – basically the care for oneself and the moral education of the youth – the band executes their brand of ‘pessimistic optimism’ with guitar-heavy melodies, and crooning anthemic vocals. A sometimes bewildering mix post-punk, no wave, and indie rock, the band sometimes resembles a more animated, angsty, and streamlined P.K.14 or better yet, a dirtier, moodier New Pants – with a sneaking, gritty Canto-pop vibe lurking underneath that can turn on a dime. It’s a sound that begs for your attention even when the album doesn’t always strike fire.