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Spoon – Lucifer on the Sofa

2 Mar

There are few artists that have maintained a certain level of quality over several decades – Bob Dylan or Red Hot Chili Peppers, for example – but perhaps the most underrated of these unerringly consistent artists is Austin, Texas-based Spoon.

Founded by singer and guitarist Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno in 1993, the band has remained a force in their hometown, with notable presence at SXSW, ACL and other cultural touchpoints that the city has to offer. The other members of the band have gone through several rotations, but the current roster includes Ben Trokan (bass / keyboards), Alex Fischel (keyboards / guitar) and Gerardo Larios (guitar).

Since their inception almost 30 years ago, the band has released a steady stream of great albums, notable of which include 2001’s Girls Can Tell, 2005’s Gimme Fiction, and many more. (In fact, ask a group of Spoon fans what their favorite album is from the band’s discography and you’ll likely get different answers from each – that’s how consistently good Spoon is.)

Now, the band is back with their 10th studio album, Lucifer on the Sofa, which, we are happy to announce, continues the band’s lifetime streak of catchy and highly-listenable albums.

Although we loved the band’s previous album – 2017’s Hot Thoughts – it was one of the more divisive albums in their discography; with old-time fans discouraged by the decidedly electro-pop edge that the album took. Lucifer on the Sofa is a back-to-basics rock album, almost as a direct rebound from Hot Thoughts. While both auras of Spoon have their musical highlights, the band definitely sounds more at ease on Lucifer.

The album starts off with “Held”, a cover of a 1998 track by Bill Callahan in his Smog avatar. “Held” serves as a perfect starting point to Lucifer, with a bluesy live-recording vibe that permeates the rest of the track-list. In fact, so good is their cover that you would not be remiss in thinking that it’s a Spoon original. “Held” melds coolly into “The Hardest Cut”, the best track on the album (and lead single) that easily made our end-of-year list upon its release in 2021. Here, Spoon take on the rock-and-roll mantle further than almost any other active band today – close your eyes and you can see this track in a Cadillac commercial in place of Led Zep’s “Rock and Roll”.

There are a few others here that come close to the vitality on “The Hardest Cut” – for example, the devilishly-good blues-rock track “The Devil & Mister Jones”. Another great track is “Feels Alright” with its melodious hooks and warm guitars, where we find Daniel’s charisma at a maximum. Jangly second single “Wild” is an homage to wanting to break free, which Britt Daniel expresses through some well-wrought lyrics. “I got on fine with modern living, but must I be such a citizen?” he asks, before confessing on the chorus: “And the world, still so wild, called to me.”

In fact, many of Spoon’s songs have to do with this feeling of restlessness – wanting to leave, skip town, run away and so on. Some others deal with his general sense of nostalgia and introspection – for example, the keyboards-driven classic indie rock track “On the Radio” – while still others are (surprisingly enough for a slick rock band) sweet love songs. The vaguely 1960s-tinged “Satellite” is one such song, with Daniel calling himself the namesake satellite to his lover.

Lyrically, though, the soul of the album lies in the title track and album closer, “Lucifer on the Sofa” – which is essentially a stream-of-consciousness poem of what it was like to wander through mid-pandemic empty streets. “Looking through the windows as you’re passing by / And I’m chasing every thought / And I’m walking over water / Thinking about what I lost,” he croons – and who can’t relate to their own experiences in 2020. Also, the song is very much set in Austin with references to Lavaca Street, West Avenue and others. “Lucifer on the Sofa” also clarifies the meaning of the namesake devil: a manifestation of the negativity in our own minds, freezing you into a disheveled state to the extent that it literally feels like an unwelcome guest crashing on your sofa.

With few drawbacks throughout the track-list – the weakest being perhaps “Astral Light” and “My Babe” – Lucifer on the Sofa is a thoroughly entertaining rock record.

Rating: 8.5/10

Best tracks: “The Hardest Cut”, “Wild”, “Held”

Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert

25 Oct

Little Simz is just going from strength to strength. Grey Area was not music that you could miss and Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is very comfortably the best music she has ever made. She clearly still hasn’t fully realized her potential, but this is still a very strong album.

Firstly, there’s an astonishing variety in this album. She, of course, fills the album with her normal blistering raps. Both “Speed” and “Standing Ovation” are very strong this way and just great music. This is what she’s know for and where she’s always able to deliver. She mixes it up though with cuts like “Protect My Energy” that brings in a very nice dance music energy.

The real highlight of the album also comes from this experimentation. “Point and Kill” is really good afrobeats and hopefully the blueprint for a full album in the future. Obongjoyar works really well off her and it’s just an exceptional track.

She also gets in some nice storytelling in this album. “Little Q Pt. 2” is very well done and it’s just novel to hear about a sisterhood breaking down on a rap track. Unfortunately though, she can’t keep up this quality in other parts of the album. “I Love You, I Hate You” comes close, but it just falls too far into trope too often.

Substantially worse though are the interludes. They just lack any real meaning and don’t seem to understand how empty they are. The price of being someone like Little Simz is that there are higher expectations on you. She’s just too intelligent for me to overlook these lapses.

