Great albums were released. Great tours were embarked upon. Bands disbanded, bands came up with debut pieces. Cities rose and fell on the basis of their flagship acts. Venues crumbled and venues erupted.
A lot of things happened in 2017; here we are going to discuss some of the best songs to come out of the Chinese <indie> scene over the past twelve months as we gradually slip into 2018.
Chinese Football – Electric Girl (电动少女）
Off of their short, and glorious, EP Here Comes a New Challenger, Electric Girl is for parts a softly spoken emotional piece, delicately weaving chiming plucked guitars with guttural bass, and parts a rollicking outburst of flailing strings and vox. We got a lot from the Wuhaners throughout the year – including a brilliant Beatles cover – but we hear them at their most genuine iteration here.
Sound and Fury – Honey Knows
Long time Chengdu shoegazers Sound and Fury came back with a bang this year, releasing the brilliant Sprout. Honey Knows was the first release off the album, released as a single before the album dropped. Honey Knows is a gorgeous storm of guitars and almost indecipherable vocals creating a dreamscape full of meaning for the listener.
Shu Ying – Leaving the City
Whereas a large part of Shu Ying’s second album, Girl’s Girl’s World, is made up of brief and beaming moments captured, Leaving the City feels like the most fully realised attempt at a rock song. She comes on strong, like the badass that she is, billowing synthesized rock music towards our grateful ears.
The White Tulips – One Unforgettable Night （甜美難忘夜）
Sad as it was that we got just one re-issue and two singles from this brilliant Xiamenian band, what we did recieve was worth it, if only that it sustains our hope that there will be more coming soon. The White Tulips make music ready made for lounging – whether by the pool in healthy sunlight, or beneath a heavy blanket in the throes of harsh Northern winters – The White Tulips can draw out the summer sun that resides in all of our hearts.
Nouvelle – Leave Fast （快离开）
This punky Guangzhou trio came out of the woodwork earlier this year with a surpisingly well-produced effort. With straight-forward guitar and gentle drums supporting the strong, clear vocal on Leave Fast, we await the grubby distortion of the break down, to gain an insight into their Noise Rock roots before seeking relief again in their gentler moments.
Birdstriking – 25
What a great intro can do for you, huh? Birdstriking don’t mess around on 25, coming straight out of the traps with high-pitched, altogether unique vocals. A-knock-you-off-your-feet track that does not let up for an instant, but rather gathers speed as it goes.
Dirty Fingers – I Like Your Girlfriend Too （我也喜欢你的女朋友）
Described by Noisey China as sounding “like phlegm stuck in your body that you can’t get rid of,” I like your girlfriend too is simply the first excellent track on an album full of them. Dirty, raw, hard hitting – I could go on – I Like Your Girlfriend Too is an exemplary example of what makes Dirty Fingers so flipping unique.
thruoutin – Setting off into the New
We almost missed this one, woe betide us – thank god for end of year reviews which brought thruoutin’s production masterwork to our attention. The Beijing based musician has a tendency for bright, natural and ambient soundscapes. Setting off into the New sees him go a little darker, a little deeper with jumps and loops that are mysterious in their implication, and cast a grave shadow over the fair-weather listener.
City Flanker – The Second Dream
Shaoxing’s favourite Shoegazers were backed with new material after a heavy wait of almost two years. If you dream in daytime and slip into transcient meditative dimensions whilst aboard your local metro, then of course it was worth the wait. The Second Dream is a barely parseable, hardly tangible soundscape that is more emotion than it is idea.
Default – Schwarzschild Drainhole
It always makes things easier when the name of a song/album comes out in English, allowing me to sidestep the bother of painfully copying, pasting and translating. But besides this little convenience, Schwarzschild Drainhole was a magnificent seven minute wonder full of skyward reaching guitars, pervasive, wormholing atmospherics and spacey vibes.
TrueTrue – Apollo and Dionysus
Taken from a Babel Records mixtape, Apollo and Dionysus features a gorgeous female vocal, supported by layers of computerised production. What is most impressive is how organic, how romantic, this track sounds despite being beholden to the great technological obsidian rock.
Fazi – Fazi （法茲）
An electric opener to the band’s self titled album – Fazi immediately gets to the point with jangling guitars a la Johnny Marr et al. With murmurous vocals, this understated effort stands up on the basis of gorgeous and catchy music alone.
Chui Wan – The Landscape the Tropics Never Had
A prolific year for Maybe Mars by most estimations. The Beijing label remains the kingpin in terms of spotting musical talent. With wild-western leaning guitars, supporting by mind-bending bass, The Landscape the Tropics Never Had sounds a bit like Chui Wan’s own personal Atrocity Exhibition, plodding along at an insidious pace.
Butterbeer – Listening to Another Sunny Day Makes Me Forget You
Perhaps underappreciated given the bands location, but Butterbeer is an atypically indie band, even for the indie landscape in which they work. Combining great music with DIY aesthetic, they are a band whose first album is an unfettered joy to listen to. Nowhere is that clearer than on the emotionally wrought, beautifully sung Listening to Another Sunny Day Makes Me Forget You.
Joy Ginger – Stay in My Arms
Another Babel Records artist, what makes Joy Ginger and True True special, besides their excellent production, is the legitimacy that they bring to the alternative R&B underground in this day and age of ubiquitious Rap and Hip Hop. Stay in My Arms is a glass-shattering, cat sampling cracker that oozes a sense of ultimate chill and oneness with the beat.