Tag Archives: f16s

Monthly Playlist: Jun. 2019

2 Jul

And just like that, we’re halfway through 2019. So far, the year has given us some great music already. There have been some fantastic albums from well-established bands (Vampire Weekend, Foals) and break-out debuts from true diamonds-in-the-rough (see: slowthai). Read on for our picks this month – spanning old-school indie rock, beautiful folk-pop, and two of the best tracks all year from the Indian subcontinent.

Read on below for the goods:

5. “No Bullets Spent” by Spoon

As our readers know well, we at Top Five Records are huge fans of Austin-based indie rock veterans Spoon. Their 2017 album, Hot Thoughts, made it onto our year-end list that year, and “No Bullets Spent” perfectly espouses all we love about this band. In spades are the laid-back vibes undeniably sourced from their hometown of Austin, TX; lead singer Britt Daniel’s lackadaisical lyrics; the unmistakably subtle-yet-groovy Spoon chorus; and so much more. “No Bullets Spent” was released to hype up the release of the band’s greatest hits album (Everything Hits at Once) on July 26th. Whether you’re already a Spoon fan or not, we encourage you to check out this track, and of course the greatest-hits compilation when it’s out.

4. “Love Yourself” by Sufjan Stevens

Love Yourself” is an electronic-tinged slowjam that works in two ways: one, as a plea to your lover to appreciate themselves more (“Love, can you love yourself”); two, as a note-to-self with the same message. Either way, it’s a gorgeous, lushly-produced song that perfectly features Sufjan’s emotive pipes. Sufjan Stevens has enjoyed a recent surge in popularity, in part due to the vital inclusion of a couple of his songs on Call Me By Your Name, 2017’s sleeper art film hit. With “Love Yourself” – released as part of a four-song Pride Month EP – Sufjan fans both new and old are likely to be more than satisfied. We sure are!

3. “My Baby’s Beak” by the F16s

In the early part of this decade, something magical was happening in Chennai’s indie music scene. There were suddenly a swathe of very good, very unique and very closely-knit artists coming out of the southern port city. Everyone seemed to know each other. Everyone wanted everyone else to succeed. Everyone came out to each other’s shows. Was there something in the Chennai water?

Over the years, we’ve spoken to and closely covered several of these bands, and what we’ve gleaned is the following. The city’s strong musical streak, combined with the centering of the Indian indie music away from Chennai to other metros (Mumbai, Bangalore) and the piteous lack of venues in town, meant that Chennai’s independent musicians had a truly DIY approach to their craft. People practiced in home spaces. Bands shared band members. And there was a strong support system that helped bands thrive and maintain their wholly unique sounds.

One of these bands is the F16s. For many of us at Top Five Records, songs like “Light Bulbs” and “Avalanche” (from 2013’s Kaleidoscope) exemplified the careful balance between restraint and decadence of our millennial existences back in the day. The band’s follow-up album, 2016’s Triggerpunkte, had a few stand-out tracks, but it felt like a stepping stone to the F16s’ next great output: and WKND FRNDS is it.

All four of the songs on this crisp new EP are great, but “My Baby’s Beak” really clicked with us. We can best describe the song as the soundtrack one might choose while writing desperate love letters, from a tropical island, pina colada in hand – in the 1980s. “Oh mama, can you tell me if I made it / My ego gets inflated with you,” croons lead singer Josh Fernandes, complementing the luxurious sounds from the rest of the band. The song’s a true treat for fans eagerly awaiting new F16s music, and for new listeners alike. P.S. If you liked this one, we’ll also take this time to recommend the EP’s eponymous track as a follow-up.

2. “Speedway” by black midi

The four young members of black midi met at BRIT School, the UK’s premier music school that has produced legends such as Amy Winehouse and Adele. Centered somewhere between the Foals’ math-rock and Animal Collective’s asymmetric ethos, black midi enthralls with a ridiculously ready-out-of-the-gate sound. Our favorite track off their debut album Schlagenheim is “Speedway” – a pulsing, hypnotic song filled with feverish stops and starts. Slightly nerve-wracking and more than slightly ominous, “Speedway” is testament to what the lads can pull off in a mere three minutes. If you like this song, check out “953” from the same album for some bewilderingly good punk rock.

1. “Floated By” by Peter Cat Recording Co

There is no other way to say this: Peter Cat Recording Co is one of the best bands to ever come out of the Indian subcontinent. With meticulous detailing and inimitable style, the Delhi-based gypsy / jazz band has long excited us here at Top Five Records. The band’s new album, Bismillah, dropped earlier this month, and suffice it to say, we cannot get enough of it.