On the flip side though is the closer “Miss Understood” which is a very compelling story and a very apropos sound. It’s a really good way to close a really good album and both leave me excited for what she’s going to do next.

Victoria Monet – JAGUAR

22 Dec

Chances are, you’ve heard the handiwork of singer-songwriter Victoria Monet even if you’ve never heard of her before. The prolific pop creator has had her hand in recent hits such as “Ice Cream” by BLACKPINK and Selena Gomez and “Do It” by breakout sibling duo Chloe x Halle. Most notably, Monet has been a direct contributor to most of Ariana Grande’s recent output of singles, from “7 Rings” to “NASA” to “Thank U Next“. (Indeed, Monet was herself one of the recipients of Ari’s seven rings – apparently the song is based on a real story.)

On debut album JAGUAR, Victoria Monet finally steps out of the shadows of the Arianas and Selenas of the world, and comes into her own. The result is one of the smoothest, best-produced pop albums of the year.

JAGUAR spans a mere 25 minutes, but covers a lot of ground on its seven crisp songs (and two sub-minute interludes). Album opener “Moment” is a pop-R&B track with dramatic string flourishes and chillwave beats – in short, the track could easily appear on an Ariana Grande project. One listen through the track, however, is enough to make one realize that Monet plays a giant role in Ariana’s sound – because she owns this song. “Aye, this your motherfuckin’ moment / Yeah (That you manifested slowly),” she says on the chorus, presumably to her lover, but the words could easily apply to Victoria herself on JAGUAR.

First single “Ass Like That” strips away the R&B for a more hip-hop sound. Lyrically, Monet somewhat subverts expectations by talking not just about how her posterior makes men go crazy, but also about how she got, well, an ass like that. “Treat my calories like weed, yeah, I burn that shit / Shout out to my trainer ’cause he crack that whip,” she explains, rather helpfully. In a way, it’s a subtle indication of Monet as a behind-the-scenes that has had to work hard for her position in life – and also, it’s just an interesting pop songwriting choice.

A few other songs on the album work especially well too. “Go There With You” has a much stronger pop-funk sound that sees Monet suggesting intimacy instead of a late-night fight. On lines like “I don’t wanna go there with you / Let’s end the night on a good time / I can find a better way to be all in your face,” the simplicity in her lyrics make clear just why Ariana’s last two albums felt relatable yet well-written – like a heartfelt Instagram post. The title track “Jaguar” is an echoey, catchy ode to her own well-maintained sex appeal (“Supersonic pussycat / Just like a jaguar, silky black”) with slick beats for days.

JAGUAR is a strong offering from a seasoned player in the modern pop industry, and we’ve loved seeing Monet coming into her own, well-deserved spotlight. Although the album overall is too short and perhaps not endlessly playable, it was a great addition to the year’s debut albums. JAGUAR is apparently just the starting point of what’s to come from Ms. Monet – she notably calls it a project and not an album – so we are definitely staying tuned for more.

Best tracks: “Moment”, “Jaguar”, “Ass Like That”

Rating: 7/10

Bria Skonberg- Bria

30 Jan

42471c_2d54c26fe7cd45fa8150c9955310985bmv2Bria is a charming Jazz album well worth a listen no matter your experience with the genre. The music is very listenable and packed full of interesting moments. The Arabic tint of “Curious Game” is intriguing and the trumpet solo into vibraphone solo of “I Was A Little Too Lonely” is excellent.

Bria Skonberg herself has a wonderful voice for Jazz standards and it really sells songs like “Don’t Be That Way” and “You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me.” Her chanting is the lovely and intricate “Malaguena” is also of note. None of this is to diminish her trumpet playing or the rest of the musicians, all of whom are irreproachable.

The album is a whole is laid back and not very challenging, but nevertheless quite good and packed with interesting little moments. Highly recommended for people looking to get into Jazz and worth a listen from those already invested.


The Last Shadow Puppets: Everything You’ve Come to Expect

28 May

everything-youve-come-to-expectIn 2008, the world was a different place for Alex Turner and Miles Kane. Turner was a shy lad, still getting used to the stardom accosted onto him after two hugely successful Arctic Monkeys albums. Kane was exiting from the Little Flames, a venture that failed to produce even a debut album, and touring with his new band, the Rascals, alongside the Monkeys. Perhaps as an escape from their main storylines, Turner and Kane began playing together backstage: a pair of gentle, romantic boys almost clinging to each other in a turbulent and uncertain time of their lives. This side project, dubbed The Last Shadow Puppets, culminated in a baroque-pop testament of drama and nostalgia entitled The Age of the Understatement.

A lot has changed in eight years. As Turner said in an interview with British late night host James Corden, TLSP seems to serve as an octennial documentation of the duo’s personal and professional lives. After five successful Monkeys albums, Turner has taken on a stereotypical rock-star persona (whether affected or real is still a matter of contention among fans). Kane has transformed into a modish cad, dating an array of models on both sides of the pond and attiring himself solely in razor-sharp silhouettes. Even in a very literal sense, both men have moved away from their roots in northern England to hedonistic mansions in LA. In a sense, Everything You’ve Come to Expect feels like a reconciliation between the 2008 versions of the two men and their 2016 versions.

