January 2021: Best Tracks
This article is collectively written by Joseph Lu & Zim Ahmadi
Here it is. A summary of our best findings from January, 2020 Pt. 2. Much like the Roman God that the month January is named after, we try to keep things liminal here - always in between, never really one thing; like the transitory nature of the past and the future, light and darkness, etc. embodied in the Roman mythology. We're always fighting our demons from all over - whether those demons are meticulously produced pop songs or the apocalyptic storm of metal. Everything in between, everything without. Sometimes you need anthems for heartbreaks, other times a pick-me-up in the form of an inescapable melody. Other times we need a rallying cry to show how angry we are at incompetent institutions. Or even ourselves. This coming year we hope to share more cool music with our readers along all of those lines. That's all that matters really. Music as refuge, music as sanctuary, music as a weapon, music as a channel for empathy. We're also still working on our 2020 lists and will probably release them in March. Think of it as a chance to look back at a wonderful year *cue sympathetic laugh track* I hope you find something you like! Or hit us up with your own music/recommendations at our Instagram account (@awfultrackrecord) or email us via email@example.com Love, Zim
Hopprock – Madlib
GENRE: INSTRUMENTAL HIP HOP / EXPERIMENTAL HIP HOP / SOUND COLLAGE / FIELD RECORDINGS
The appetizer to his new album Sound Ancestors, the Beat Konducta returns with a peppering of percussion in this 3 ½ minute jam track. Hopprock alludes to a more experimental atmospheric direction (apparently Four-Tet had his hands dipped into this one) with warbly echoes lurking in the background and a single guitar line trying to bring out some semblance of rhythm. With barely any melody, the drums automatically become the star of the show. There’s a reason why even today producers still draw from the 90s. When it comes to fat and heavy-hitting drums, Madlib does not disappoint.
C.H.R.I.S.Y.E. - Diskoria, Laleilmanino, Eva Celia
GENRE: CITY POP / DISCO POP
After the exciting hit release of ‘Serenata Jiwa Lara’ featuring Dian Sastrowardoyo, Diskoria nails it again with their second consecutive pop masterpiece. This tribute to Indonesian progressive pop icon, Chrisye, is perfect in every way. Not only is it magnetic and groovy, it smartly incorporates Chrisye's lyrics into a cohesive and stellar city pop cut. Eva Celia’s foray into disco pop on top of the production prowess of Diskoria (Merdi Leonardo Simandjuntak and Fadli Aat) and Laleilmanino (Lale and Ilman of Maliq & D’essentials and Nino of RAN) all adds to the flamboyant personality of the song - an all-embracing nightclub with bright strings, impeccable vocals, and luscious horns. 'C.H.R.I.S.Y.E.' is part coquettish, part wholesome. Wholesome because it pays tribute to a pop culture legend. A big responsibility, definitely, but the track just knocks it out of the park. What’s even more impressive is that this song was made in 24 hours as part of a music challenge by creative platform Studio Pop!
I Need a Way – White Ring
GENRE: WITCH HOUSE / SHOEGAZE / ELECTRO-INDUSTRIAL / NOISE POP
Whenever metal and electronic music bump heads, there’s always a clear line between what is played and what is processed. Some acts like Genghis Tron and Muse do a better job at blending the two. White Ring however has been piercing ears with their blackboard-scratching palette since the early 2010s. So, it makes complete sense for them to cross the line into metal territory. The kicks run down so low you’ll hear it in the basement. And the bassline is so perfectly in sync with the drums it’s hard to tell if it was a recording that’s been mangled to bits, or one those Serum presets nobody use. In the end, I Need a Way is like two genres hooking up during the office new year party - uncomfortable but unsurprising when it happens.
Meno’ - Alena Murang
GENRE: TRADITIONAL KENYAH / FOLK
As if echoing our longing for a simpler time, or an abstract, seemingly distant concept of home; here’s Alena Murang’s latest song as a entrancing summary of those emotions. A gorgeous sape-led track layered on top of beautiful guitars and vocal harmonies, the Kenyah language is given a resplendent pedestal, invoking a hopeful melancholy you didn’t know existed within you.
