Tag Archives: the 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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Bacardi Nh7 Weekender, Bangalore 2014 – Day 2

15 Nov

The Bacardi NH7 Weekender is one of our favorite events of the year. It lets us catch up with tens of acts from across the country – some new, some legendary – all within a beautiful, aesthetically arranged venue. On the weekend of November 8th and 9th, we went to the Bangalore edition of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender, and were blown away by breadth of artists on stage. Here’s our take!

Beautiful aesthetics

Day 2

As with Day 1, our journey on Day 2 began with the Red Bull Tour Bus. The originally slated act, Delhi Sultanate and Begum X, was cancelled, giving way to an amazing performance by Your Chin, the peculiarly-named solo act of Sky Rabbit’s lead singer Raxit Tewari. Your Chin’s metered electronic music, buoyed by Raxit’s genuinely pleasant voice, seemed to pull the expansive lawns in front of the Tour Bus into a much closer venue. “Run Along Little One” was a stand-out track in Your Chin’s brilliant 45-minute set.

Your Chin

In perfect contrast to Raxit’s calm, subtle music was The Inspector Cluzo, performing immediately after at the Bacardi Arena. The self-touted farmers from Gascony, France, enthralled the audience with their music as well as what can only be described as stereotypically French stand-up comedy – the biggest butt of which was, of course, those Englishmen and their pissy English music. The Top Five Records team couldn’t help but remember the French knights scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. (Those silly English knnigghts!) All said and done, The Inspector Cluzo were a massively entertaining act, and rightly gained hundreds of new fans that day.

Inspector Cluzo

Up to this point, we had covered every stage except the Micromax Mega Mix stage. Thus, we made our way there to catch Klypp, a Bangalore-based duo specializing in making soundtracks to your inner visual-weaver (their words). Next, we caught Blent, a Bangalore-based game designer turned musician who currently serves as the resident DJ at the massively popular Humming Tree in Indiranagar.

However, this was all filler compared to the act that was setting up at the Dewarists: Thermal and a Quarter. Since 1996, TAAQ has been Bangalore’s most beloved alt-rock product, with several legendary albums under their belt. At the Weekender this year, we were incredibly lucky to hear the band’s latest album, The Scene, in almost its entirety. The album featured a tongue-in-cheek look at India’s music scene today, from the good (so many women festival-goers!) to the bad (all those ‘musicians’ on their Mac Books).

Thermal and a Quarter

Throughout their humbling one-hour show, Mr. Mani inadvertently schooled every lead singer in the country on how to captivate an audience’s attention: not by yelling at them to jump (ahem, Mink) or mumbling at them to dance if they want to (ahem, Your Chin) or by ignoring them to a large extent (ahem, Money for Rope). No, Mr. Mani captivated the audience by genuinely connecting with them, by giving a likeable intro to each new song, by playing skilled, appropriately-sized solos, and by creating a generally friendly and relaxed vibe. So much so that the audience had quite a smattering of little kids dancing with their moms!

Mr. Bruce Lee Mani

Mr. Bruce Lee Mani

After the show, we walked 20 metres to the MTS Discover stage, where Skrat began their ever-electrifying set. Like TAAQ, Skrat also took the Weekender opportunity to showcase songs from their new album, The Queen. The Top Five Records team has been in love with the album ever since its launch last month, and we naturally loved the chance to hear some of Skrat’s best new songs live. In particular, the wordless choruses on “Machete” and “Stomp” were the stand-out moments of the band’s raucous gig. The frenetic atmosphere was ably helped along by Skrat’s charismatic lead singer, Sriram TT, who was (or seemed to be) drunk out of his mind. He even ended up doing a tribute dance to Rajni Saar, in a not-so-subtle tip-of-the-hat to Kollywood in light of Amit Trivedi’s Bollywood extravaganza the previous night.

Skrat

Here, we must put in an extremely important word to the the festival organizers: NEVER pit Skrat against the F16s. It’s just not fair to make us choose between the two Chennai exports. Unfortunately, by the time Skrat’s monumental one-hour frenzy ended, we were left with just 15 minutes of the F16s, over at the Bacardi Arena. Luckily, we got to catch our favorite song, “Light Bulbs”, along with one or two new pieces that the band debuted.

The F16s

After the double bill of Skrat and the F16s, we were too tired to catch but a few minutes of the wonderful Soulmate, comprising two of Shillong’s bluesiest, most talented individuals. After refuelling with food and drink, we made our way to the Bacardi Arena, where almost everyone had gathered to witness the spectacle that is Mutemath.

On a personal note, though, some of our team felt that perhaps calling a sparsely known (although talented) band was kind of an elitist take on what constitutes a headliner act. We’re pretty sure that 80% of the crowd knew less than 20% of the songs that the band played. But, on the whole, the crowd didn’t seem to care. Overall, Mutemath had the energy and raw talent to close out the Bacardi NH7 Weekender in a fitting manner, and that’s what mattered in the end.