This sense of reconciliation can be seen (as is often the case with pop stars) in their songs about girls. In 2008, Turner and Kane mainly wrote songs about wooing girls, in a tone that can best be described as early-Beatles-esque naivete. In 2016, the duo mainly writes songs about girls that have done them wrong, girls that are ill-advised pursuits, girls that are no more than that night’s entertainment, and so on.

In first single “Aviation” (about getting high, get it?), the narrator tries to convince a druggie girl with colorful eyes to start a casual relationship with him. In the eponymous title song, the narrator speaks of getting cheated on by a girl who liked him only because he was part of TLSP. “The Element of Surprise” takes a slightly different route; Turner talks about his rustiness at the wooing game, after meeting a girl who has caused him to fall in love after a long string of seemingly casual relationships. “Sweet Dreams, TN” is the thematic next step: an ode to his current girlfriend Taylor Bagley, who’s a Tennessee native with a septum piercing just like the girl in the song. Even though Turner’s friends and fans think of Bagley as a Yoko Ono of sorts in the Arctic Monkeys universe, Turner feels that he’s truly in love with her. It’s only on the album closer, “The Dream Synopsis”, that we see a glimpse of the old Turner. On that song, he reminisces to his new girl (probably Bagley) about his simple, pre-fame life in Sheffield – and immediately takes a self-conscious step back into nonchalance (“Isn’t it boring when I talk about my dreams?”).

Even though they have changed dramatically, one cannot underplay Turner’s signature lyrics. The Transylvanian descriptions on “Dracula Teeth” (“The full moon’s glowing yellow and the floorboards creak/C’est horrifique!”) paint a horror-movie setting for a girl that haunts the narrator like a ghost. On “She Does the Woods”, Turner speaks of a “spirograph of branches” behind the girl he’s shagging in the woods. On “Pattern”, he describes his complicated relationship with an ex as a spider slipping and sliding on an icicle. It’s the kind of intuitive imagery that we’ve come to expect from Turner’s words.

On a practical note, Everything You’ve Come to Expect does have everything you’d expect from a Puppets album: lyrics that smoothly roll off the tongue, the genius of Owen Pallett’s arrangement, the famed Turner-Kane chemistry. On a philosophical level, however, The Last Shadow Puppets no longer exists. What exists in its place is another side-project by an eight-years-later version of the same two men: a real-world example of the Ship of Theseus. The Age of the Understatement was a collection of lushly orchestrated novellas, created by two boys who wrote tender love letters in the age of Tinder and text message hookups. Turner and Kane are no longer those boys. In fact, they are now the very playboys that represent the “understatement” of modern-day romance. Understatement felt like a natural outlet; this album feels like more of a forced output. Still, it’s worth a listen, if only for Turner’s lyrics.

Best song: “Dracula Teeth”



Karnivool, Live and Loud at The Festival, Nicco Park, Calcutta (11/1/2015)

17 Jan

Dissidence is the mother of cohesion.

True words. We here at Top Five Records, for instance, may appear, on the surface, to be a bunch of music loving blokes, who are forever in unanimous agreement with everything that appears on the site; the sort who live in blissful harmony in the interwebs and who listen to good music that they all love. But the truth is far, very far from that.

Consider the Aussie progressive rock band, Karnivool.


Yeah, them.

In my opinion, and I’m sure, most of T5R would disagree, Karnivool is one of the greatest, yet one of the most under-rated bands, that exist in the world today. If you’re willing to look beyond the droning monotones of indie rock, and the tedium of modern day metal, Karnivool brings to the table, an oeuvre of music, so staggering in design and complexity that it leaves the attentive listener absolutely astounded. In the three albums that they have released since their formation in 1997, they’ve explored and experimented with styles of metal and alternative rock that very few bands have even dared to try.

So when Karnivool decided to drop by my hometown I was just short of doing this:

OMG I'm so excited I can't hide it OMG

OMG I’m so excited I can’t hide it OMG

I would hazard a guess that for the uninitiated, the concert, like most progressive rock concerts, was a deadly bore. But for people familiar with Karnivool, as for those who are familiar with progressive rock music, it was a rewarding experience. Prog rock works in a funny manner. There’s this learning curve associated with most prog rock songs, and the more you hear them, the better you understand the subtle complexities involved in them; and the better you understand these subtle complexities, the more you appreciate the music. Like a movie that you’ve seen a hundred times over – which you now know so well, that the hair on the back of your neck tingles when that epic scene is about to arrive, and you relish it in its entirety when it finally does.

Ian Kenny, the vocalist, wasn’t exactly the verbose type, so he let their music do most of the talking – which was pretty much what we wanted, because it was brilliant. He did seem to be enjoying the crowd support though, and looked relatively relaxed while singing – that is saying something, because it is honestly difficult to sing live, along to music that is so multi-layered and variable in terms of time signatures and rhythm. Steve Judd, the brilliant sticksman did some masterclass work on the drums (again, extremely commendable, because, you know, prog.)


