Tag Archives: alternative

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.

karnivoolpress

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.)

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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

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Top 5 Artists from Chennai

28 Jun

Due to a certain chain of events in my early twenties, I was made to spend the first half of this year in (what I assumed was) India’s capital of fervent orthodoxy, Chennai. When people heard of my move, they offered their condolences and (more often) their schadenfreude: but not one of them offered me a heads up about the thriving musical scene here. Now, when you see the words “Chennai” and “music” in the same sentence, it’s natural to expect the word “Carnatic” to pop up soon after. The only phrase I knew that went against this intuition was “Junkyard Groove”. But, as I eventually discovered, Chennai is one of India’s premiere hotbeds for young, alternative talent. Here’s a list of the best alternative indie that the city has to offer.

5. Little Babooshka’s Grind 

Rounding out the end of our countdown are the excellently-named veterans Little Babooshka’s Grind (LBG). They really are pioneers of Indian original rock music, making great electro-rock songs (see: “Doll” on the Blue Butterfly Express EP) way back in 1999 when most other bands on the scene were covering songs that had already been covered a million times. Songs like “Codeine” and “Money” brought sufficient funk to their old-school classic rock sound on first album This Animal is Called the Wallet, while “Basics of Life” is our favorite track off of sophomore album Bad Children.

They’ve been around for almost two decades, but the all-originals band isn’t going away anytime soon. Last November, they released new single “Big Words”, from the upcoming album Wake Up… The Break Up, when they got selected as one of the five bands at the Ray Ban Never Hide Sounds band competition. As an added bonus, here is a rare LBG cover of Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” at The Great Indian Oktober Fest, Bangalore last year!

4. Harsha Iyer

Next up on our list is a young singer-songwriter from Chennai whose debut made quite the splash last year. Harsha Iyer, at all of 19, released an album on which he wrote, sang, performed, and produced all of the twelve original tracks. Not bad for a kid who in an alternate timeline would be getting ragged by college seniors. Dabbling in a plethora of genres with a self-confidence that most 19-year-olds don’t possess, Harsha took the Indian indie scene by storm with Curious Toys. Tracks like “Overcautious” and “I Find You Boring” celebrate his considerable youth, whereas on songs like “Money” and “Not Dead Yet”, Harsha weaves tales of imaginary characters with surprisingly shrewd songwriting skills. The Chennai musician is now releasing a second album, a twenty-track behemoth, in two separate installments a month apart. His first single “Mystery Woman” is out already, and you should definitely give it a listen.

3. Adam & the Fish-eyed Poets

AATFEP is a real gem of the Chennai scene. The band is the solo singer-songwriter project of a certain Kishore Krishna, who also happens to serve as something of a mentor for younger city musicians like the above-mentioned Harsha Iyer. Both his debut Snakeism (a la the shape-shifting slitheriness of the genres on the album) and his sophmore Dead Loops are spectacular examples of what the country’s indie musicians can do if they push themselves to their boundaries. It really needn’t be said how there are far too many ‘indie’ ‘musicians’ in India who do no such thing. Snakeism in particular is dark, seething, stylish and clearly bursting at the seams with exceptional talent. “Black eyed Monster” and “Little Monkeys” are the shiniest in this gem box of a debut, whereas “Purgatory City” (Chennai?) captivates on Dead Loops. Don’t think too much. Go download both albums and just listen. Don’t be shocked if you are genuinely amazed at the influences and styles and genres that are at play in AATFEP’s work. This, my friend, is music for the cynics.

2. Junkyard Groove

At number 2 is the band that originally put Chennai on the indie map: Junkyard Groove, or JYG as it is fondly known. Ever since their debut way back in 2005, JYG has opened for some of the most famous international acts to perform in the country, and for good reason. Exceptionally refined production values, good songwriting, and truly gifted musicians: there is little that this band lacks. The energetic funk on “Feel Like a Knife” (from their 2009 album 11:11) entrances you seconds into the song, and just wait until you get to the fat bass interlude. “Folk You” and “It’s Ok” are pretty snazzy too. Their latest single “4 to 5 Things” sounds like a rocked-out Irish jig. We really suggest you listen to it.

1. The Shakey Rays

It’s hardly over-stretching the truth to state that there’s nothing in India quite like the Shakey Rays. Tight arrangements meet genuinely good songcraft in perhaps one of the most innovative bands ever to call India their homeland. You can literally listen to any five seconds off their debut, and conclude that it is both shockingly original and unnaturally good. Divine pop tunesmithery and a certain inimitable sense of musical intuition run wild and free on Tunes from the Big Belly, bringing up DMB and the Beatles and RHCP and the Kinks and whoever else with the greatest of skill: i.e., influenced by, but not imitations of. It can be safely said that there are about three or four new bands in India who have mastered this art, and possibly none as well as the Shakey Rays. As their name suggests, this band is truly the sunshine filtering through the smog of the Indian indie scene. Perhaps it is only apt that they hail from the city of year-round sunshine.

It’s impossible to pick favorite tracks on the album, but “I’m Gonna Catch That Train” is a good place to start. It takes a lot of talent to beat Junkyard Groove at their own game, but the Shakey Rays show immense promise. Music fans in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Delhi rejoice, for the Rays are coming to a venue near you in July! Please don’t miss it.

Agree with the top 5? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section! 

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