Local music fans suffered through a shortage of memorable homegrown releases this year. Although there were a few saviors, by and large there was an obvious drought in epoch-making records, and none that shifted your perspective on what you thought music could do. There were some good albums, but none that screamed “greatness.”
1 ‘DGNR8,’ by BRNDLS
The garage-rock revivalists fourth record comes closest to being the next great record, but fell just short due to a throwback sonic quality that borrows more than a little from British electronic-rock act Primal Scream. Still, the songs and production offer an undeniable array of sounds beyond anything the band had produced previously. The clash between the digital coldness of the band’s electronic flourishes and their raw abrasiveness results in an unique mash of danceable punk rock.
2 ‘See It, Hear It, Feel It,’ by Sound of Silence
This album is just one of the many released online for free by Sound of Silence. It is a meditative record that brings to mind a more conventional approach to ambient music. This obvious nod to Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports” finds a delicate balance with minimalist instrumentation, creating a majestic allure not often found in local music. Sometimes the songs tread dangerously close to saccharine territory, but thankfully never cross that line. Tranquil and relaxing, this album is certainly worth the download.
3 ‘Indonesia,’ by Morfem
Slipping outside the retro-infused touchstone of his successful main band The Upstairs, singer Jimi Multhazam goes back to basics with Morfem. Backed by a band of grungy punk rockers, Jimi drives Morfem with catchy melodic rock that pays equal homage to 1970s art rock as it does to ’80s and ’90s independent rock. On their debut record, the quartet serve up an amalgamation of Jimi’s typically droll lyrics and immediately hummable rock that satisfies the need to destroy rooms with undeniable efficiency.
4 ‘Fake/Faker,’ by Polyester Embassy
Owing a whole lot to the post-psychedelia sounds of bands like Mercury Rev and the dynamic instrumental interplay of so-called post-rock bands like Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky, Bandung band Polyester Embassy isn’t exactly noted for its sheer originality. But its second album is nonetheless commendable for how it filters all of those influences into something slightly more elementary, without sounding too tired. You often wish the band would tread outside its comfort zone a little more (if we’re wishing, maybe taking out the metal edge would also help), but the band fills each song in “Fake/ Faker” with so many sections, it becomes an intriguing wall of sound that never loses its edge.
5 ‘Pop,’ by Individual Distortion
This online release from one of the country’s most active avant-garde musicians is an audio head trip that is unforgettable in its sheer inventiveness. Brutal death metal and cheesy disco music get bundled up alongside intoxicating computer experimentations. Along the way, sound samples from pop hits and melodies from children’s songs join in, creating a bewildering cacophony of soundscapes.
The mix of all the elements creates a surprising nuance of chaotic togetherness that is equally danceable and head-bangable.