They performed songs from their three albums, including some of my favourites – Simple Boy, Cote, Themata, Rocquefort, Mauseum. It was a fine display of musicianship and technical prowess and they kept the fans’ attention at a steady high throughout the evening, and when they finally ended their set list with a heavily requested “New Day”, it provided the perfect denouement to their act.

I’ll stop here, and let you check out some Karnivool songs for yourself. I’m sure these songs will evoke mixed feelings – some will love them, while others will find them to be a drag.

But then, as a wise man once said, dissidence is the mother of cohesion. So it’s all cool in the end.

Subhayan Mukerjee

Bacardi Nh7 Weekender, Kolkata 2014 – Day 2

12 Nov

Read our day 1 coverage here.

November is a wonderful time to have open air festivals in Calcutta. The weather, after having remained consistently lethal for the past six odd months, begins to enter a rather pleasant phase. The sky is the perfect blue. The heat doesn’t kill you any longer. The sweat dries faster. A zephyr actually exists. And best of all, unlike other places (cough cough, Bengaluru) where the rain often plays spoilsport, it remains wonderfully high and dry all day round.

So when Day 2 of the Calcutta edition of the Bacardi Nh7 Weekender kicked off on a fine Sunday afternoon, it was all smiles, laughter and cheer that rang around the beautifully set up Nicco Park grounds.

I was slightly late to the show that day, and when I reached, the first act had already begun at the MTS Discover arena – the French duo, As Animals. Their music was a rather interesting conflation of electronic and alternative, and seemed like the sort that you’d enjoy even more when intoxicated – which the lead singer Zara, going by her completely phased out appearance, probably was. But let that not deter me from transcribing the acts that were to follow.

After a brief stint with these French trippers, we crossed the English channel, and went off to the Red Bull Tour Bus to see Houdini Dax, an extremely … (no points for guessing) British three piece brit-rock suit. Houdini Dax hail from Cardiff, Wales, and they look and sound absolutely, and quintessentially British. They played a rather energetic gig upon the Tour Bus (which included a surprise Beatles cover), and the frontman even ventured down in an attempt to woo the women with his rather “fragile” paper heart. And oh! Did I mention that their bassist looked like a complete Paul McCartney knock off?

While the Houdini Dax was galvanizing a small crowd around the Tour Bus, an eclectic Indian folk outfit was slowly turning out to be the center of attraction of the evening. Maati Baani at the Dewarists’ Stage packed an incredible amount of Indian punch. They had it all – Hindustani classical, Bengali baul, rustic folk, Sufism – peppered with a dash of new age funk and world music. Fronted by the beautiful Nirali Kartik, and a host of other supporting musicians, they carved out a beautiful one hour of varied and soulful compositions in an environment that was predominantly Western-heavy.

Maati Bani

Maati Bani

Meanwhile, the ebullient (and yet another French) duo, The Inspector Cluzo had started creating a ruckus at the Bacardi arena. We went over to find a bearded frontman hurling profanities at everything that was American and British. He proudly touted the fact that their music was absolutely natural – with nothing that was pre-recorded and sampled – and all that they used to perform live, were not laptops and tracks, but their bare hands. On that note, he sent a few heavy riffs flying into the crowd while the drummer entertained us in some rather unique ways. Of the number of songs they performed, one was particularly memorable. This one, titled “F*ck the bass player”, was basically a song about the uselessness of a bassist in a band. Needless to say, they didn’t have one, but it did raise several eyebrows and ruffle many puritan feathers in the crowd.

The Inspector Cluzo

The Inspector Cluzo

The Inspector Cluzo then gave way to the Sky Rabbit on the Red Bull Tour Bus. This four piece electro-rock group from Mumbai played out a rather lackluster gig, following which we headed back to the Dewarists’ stage to see Appleonia – which wasn’t all that great either. The next big thing that we were particularly stoked about was Indian Ocean, which was still a good one hour away. So to while away this gap, we decided to remain near the MTS Discover stage, and munch on pizza slices, to see who filled in for Pentagram (who had cancelled earlier that day). And boy, were we in for a pleasant surprise.

The Ganesh Talkies, fronted by Suyasha SenGupta turned out to be The Undisputed Find of the Day. Suyasha’s captivating stage presence kept the whole crowd hooked while the extremely groovy rhythms and guitars kept a number of heads bobbing up and down. The Talkies’ set included songs from their Technicolor and Three Tier Non AC albums – the result being a heady mix of alt-rock, reggae and dance.

The Ganesh Talkies

The Ganesh Talkies

Next up, were two stalwart acts – both of which have been around for more than two decades and enjoy a cult following in the country: Mumbai based alt-rockers Indus Creed on the Bacardi Stage and Delhi based fusion masters Indian Ocean on the Dewarists’. For me, the decision was a no-brainer, and after having spent not more than ten minutes being bemused by the former, I headed off to have my mind blown to smithereens by the latter.

Indian Ocean is one of those bands that aren’t just heard or listened to. They are experienced. One’s perception of their music transcends far beyond the realms of the sensual, and borders on what could be called the spiritual. Be it Himanshu Joshi’s alaaps, or Rahul Ram’s bass riffs, or Tuheen Chakravorti’s Tabla – they manage to create those picture perfect moments when tranquility and ecstasy co-exist in harmony. Their gig that evening, was essentially part of their tour for promoting their new album Tandanu, and therefore most of the songs were new to me. The fact that they still managed to reach deep down and evoke a plethora of feelings just proved beyond doubt that they continue to be a class above the rest – even after all these years.

