Bankrupt: melodic punk rock from Budapest
There’s a lot to like in Hungarian punk rock band Bankrupt, from the driving beat of the drums and guitar to the English dub-like keys and horns. You can hear a lot of the Ramones, the Descendents, NOFX, and the Misfits in these melodies and lyrics. Long live hooks!
“Inspired by the best moments of punk rock history, [this] Budapest based three-piece delivers a unique blend of old school and new school melodic punk rock, tinged with some punkabilly, rock and roll punk, and garage rock. Regardless of what hype is going on right now on what was earlier called the punk rock scene, [they] stick to the music they like, and continue writing songs that sound the way punk rock was meant to be. This is the sound of Riot City and it sweeps you away with the speed of a rocket.”
Theo Alexander: if My Bloody Valentine tried writing a piano ballad
“Haunting” is a lazy and inaccurate way to describe one’s sound, except when you’re talking about London composer Theo Alexander. Layers of piano echo on top of each other to create an ancient, claustrophobic sound that sounds eerie and beautiful – imagine if My Bloody Valentine tried writing a piano ballad. Alexander is currently based in Prague and has taken inspiration from the Charles Bridge and Kafka to heart and to excellent results. Haunting, indeed.
“‘Points of Decay’, is an album of deconstructed piano pieces that have been manipulated and re-spliced through a series of tape loops. Each piece makes use of a recording technique that runs a single recording through a seccession of different mediums, to achieve a heavily degraded sound that is unfamiliar to most piano recordings.
As each layer reveals or obscures another, textures are heard that would not otherwise be possible without the experimental studio techniques that drove production and writing respectively.
A major inspiration for album was the portrayal of memory in Samuel Beckett’s ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’.”
The Daydream Fit: The Dutch outfit stays close to its ’90s emo roots but have expanded its sound
Is there anything more bittersweet than a band going on hiatus or breaking up after releasing their best work? It isn’t rare, though; at times, the effort of releasing something outstanding is draining, it damages the personal relationships inside a band, or it makes its members realize they don’t have so much time to put on their musical project anymore.
When it comes to The Daydream Fit, a criminally underrated band based between Enschede and Utrecht, in the Netherlands, it’s unsure what the cause of their hiatus was. What we know is that their last self-titled EP is a rare gem in the contemporary emo scene, a mind blowing work that would have deserved a lot more attention.
The Daydream Fit is the second record by the Dutch outfit – the first was a three-songs EP resembling bands such as End Of A Year and characterized by a contagious freshness. Their last work is longer, with six songs graced by a masterful production that brings out the band’s ability to write songs that are seemingly simple but are written with a passionate attention to detail. The record is rich with references to the ’90s. On the second track “Stick To Yr Lies” it’s easy to hear the youthful urgency of Moss Icon, while on “New York City Tonight” there’s even a collaboration with Sonic Youth guitar player Lee Ranaldo.
But most importantly, it feels like it’s the approach of The Daydream Fit that comes from a different era, untouched by the contradictions of today or by the pressures of appearing a certain way. The band focuses on their music in the most genuine way possible: not only they play precisely what they want to play, but they also have the means to do it, and the result is truly poignant and brilliant.
Sir Croissant: for fans of Big Thief, Daughter, and Bon Iver
There is beauty in youth, beauty in talent, and when the two overlap the result is often grandiose, unexpectedly fulfilling. This is pretty much what must have been going through the heads of those who attended the first ever show of Sir Croissant in Žiža, an alternative cafe in Banja Luka, the capital of the Serbian entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. A venue that is usually chatty and noisy in the evenings – even when there’s a show. That night, though, when the local songwriter took the stage, everyone went abruptly silent, captured by his vocals from the very first few seconds.
One impressive thing here is that Igor Božanić alias Sir Croissant, who chose the name after a live album by Sia, is only 16-years-old, and has already released two EPs. The first one, Let Me Sleep, was recorded in his room with a webcam microphone, giving a lo-fi vibe that however doesn’t hide the most recognizable stylistic traits of his work. There’s the placidity of Lisa Hannigan in his vocals, but also the emotional tension of indie bands like Daughter and Big Thief, as his guitar picking masterfully matches the feelings he wants to evoke.
These qualities emerge much more vividly on his new EP, if i was a fish i would cry, also thanks to the synths of Milica Pendić, supplying the music with resounding nuances of holy. But it’s his songwriting and his storytelling skills that improved the most in just one year: songs like “johnson and johnson” and “doglady” are beautiful examples of how variegated his music can get, other than displaying his overflowing and empathic narrative made of romanticizing simple gestures and childhood memories. What he can achieve in the future is not calculable: what’s sure is that there’s something truly precious and important here.
Abdou El Omari & Naima Samih: Omari’s psychedelic organ plays with Arabic strings and rhythms to excellent results
Another winner from Berlin’s Habibi Funk label is its Abdou El Omari & Naima Samih release from February. Omari’s psychedelic organ plays with Arabic strings and rhythms to excellent results, made better by Samih’s beautiful vocals.
“First issue (LP+DL) of this previously unreleased Oriental psych monster from the organ king of Casablanca, combining traditional rhythms with spaced out modern sounds. Second part of Abdou El Omari’s Nuits-trilogy. This album contains heavenly compositions for the Moroccan diva Naima Samih and some moody instrumentals in a similar vein to the first album.”