Bismillah’s stand-out, in our opinion, is “Floated By”; a song so good that we wrote the rest of this list with it in a firm #1. “Floated By” finds the band in their element – a melancholic wedding band letting loose after a drink too many in hand and an hour too long on stage. (The twist here, as seen in the song’s music video, is that the wedding in question is lead singer Suryakant Sawhney’s own, real nuptials.)

As with most Peter Cat songs, the real star of the song is Sawhney’s powerful voice. In between the wedding-procession drums and slightly off-kilter horns, his voice rings out: true, wistful and imbued with astonishing range. A simple line (“I know that I should / I know that I would”) takes him ages to enunciate, as his voice floats across the vocal spectrum.

Simply put, “Floated By” is one of the best songs we’ve heard all year. Look for a full review of Bismillah soon – and until then, please give the album a listen.

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The F16s: Kaleidoscope

28 Aug

Top Five Records is no stranger to the Chennai Music Scene; we’ve done our best to highlight the polished, challenging, unique indie sound that comes out of a city that normally has a less-than-stellar reputation for indie music. Bands like Little Babooshka’s Grind, Junkyard Groove, Adam & the Fish Eyed Poets and the Shakey Rays have challenged that notion time and again over the past year or two, and now it’s the F16s’ turn to challenge India’s perception of what the southern city’s young musicians can come up with.

The F16s
The F16s’ debut album, Kaleidoscope, is a mix-and-match of styles, genres, sounds, stories and inspirations (although somewhat skewed towards a mix of Arctic Monkeys and the Strokes) that comes together in a burst of colour and shapes, and ideally beer. It’s almost overwhelming. Heady, carnival-inspired post-break-up indie? Check. Guitar-fuzzed, anthemic garage rock? Check.  Smokey-back-room-inspired depressing alt rock? Check. Kaleidoscope works as the perfect showcase for one of the few Indian bands who can rightly claim the tag “genre defying.”

It also doesn’t hurt that the EP is accompanied by absolutely gorgeous album and single art.

It also doesn’t hurt that the EP is accompanied by absolutely gorgeous album and single art.

So, on to the album, then. “Prelude” first tiptoes and then charges onto the scene armed with a driving guitar riff, pressing drum beat and tinged with acid techno. A little over a minute later, however, “Light Bulbs” strolls in: a swinging, off-centre electric piano groove, with drawling guitars and drawling vocals. Full of a painful, morose sort of ennui, it’s almost impossible not to imagine a depressed 20-something in a Delhi restrobar with her friends, trying to stay afloat in the gloomy bar-hopping culture of young corporate India. Appropriately enough, the song ends with a vocal harmonization that rivals that heard in Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida”. It does have way more cowbell though, so I suppose in some respects it’s even better.

The depression doesn’t abate as the EP slides into “Avalanche”. We love the original acoustic version, but it’s great to hear it fully realized in electric: subtle organ shifts and a catchy syncopated guitar rhythm (anyone else hearing A Certain Romance?) strengthen a song that’s about trying to run away from your troubles.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech allows for a bizarre but  fun segue into “The King’s Dream”, a song that starts off sounding like Jet and ends up sounding like The Fratellis. Fuzzy guitars and a very danceable beat make for  the kind of music that’s perfect for non-IDM-saturated hipster parties; their groove just won’t let you stay still. Don’t worry, though: the Reverend’s spirit lives on in the song through its lyrics full of rebellion (although admittedly from an upper-middle-class youth perspective). 

“Who Robbed the Rogue” moves The F16s’ sound into new territory yet again, flying through the Strokes’galaxy with a minor stopover in MGMT’s world. The song’s outro is a universe apart entirely, and builds up into a crescendo of what we can only describe as Wagnerian rock (think early-2000s Muse).

“My Shallow Lover” is a great follow-up song after “The Rogue”. Ostensibly a song of discovered adultery with none of the tears and all of the middle fingers, “My Shallow Lover” doesn’t beat about the bush:

“I don’t give a fuck about who you love and who you want and who you are, because I’m more important than you.”

High on cheek, sugar, and rotary organ keyboards, what sets this song apart from all the others in the EP is its super-awesome carnival descent at the end of the track: A heady mix of shoe-gaze and dream-pop that sounds exactly how I imagine dropping acid and riding a merry-go-round would feel.

Wrap your head around that for a second.

“Nuke” slows things down a bit, for a second, before turning up the fuzz slowly. First comes another Arctic Monkeys-esque drum groove (revisiting “Whatever People Say I AM” territory), before Josh opens his pipes again to belt: “Can you take control?” The song’s outro returns us back to Kaleidoscope’s initial techno-ish feel, albeit with a heavier, more industrial sound, before we’re left to our own devices surrounded by a fading hiss of static.