Indian Ocean

Indian Ocean

Towards the end of Indian Ocean’s masterclass performance, I had to take my leave to go pay a visit to the Red Bull Tour Bus where Sriram TT and his gang of garage rockers – Skrat, were setting out for a hard hitting, angst-ridden gig. This would be my third Skrat gig in a little less than a year, but it turned out to be as fun as it always had been. Belting out their heavy, riff driven melodies, and their tongue-in-cheek lyrics (“love is like pool / all colour but only balls”) they brought in a completely new dimension to the prevailing mood at the venue, which had just been charged up, rather emotionally by Indian Ocean’s poignant tunes.



Forty five minutes of Skrat later, the entire crowd around the Nicco Park grounds gravitated near the Bacardi Arena where the headliners were about to take off. Mutemath, the American alt-rock group, who even boasted a Grammy nomination to their name, were known to some, and unknown to others. But from the moment they kicked off amid a flurry of confetti and electro-rock tunes, there was not one soul who didn’t have a huge smile plastered on his or her face. I’ll confess that I hadn’t thought so highly of Mutemath before (my primary exposure to their music being a soundtrack on the Asphalt 8 Android game) but boy. Were they bloody good! Paul Meany’s eclectic vocals, his dexterity with keyboards and keytars, Darren King’s thumping beats and not to mention Todd Gummerman’s wonderful guitar work – all fell in perfectly to deliver one of the best live experiences that I’ve ever seen in my life. They performed most of their popular hits, including “Chaos”, “Blood Pressure” and their Grammy nominated single, “Typical”. In the end, they added a wonderful twist when Paul got on top of a rather bling-bling mattress (or was it a magic carpet?) and went sailing over the crowd, while simultaneously performing with consummate ease.



It was close to 10 PM when the burning embers of the fantastic evening began to fade. The lights on the stages had been turned off. One of Quidich’s supercool quadcopter-cameras whirred above my head. I looked around at the venue that was quickly emptying and  couldn’t for the life of me reconcile the pity sight with the extravaganza it had just hosted.

So there you are. That was the end of the epic Calcutta Weekender. It had been a grand success, but if I had to choose I would probably choose Day 1 over Day 2 as my favourite.

As they say after Durga Pujo here in Calcutta – “asche bochor abar hobe”,  you can rest assured that T5R will be back for it next year as well.


Words and pictures by Subhayan Mukerjee (@wrahool)



Bacardi Nh7 Weekender, Kolkata 2014 – Day 1

11 Nov

The independent music culture in Calcutta has seen a long and meandering history. A history that begins back in the 1960s – a time when The Statesman still held the respect and the readership of the Bengalis, when the Communists were yet to form their first government in the state, and yes, when Park Street was still hip.

It has since then, gone into a period of decline, remained underground for a little over three decades, before resurfacing again, just before the turn of the new millenium. Cynics have always been ready to point out that this resurgence of alternative music in Calcutta has sorely lacked the class and exclusivity that had been the essence of the audacious, non-conformist acts from the sixties and seventies. But, the fact remains that Calcutta is, and will continue to be, a stronghold of India’s vibrant indie music scene. Therefore, it isn’t a surprise that the biggest celebration of indie-music in the country, has Calcutta on its map, every year.

Enter the Bacardi Nh7 Weekender.

We’re huge fans of this festival – you’d probably know that, if you have read this blog before – and we weren’t going to miss out on this year’s edition either. And when tickets for Calcutta went on sale earlier this year, we were probably one of the earliest to get our hands on them. The months that passed till the event kicked off on the 1st of November was pretty arduous, and it was made worse by the teasers that the Nh7 Facebook page kept exciting us with.

And then suddenly, it was there.

The first thing that struck me when I reached the venue, like it had, the last time in Bangalore as well, were the absolutely stunning aesthetics. The venue had been set up beautifully – the colours, the graphics, the stages – top notch stuff. There were colourful banners, cheerful graffiti and other brilliant pieces of art strewn all over the grounds. There were weird and whacky constructions, which piqued my interest for a while, but then remained largely forgotten when the main agenda of the evening, finally took off.



The music. Oh my God, the music.

If you’re aware how the Nh7 Weekender works, you’d know that it has multiple arenas, where bands and solo artists perform simultaneously. Thus, it is impossible to attend every single act and watch it through till the end, unless you’re a ninja who can bend spacetime of his own volition. The idea is therefore to optimise your time at each of the arenas and chalk out a roadmap, well in advance, in order to fully enjoy the experience.

Saturday thus began with the electronic/funk duo, Madboy/Mink, atop the uber-cool Red Bull Tour Bus. As a starter, their nu disco music, which came with some pretty groovy synthesizer samples and neat guitar-work, provided the right ambience to get into the mood for the “happiest music festival”. Brownie points for Imaad Shah’s hairdo, and Saba Azad’s cuteness factor.