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PAST: Warsaw post-punk meets ’80s goth
You don’t need to speak Polish to understand the attitude and aesthetics of PAST, a post-punk band from Warsaw that started playing in 2011. Sure, their lyrics are a fundamental part of their work, focusing mostly on the current state of the world with a certain disillusionment – but with an ever present glimpse of hope. But all of this information can already be grasped by carefully listening to the powerful voice of Gosia, the band’s lead singer.
There’s something in her beautiful vocals that manages to bear the band’s spirit and captures the listener. Her strong harmonies stand above the ravenous and dystopian sound of their new record, Czarno/Biela (Black/White), while fitting perfectly in it at the same time.
On their Bandcamp page, PAST assert they play music “so that they can run away from norms and mediocrity.” Mediocrity in particular, or rather refusing it and fighting it, is central to their work, and that is not something to be underrated. While clearly fond of cold post-punk, the band renovates the the dark ’80s sound and modernizes it in a sparkling way.
Cutting synths often fill the space, invigorating the album with an unusually wide range of colors, while an omnipresent bass and blossoming guitars add a precious depth to the band’s compositions, pushing the band towards a roaring punk urgency with the help of fast-paced and never monotonous drums.
All of these elements turn Czarno/Biela into an exciting and epic ride, one that creates an atmosphere that owes a lot to the German post-punk of thirty years ago. It’s post-apocalyptic, but with a sizable dose of emotions and curiosity for all the possibilities that this type of music can offer.
Aesthesys: Russian instrumental post-rock
There’s a lot going on in the music of Aesthesys. Most of it on paper – Interpol-like driving guitars, pretty chimes and strings, your favorite prog drummer – shouldn’t work, yet everything blends so well here. The Moscow-based outfit knows exactly what it’s doing, for it’s had years to develop its chops from its earliest days as Nik Koniwzski’s one-man project to now being a fleshed-out band.
“[we’re] an instrumental outfit hailing from Moscow, Russia, performing a mixture of post-rock, ambient, neoclassical and progressive music.”
Molly: for fans of Jawbreaker, Beach Slang, and Dinosaur Jr.
The music video teasing Stay Above, the new album by Molly, is simple and irritatingly hilarious. It shows a phone reproducing their new song “All About” inside of an empty Tuborg glass, the track sounding muffled and distant, interrupted halfway by an abrupt phone call. Towards the end, though, the sound gets rid of the natural distortion and acquires its true powerful nature. At the same time, we see the band standing in front of some burning brushwood, creepily staring into the void.
A video like this already says a lot about Molly, a furious rock band from Copenhagen. It shows that they don’t take themselves too seriously, that they can have fun with their own music, but more than anything it shows how good their songwriting is, even when the music can be barely heard. The Danish trio is clearly influenced by Dinosaur Jr., Husker Du and Jawbreaker, but rework these influences in a personal way, assisted by some effective Social Distortion sounding vocals.
Reworking, though, does not mean modernizing, and Stay Above is obstinately anchored to the 90s sound. It is Molly’s third record, but it seems like it’s the one that can allow them to be noticed by many more people than before, also thanks to the hype of bands like Beach Slang, which turned punk-informed 90s rock into something more recognizable and accessible even to younger kids today. This way, Stay Above has all the potential to become one of the most loved albums of the year.
Autumn Sweater: for fans of Protomartyr, Interpol, and Joy Division
Luxembourg’s Autumn Sweater takes everything I love about Protomartyr, Interpol, and Joy Division and meshes it all together quite beautifully. The band’s Facebook mentions that their interests include tacos, turtles, ’70s men’s fashion, and Aladin on Super Nintendo, which are all very punk things.
I Cani: the once obscure electro-pop persona now embraces Italian pop
“Ho paura di tutto, soprattutto dei Cani,” sings Niccolò Contessa on Glamour, the second and central album in the discography of his one man project. It translates to “I’m afraid of everything, especially of I Cani,” and it gives an idea of the complex love/hate relationship between a songwriter and the obscure electro-pop persona he started building six years ago and that reached way more people than he could have dreamed of.
The story of I Cani started in 2011 with the first album Il sorprendente album d’esordio de I Cani. Back then, no one knew Contessa’s real name, and he performed his live shows with a paper bag on his face. What everyone learned to know were his songs, written and produced in his bedroom; catchy synth-driven post-punk gems with brilliant and keen lyrics describing the contradictions of Italy and Italians, with a particular focus on the place where he comes from, a northern neighborhood of Rome.
Ironically, autobiographical elements and a taste for grotesque situations and characters were the keys that led his lyrics to be sung along by the whole indie scene. But he didn’t stop there. A few years later, he got rid of his anonymity and started pushing his career towards a new direction, somewhat close to cult ’80s Italian singers such as Lucio Dalla or Franco Battiato.
His latest album, Aurora, released in 2016, is a display of his newfound maturity. He basically revisits Italian pop. His songs become more conventional, the production hints to dance rhythms, his lyrics reflect his own personal growth. While some of his early fans were disappointed, Aurora is truly a great example of what modern Italian pop rock should sound like, but with the addition of occasional wild synths that he can’t seem to survive without.