MUTEMATH

MUTEMATH

Words by Neeharika Palaka. Images by Rajat Tibrewal.

Indie March Night at Counter Culture, Bangalore (22/3/2014)

29 Mar

The month of March was a great time to visit Counter Culture, an excellent, aesthetic live music venue in the bustling Bangalore suburb of Whitefield. March 8 fielded an eclectic and wholly excellent bevy of women artists in honor of Women’s Day; this weekend features Avial, Agam and Lagori in a delicious palette of modern Indian music. But last weekend was truly the centerpiece of the whole mad March extravaganza: five gifted, exciting bands that form a rough outline of where Indian indie is today and where it has the potential to go.

First on the billing at the Indie March night on March 22nd was the intriguingly-named post-rock Bangalore act Space Behind the Yellow Room. This was the first time I’d heard them, and the little that I did hear that night was magical: the ethereal, frenetic music setting the tone for the night that was just unfolding. Interspersed throughout their mostly instrumental pieces were some rather unfathomable, but wholly enjoyable shrieks and screams from the drummer (we’ll never know if they were parts of the composition, or in-situ improvisation). Unfortunately, due to a number of reasons including Bangalore traffic and unfashionable lateness, I only managed to catch a few snippets of their music, but it definitely made a great first impression. And raised questions, too: what is behind the yellow room?

 

Which space? Why yellow?

Which space? Why yellow?

Space Behind the Yellow Room was followed by Until We Last, another post-rock band from Bangalore. From what I could gather, there were two different impressions that people had about Until We Last following Space Behind the Yellow Room. Some, like myself, thought it wasn’t the smartest of lineups: post-rock is great for quiet introspection and expensive headphones, but by this time, most people had had a drink or three in them and wanted, well, dance music.

Until We Last

They were dancing, but in a more post-rock way.

Others disagreed. Another Top Five member found the band to be top-notch, and arguably one of the centerpieces of the music that evening. Either way, though, Until We Last definitely did not disappoint. I had first seen them at the Bangalore Weekender last year, where they completely transformed a lawn on a bright Bangalore morning into a dreamlike, almost ethereal space. Here, too, they brought the same ethos, but perhaps their music is more suited for the aforementioned bright mornings: a few hundred tipsy twenty-somethings aren’t the best vessels of contemplation. Special note must be given, though, to their track “Water” as well as the way they signed off: “We are Until We Last.” Think about it. It’s pretty deep.

Like I said, two post-rock bands back-to-back wasn’t the greatest of ideas. In essence, the atmospheric drama carefully draped over the crowd by these two bands was ripped apart the second the F16s took to the stage. The young Chennai indie rock band were coming off of strong wins at IIT Madras, JD Rock Awards, Hornbill and pretty much anywhere else they went. It only took a few minutes into their tight, spotless set to realize that they deserve every damn one of those awards. The F16s have really got it all together: the suaveness, the confidence, the professionalism and, yeah, the hair.

The F16s

For me, one of the greatest moments of the night was when they broke into an absolutely perfect cover of “Mansard Roof” by Vampire Weekend. And these guys really are real rock stars. Of the five bands that played at Counter Culture that night, the F16s were the only band that had the audience singing along to every one of their tracks: the beautifully executed “Light Bulbs” was a particular stand-out. Last month at the JD Rock Awards, the F16s won “Best Emerging Band” and I have to say, Rolling Stone pretty much got that one exactly right.

After an amazing one-hour set, the F16s handed over the stage to Skrat, their fellow indie rockers from Chennai. Theatrical and energetic, Skrat are quintessential entertainers, led by the instantly likeable Sriram TT. The clock was ticking around midnight at that point (Whaddup, extended Bangalore curfew!) and most people in the venue were quite well sloshed. The crowd basically went wild during Skrat’s well-known and well-loved tracks like “Samurai Badass” and “Tin Can Man”, but things reached a different level of pandemonium when the band proclaimed their love of motorbikes and immediately got a guy to ride a motorbike to the front of the stage. Unfortunately, I don’t have photos to prove it, but I assure you it was awesome.

Shortly before the motorcycle arrived.

Shortly before the motorcycle arrived.

Most people didn’t really get over the F16s-Skrat double blast, which meant that the final band of the night, Parvaaz, unfortunately didn’t get the audience it deserved. The few people who remained sober until the end claimed that Parvaaz was pretty good too, and that they boasted of a heady mix of technical competence and soaring Urdu vocals. Apologies for our inability to verify that claim.

Parvaaz

Clocking at a little under six hours, Indie March Night was a mini-festival in itself, and a really great way to spend a Saturday evening/night.

Words, photos and video by Neeharika Palaka and Subhayan Mukerjee

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

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