Madboy/Mink had scarcely been performing for half an hour, when my Weekender antennae reminded me that Blackstratblues were about to kick off on the Dewarists’ stage, and this was one act that I had no intention of missing.

I had never seen them live before, but I had had the fortune of seeing their frontman/lead guitarist, Warren Mendonsa at my previous Weekender. I was therefore, well aware of the galactic levels of skill that this one man packed behind his six strings. And I wasn’t disappointed. They began their set with their hugely popular instrumental from their 2007 album, Knights in Shining Armour – Anuva’s Sky, and then proceeded to blow a few hundred minds around the arena with their eclectic collection of blues melodies.


Warren Mendonsa of the Blackstratblues.

Warren Mendonsa of the Blackstratblues.

Forty five soul-stirring minutes later, we turned towards the MTS Discover stage where Ankur & The Ghalat Family were setting up for a Hindi gig, and without a second thought, I rushed off to the Tour Bus to meet my old friends, The F16s. The F16s is one band that I am quite familiar with, and while they did lack on the crowd-connection front, they made up for it, by setting a large number of heads shaking, and approximately twice the number of feet tapping with much rapidity. Amongst the songs that they played, was the wonderful “My Shallow Lover”, and the trippy “Avalanche”.

After seeing them play out atop the bus, we headed back to the Dewarists’ stage, where Soulmate, the three piece blues rock act from Shillong were going through their routine sound test. Fronted by the beautiful Tipriti Kharbangar and the clinical Rudy Walland, they played a mesmerizing blues set, topping it off, with what was unarguably the sexiest song of the evening – “If you were my guitar” – after which we rushed back to the Tour Bus and sprawled down upon the ground to give our feet a much needed respite, while Calcutta Local performed in the distance.

It was roughly 7:30 PM when we hoisted ourselves once more to plod over to The Dewarists’ stage yet again. The sun had set by then, and the stage was lit up in a shimmering shade of blue. The characteristic strumming of an acoustic guitar floated out of a dense cloud of dry ice, as the ever recognisable voice of Rupam Islam broke out in all of its grungy, acidic, melody. What followed was probably the best one hour of the whole evening.

Yes, as a Bengali who has grown up in Calcutta through the 90s and the 2000s, this wasn’t my first Fossils concert. But boy, oh boy, this is one band that I don’t think I can ever grow out of. As their cult classics rolled past, I think I lost track of time, space and everything in between. (What comes between time and space, I wonder?) An emotionally charged Rupam then hailed this as a definitive moment in the timeline of Bangla Rock, a moment when Bangla, as a language has broken through its limiting shackles and onto a cosmopolitan stage, and Bangla artists were seen as equals, alongside national and international artists of repute.

Rupam Islam of Fossils.

Rupam Islam of Fossils.

After a terrific one hour of intense Bangla Rock, we took a short break to refill ourselves and then went over to the Tour Bus to see a crooning Monica Dogra, solo. Strangely enough, her iconic mid-riff was nowhere to be seen, and even more strange, she wasn’t gyrating at all. Her gyration and mid-riff were all that I remembered from my last sighting of her at Bangalore, but this time around there was none of that. Truth be told, I wasn’t really paying much attention to what she was crooning, because it wasn’t something that excited me terribly, and because I was pretty certain that I had already seen the best of what the evening had to offer. I just sat there, because my poor feet seemed like they would revolt otherwise, and because I really needed this rest before the final two acts of the evening – which as we had guessed, and as we verified, were as far apart in styles as two dissimilar things could ever be.

On one hand, there was Bhayanak Maut, on the Bacardi arena, who are often touted as the heaviest, and the baddest musicians, in this part of the world. On the other hand, there was Amit Trivedi, the far more mellow and mainstream composer of Bollywood filmy songs. We, as gentlefolk often do, decided to focus on the latter, not because we were particularly fond of Amit Trivedi’s music, but because we had run out of steam and had no inclination to headbang and die brutal and anonymous deaths at the “happiest music festival in the country”. Therefore, after spending a short while amid the frantic growling and mosh pitting at the Bacardi arena, we decided to anchor ourselves at the Dewarists’ where we lived out the evening, till the end.

Amit Trivedi with his entourage.

Amit Trivedi with his entourage.

Bhayanak Maut

Bhayanak Maut

To cap it all off, it was a pretty awesome evening. The high points had been the Blackstratblues, The F16s, Soulmate and Fossils. The not so high points had been the entire  Micromax Mega Mix stage (which I had ventured towards, a couple of times, but had found it distasteful), and the unnecessarily crooning Monica Dogra with a non-existent mid-riff. But there had been more highs than lows, and some great highs at that. We hoped it would continue the next day, and we weren’t disappointed.

Read our Day 2 coverage here.

Words and photos by Subhayan Mukerjee (@wrahool)

The Half-Year Mark: Top Five Albums of 2014 So Far

30 Jun

Music can be a pretty powerful thing.

We understand the pointlessness of writing this cliche on a music blog, but such is the fact of the matter. Six months of the year Two Thousand and Fourteen have passed in a flurry of work and worry, and the only demarcation in the swiftly speeding days for us – and for others, we suspect – came through the enjoyment of a great, varied mix of albums by artists old and new. So, without further ado, here are our picks for 2014’s Top Five Albums, six months in. Enjoy!