Clean Bill of Wealth – Terminal Bliss
GENRE: SCREAMO / EMOVIOLENCE / HARDCORE PUNK / GRINDCORE
You might not hear it (then again, it's hard to hear anything in a genre like this) but Terminal Bliss is lowkey a supergroup with members from City of Caterpillar and pageninetynine coming together – all prominent members of the skramz scene. And though you can hear a lot of their technical style coming out, there’s also a disgusting rawness that permeates every track. And if you can sift through what is borderline white noise, you’ll hear glitches and textures pulled of out an electronic graveyard. The whole album is worth checking out – all ten minutes of it. But if you can only stomach so much, Clean Bill of Wealth should be just enough as starter.
Jack Smack - Capt’n Trips & The Kid
GENRE: DANCE ROCK/ PSYCHEDELIC ROCK
Capt’n Trips & the Kid takes a dance step to the left in their new single teasing towards a 3rd album. “What is the point of trying to make sense of it all?”, sings Jes Ishmael; the song is disorientation given a rhythmic, almost-disco anthem - vastly different from their usual psychedelic leanings (except for that really small part at the end where there’s a progressive rock warmth in a short-lived guitar solo). In an interview with NME, the vocalist Jes Ishmael stated that they wrote it before lockdown when “we were going out a lot and hosting parties at our houses. The inspiration for this song was the music that we’d play during these gatherings''. Those gatherings must have been fun as hell because it shows through very clearly in Jack Smack.
Togok (ft. CEE & Gangsapura) (Live) - NJWA
GENRE: GLITCH POP / AMBIENT POP IDM / AMBIENT TECHNO / TRIP HOP
Showcasing a 210-year-old gamelan set, Togok (which originally came out in 2018) brings out some very sombre, spiritual tones that take cues from trip-hop and the angsty side of UK glitch pop. The song doesn’t move as it does swirls, with trippy filters bobbing up and down to keep things interesting, all the while NJWA’s harrowing poetry will cast a spell on you. Literally. Her delivery sounds like something Dirty Projectors would do if they were holding a seance. From an artist known for her sparkly pop cum R&B production, Togok is certainly an interesting detour to take and one we certainly approve of.
Cuba Kamu - RUDEEN ft. B-Heart
GENRE: TRAP / HIP HOP / R&B / POP
If you get lost in the slick, woozy vibes of the production, you’ll probably miss the great penmanship both RUDEEN and B-Heart exhibits in ‘Cuba Kamu’. “Saat seperti ukur besarnya retak” (Every second measures the size of the cracks) by RUDEEN. “Solusi ibarat sekadar pendebatan” (Finding solutions for the sake of debating) by B-Heart. Both lines flowing as smooth as a feather while containing such an emotional impact in a song about heartbreak. This plea for empathy just gets better with that fire guitar solo conclusion. RUDEEN’s best track to date, for sure.
Rooftop Garden (feat George Xylouris) – Bill Callahan & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
GENRE: ALT-COUNTRY / SINGER/SONGWRITER, CONTEMPORARY FOLK / INDIE FOLK
If you want to shut up that friend who’s still harping on about John Butler’s Ocean, there might be just enough star power in this Lou Reed cover to do it. We say ‘cover’ but that doesn’t do justice to the fact that Callahan and the other Prince completely rebuilt the soundscape from the ground up. With droney harmonicas and folky rhythms from what sounds like a dulcimer (aka the hipster guitar), Rooftop Garden makes you feel like you’re driving down a rural-ass American road, playing an extra in a Wes Anderson movie.
Not Warm Enough - RESORT
GENRE: POP / ALTERNATIVE POP / ELECTRO POP
Standing on the shoulders of bands like The 1975, the emotional essence of Not Warm Enough exceeds the generic schmaltz one might associate with pop. The production flourishes throughout the shimmery chorus. The penmanship is lyrically intriguing. Words like “Cold hardcore not warm enough to call home” takes the evergreen theme of an increasingly distant, detached relationship and gives it a new face. There are also other production and composition aspects to this song that cannot be left unsaid, like the beautifully spaced out (in every sense) guitars and drums, led by beautiful vocals. The tasteful pitching on the line “Got me thinking what we had was just a lie”. The catchy bridge adds a sprinkle of hope to an otherwise morose tune. RESORT is definitely a pop band that isn't afraid to attempt the difficult - melding the subtly ambitious and the inexplicably catchy.
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Featured Image Credit: Studio Pop