Kaleidoscope does have its rough parts: not all songs are for everyone, and it takes a rather unique listener to be able to appreciate each and every song. We’re talking about a release that jumps from genre to genre, from inspiration to inspiration, and from story to story almost every other minute.  Still, each jump brings you to newer territory and more awesome sounds, so the aural exercise is definitely worth it.

Go listen to the F16s on their SoundCloud account and buy their EP over at OK Listen. And check out the band’s Facebook Page for lyrics and absolutely gorgeous album/single art!

Also, a huge shout-out to Harshan Radhakrishnan for making keyboards sound cool!

– Karthik Manickam

Saturday Morning Breakfast Songs: A List

13 Apr

Saturday morning, half past ten.

It’s Saturday morning. The curtains in your bedroom are slightly parted, and there’s a pleasant breeze breathing through the window. A beam of sunlight, just warm enough, glances across your face and bathes the room in a tint of impossible comfort. You just want to lay in your bed forever, a frequent flier between ‘awake’ and ‘asleep’.

You’re not unique in this experience: we’ve all been there. The question is, of course, what should you listen to? That’s where we come in. Here are the top five songs to ensure you wake up to a lazy, relaxed and perfect weekend. Since this list could engender a vast number of possible choices, we’ve narrowed it down a tad by including only inputs from within the subcontinent. Enjoy!

1. You Can Wonder, by the F16s

The F16s are a four-piece indie pop act from Chennai with an impeccable sense of rhythm and tone. Their lovely song, “You Can Wonder”, instantly brings to mind drifting clouds, aquamarine waters and, undeniably, contented laziness. It’s like sipping a fresh lime cooler on a Hawaiian vacation. From the laid-back guitar to the mellow phrasings of the singer’s voice, “You Can Wonder” hits every note of the perfect breezy song. We agree with the F16s: this song lies “between a fantasy and what is real”, much like those fleeting moments where you can still kind of remember what you were dreaming about.

2. Summer State of Mind, by Plastic Parvati

At all of 49 seconds, this excellent song by Plastic Parvati (Kolkata-based The Ganesh Talkies’ Suyasha Sengupta) boasts of four lines of lyrics and an addictive tabla-like beat that will make your morning almost improbably happier. Besides, there’s also Suyasha’s voice: jazzy, quirky, and positively drenched in lackadaisy. We promise you that even in your sleepy lethargy, you’re going to press ‘replay’ as soon as this song starts fading out.

3. Sleeping in the Back of Her Car, by the Shakey Rays

Here at Top Five, we’ve already heaped a lot of praise for our favorite Chennai boys, The Shakey Rays. This beautiful track from Tunes from the Big Belly picks up from the “crazy, hazy night” before the lazy weekend morning in question. On this fateful night, the singer walks around with beer on his breath and a smile on his face, meets a girl, gets into her car and (surprise!) falls asleep. Like most material that the Shakey Rays put out, everything on this track just fits: the palpable jangly beauty of the guitars, their immaculately harmonized vocals, and pleasantly nuanced drumming on Niranjan Swaminathan’s part. Oh, and the lyrics. This song could soundtrack your dreams: let it.

4. Monkey in Me, by Nischay Parekh

Nischay Parekh is a young singer-songwriter from the storied city of Kolkata with a voice that was intended by God to sing softly over sleepy mornings. The pretty, happy “Monkey in Me” is, frankly, a bit of a sensory overload: reminding you of sugary doughnuts and morning coffee (with vanilla swirls!) as much as it does of the way that green, sunlit leaves sway in a gentle breeze. Apart from Nischay’s delicate and gifted vocals, we also eagerly doff our hats to Shaumik Biswas’ intuitive drumming and Rohit Kapoor’s talented bass-playing. “Cosmically speaking, I think I’d be dreaming if I fell in love,” sings Nischay, but we beg to differ slightly: you’re going to fall in love with this song (and Nischay’s music) because it is exactly what you should hear when you’re dreaming.

5. Bindya, by Sulk Station

After shuttling between Kolkata and Chennai, we’re going to direct you to Bangalore’s trip-hop phenomenon Sulk Station’s gorgeous track “Bindya”. On this song, Tanvi Rao recites a beautiful hymn-prayer with all the splendor and clarity of sunlight filtering through a pristine rural morning, and Rahul Giri backs it up with a subtle touch of his electronica. “Bindya” is one of those songs that, if heard in the correct moment, can leave you completely spellbound. That magical twilight zone when you’re just waking up is one of those correct moments.

So there you have it. Have a nice weekend!

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