5. Singles by Future Islands

Singles by Future Islands

It takes guts to name your album Singles. Not only are you claiming that the entire album is single-ready, but you are also implying that you don’t need a kitschy album name to propel you to fame or to keep you there. But Future Islands are not being ballsy with the title of their latest album. Singles is a nod to the unattached, slight melancholia of single men and women all over the world. In short, they are just being honest-to-God, honest-to-pop-music genuine.

Led by eccentric frontman Samuel Herring, Future Islands have somehow pervaded their entire album with this sense of overwhelming genuineness. The lyrics of their break-out track “Seasons (Waiting on You)” (“Seasons change, But I’ve grown tired of trying to change for you/’Cause I’ve been waiting on you”) would incite the plummet a lesser artist. However, in Herring’s honest, old-school pipes and the band’s unapologetically throw-back synth-pop sentimentality, the song becomes larger than itself. Take, for another example, the sparse beauty of “A Dream of You and Me”, where Herring fuels lovelorn pop sentiments with a crazed realness that makes it sound like one of humankind’s first ever love songs.

All in all, Future Islands’ Singles is a collection of songs about love – lost, gained, but on the whole experienced. Like the figure on their album cover, the band has slightly got their heads in the clouds with this whole ‘love’ thing – but that very quality makes for some genuine, real and wholly enjoyable music.

Best songs: “Seasons (Waiting On You)”, “A Dream of You and Me”, “Fall from Grace”

4. Present Tense by Wild Beasts

On first listen, Wild Beasts sound like a hook-heavy (hook-aware?) version of the National, which is itself not a bad thing to be. Further listens of their stunning debut album Present Tense prove that Wild Beasts are much more, for they seethe, prowl and ravage with the most entertaining of all human inventions: drama.

On the chilling, ominous “Daughters”, Tom Fleming’s deep voice blurs the pronunciation of ‘old men’ as ‘omen’ in an ode to a destructive, fiery daughter in an apocalyptic world. On “Mecca”, the band makes a potentially controversial metaphor between to the real Mecca (“I’m a pilgrim and you’re the shrine”) on a song that’s really a beautiful, graceful sex song. The shivering pulses on “Nature Boy” seethe with self-righteous jealousy against a number of people and things.

Like we said, quite entertaining. In a way, Present Tense is almost an inadvertent homage to drama itself, unfurling, folding and twisting in all its lurid, lusty and forceful grandness.

Best songs: “Mecca”, “Wanderlust”, “A Dog’s Life”

3. Sunbathing Animals by Parquet Courts

Sunbathing Animals by Parquet Courts

Brooklyn-based Parquet Courts are widely regarded by many to be Gotham’s successor to those unbeatable indie rock gods, the Strokes. Sure, it’s an over-statement, but there’s more than a kernel of truth there: the opening riffs of several songs on the album are starkly Strokesian. But the great part about Sunbathing Animals is the fact that Parquet Courts cleverly combine this archetypal NYC indie rock sound with those of several other great bands – Pavement, Joyce Manor and Yuck, to name a few.

But Parquet Courts are not just a pastiche of well-known indie rock bands. They may seem like just a ridiculously dance-able wall of sound at first, but they’ve got a lot more up their sleeves. Frontman Andrew Savage’s non-stop flow of words are somewhat unintelligible, but listen closer and you will find that they are quite well-written. For example, between the frenetic chug of guitar and drums on “Black and White”, Savage acutely articulates the very intensity of their music (“Nothing makes my heart so wild as being in possession of a potent night/Racing down the stairs in a nude descension shedding and discarding my hide”) and tosses it up with some good old-fashioned self-doubt (“Is the solitude I seek a trap where I’ve been blindly led?/ Tell me, where then do I go instead?”).

Nor are they just a wall of sound. The mellower “Dear Ramona” and “Into the Garden” are perfect breathers between crazy-energy pieces like “Ducking and Dodging”, “Always Back in Town” and the afore-described “Black and White”.

At the moment, Parquet Courts could do with a little more self-restraint – the over-the-top rants on the eponymous “Sunbathing Animal” or the painful harmonica solo on “She’s Rollin” are a few examples in this direction. Hopefully, with time, the craziness can be reined in (just a little) to produce some truly terrific indie rock. We’re certainly looking forward to that day.

Best tracks: “Black and White”, “Dear Ramona”, “Ducking and Dodging”

2. Salad Days by Mac DeMarco

As you, the frequent reader, might have noticed, we at Top Five Records are big fans of the perfectly-chosen album cover. The image that graces an album (or, in our times, the webpage from where you’re streaming or downloading the album) is perhaps the first and strongest impression your mind forms about what your ears are about to take in.

Salad Days by Mac DeMarco

Mac DeMarco’s latest album Salad Days features the lanky, easy-going singer half-smiling at us in everyman clothes, bathed in dappled sunlight. Just from that image, you might expect laid-back guitar-based pop that could conceivably be played in someone’s backyard on a lazy Sunday afternoon – and, happily, that’s exactly what you get.

But don’t think that Salad Days is an obviously-named reflection on the passing of one’s salad days, though. On the eponymous first track, DeMarco seems to veer towards the topic (“Missing hippy Jon, salad days are gone/Remembering things just to tell ‘em so long”) before gently chiding himself: “Oh mama, actin’ like my life’s already over/Oh dear, act your age and try another year.” It’s precisely this charming, self-deprecatory manner that makes Salad Days so refreshing.

Besides, DeMarco looks exactly like Wayne from Wayne’s World. Who doesn’t love that?!

Best tracks: “Salad Days”, “Let My Baby Stay”, “Let Her Go”

1. No Mythologies to Follow by MØ

Last year, we frothed at the mouth about “Pilgrim”, a bewitching song by Danish recording artist MØ (real name: Karen Marie Ørsted). It should come as no surprise that MØ’s debut album No Mythologies to Follow is our favourite album from these past six months.

No Mythologies to Follow by MØ

Throughout the album, MØ sways and amazes with her sheer variety of intoxicating beats – and the way her talented vocals mesh with them. Seriously, nearly every song on the album stands out in its own breath-taking way. There’s the lurching pulse on the vengeful “Fire Rides”. The melodic, Haim-like “Maiden”, full of sparkly Scandinavian pop hooks, showcases MØ’s sultry-voiced avatar. “Don’t Wanna Dance”, a dance-pop gem about bad boys that make MØ want to tear her white skin apart, would suit heavy radio rotation perfectly. There’s the drunken, pop-lock confidence of “Waste of Time”. It’s enough to almost overshadow the hypnotic perfection of “Pilgrim”. (Almost.)

No Mythologies to Follow is an heady piece of art that growls, wails and croons in all the right ways and at all the right places. Yes, that sounds like a cliché, but listen to the album and you’ll see what we mean. No Mythologies to Follow is not just the best album of the last six months: it’s the album to beat in 2014.

Best songs: “Pilgrim”, “Maiden”, “Don’t Wanna Dance”

The Best EDM Songs: A Guest List by Anish Sood

23 Sep

DJ Anish Sood

Greetings to the EDM enthusiasts among Top Five’s readers! Recently, new writer Ayeesha Khanna went to a gig by Anish Sood. After a little chat, India’s very own EDM poster boy agreed to let her in on a sacred list in the world of EDM: his top five EDM songs. Anish Sood has been in the industry for five years now, and is bigger than ever before. His ear for music and experience in production are showcased in the terrific list he complied for us.

1. “Crave You (Original Mix)” by Flight Facilities feat. Giselle

Also known as Hugo & Jimmy, Australian indie electro duo Flight Facilities began mixing songs by others artists in 2009. The duo consists of Hugo Stuart Gruzman and James “Jimmy” Nathan Lyell. Their first original track, “Crave You”, with vocals by Giselle Rosselli, was reelased in 2010. While the lyrics define a girl’s perspective on the ever-elusive chase, the music gradually increases the pulse of the song. The end result is an intoxicated mind on oscillating shoulders – or what Anish Sood refers to as ‘a serious tune’. With the sax accompaniment towards the end, it’s a one of a kind electronic production.

2. “Fifteen (Oxford Club Mix)” by Goldroom

In this classic version of the song, Goldroom wastes no time in making the listener want to shimmy. Right from the first second, the strong beats and slick tune boast of bold music production. And then the vocals kick in, Australian singer Chela and her divine voice catalysing the rush that comes with Fifteen. Dance Music has never seen sweeter days.

3. “You & Me (Original Mix)” by Disclosure feat. Eliza Doolittle

Eliza Doolittle’s brilliant vocals feature in this song by Disclosure, a British electronic garage-house duo. It released as a digital download in the United Kingdom very recently. Deep meaningful lyrics only add substance to the song, while the beats put you in fly-away mode, enhanced by the young couple in the video, shown back-packing across Europe. The music and Eliza’s voice unite in a mesmerizing union to produce classic house at its refreshing best.

4. “Reverse Skydiving (Shadow Child Remix)” by Hot Natured feat. Anabel Englund

Legendary vibes. That’s the first thing that comes to mind when you listen to Reverse Skydiving. Englund’sdreamy voice penetrates through your brain and sends it soaring as she says ‘You don’t have to jump to fly with me’. Soon you’re jumping anyway; earthy resounding beats replace her voice and you really can’t help yourself. Electronic music in your bones, this one.

5. “Jack (Original Mix)” by Breach

“I want your body, everybody wants your body, so let’s jack.” On repeat. For three booty-shaking minutes. A nasty mix of wild visuals with a swag-defining house tune, the song is full of opportunities to really get raunchy on the dancefloor. Mindless dance music. So let’s jack.

So there you have it. That was Anish Sood with his brilliant list of EDM songs. Let us know how it works out for you!

Words by Ayeesha Khanna

An engineer by fluke, an artist by choice and a writer by default, Ayeesha finds herself in her happy place exploring new music and jabbering about how each song makes her feel. It’s not half bad. She’s like a mad scientist by day and hippie by night. Why, what colour is your raindrop?

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