Tag Archives: the shakey rays

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!

A Shakey Picture

8 Nov

The Shakey Rays are a three piece rock and roll band from Chennai that have been creating waves of awed adoration wherever they bring their unique tunesmithery. Coming off of a brilliant show at BITS Pilani’s cultural fest Oasis, the boys are now gigging their way through Delhi, winning the hearts of hundreds of fans (and women) wherever they go. Top Five Records caught up with Dhruva, Vikram (Vicky), Niranjan (Ninju), guest bassist Abhinav (of fellow Chennai artists Adam and the Fish-Eyed Poets) and band manager Jolene for a quick fifteen minutes in between their hectic calendar.

Top Five Records: Congrats on the excellent show, guys! Those of us that weren’t lucky enough to be there to see you guys opening for TAAQ got regular, ecstatic updates from people that WERE there.

Pilani, as you guys know now, is in the middle of nowhere, which is quite a change for most bands gigging around India in the same five or six cities. Tell us a bit about what you were thinking when the cab driver was taking you through the seemingly endless rustic hinterlands of dust and Haryanvis.

Ninju: We saw our lives flash before our eyes.
Dhruva: Lord have mercy on our poor souls!
Abhinav: It was dusty.
Vicky: I was praying dude!
Abhinav: He (Vicky) was seeking divine intervention.
Jolene: It was exhilarating and scary at the same time. The drivers were racing each other, driving on the opposite side of the road and missing oncoming vehicles by mere feet of distance … we tried to alleviate the fact that our lives were on the line by alternatively trying to sleep, talking to each other and analysing the 90’s Bollywood love songs being played on the stereo. But all’s when that ends well, we got to campus alive and were later told that the sort of ride we had to campus was an important part of the BITS experience.

TFR: BITSians pride themselves on being, well, chilled out (sometimes a bit too much, actually). Tell us a little bit about your Oasis experience.

Dhruva: Brilliant!
Abhinav and Ninju: Special mention to Jashid and Champu (Vineet Chaudhury) for taking us around and being generally awesome.
Vicky: We didn’t steal any towels, though I hope I didn’t put one in my bag by mistake.
Jolene: I’m super glad we got to play this gig (thanks Neeharika, Karthik and the organizers). Playing in front of such a large audience, so different from the pub goers we’ve usually played to was an important step in itself, never mind the somewhat mixed reactions.

TFR: BITS was the first college gig that you’ve played as a band. How was that experience different from your usual gigs?

The whole band: More crowd! More people! Much better!
Vicky: We heard a horn from somewhere in the crowd during our set. That was sort of cool since we’ve been looking for a horn section since a while now and we randomly heard one; wonder where it came from?

TFR: One of the main concerns for most non-metal bands playing college gigs is that college kids expect metal and only metal bands. Did you feel that that was a concern at BITS? Did you get the crowd bobbing to the Diddley beat?

Dhruva: No, it seems like people only wanted to dance and we gave them that.
Jolene: I heard we were picked to play ahead of Scribe. That’s pretty cool, considering the band’s massive popularity.

TFR: Did you walk around campus a bit? Did anyone take you to Sarla, tell you what ‘putting’ is, or introduce you to the beauty of a Thunderbolt?

The band: Yes to all. Every item on the checklist, tick.

TFR: Tell us a bit about TAAQ. Did you meet/hang out with them?

The band: We met them, didn’t hang out with them. They seemed like nice people.
Ninju and Dhruva: Their drummer is awesome.

TFR: You guys have completed a country-wide tour recently. Do you have another such tour in the works? Tell us about some upcoming gigs.

Jolene: We’ll do another tour only after releasing an EP or album. We’re playing a lot around Delhi this month and charting out gigs for December/January as well. Details come up on our Facebook page as gigs are finalized.

TFR: If we still lived in a world of vinyl records rather than mp3s, then Shakey fans all over the country would have scratched their copy of Tunes from the Big Belly out of sheer over-use. We need new material! Is that happening?

Dhruva + Vikram: We are in the process of writing songs, most of them are still in the demo stage.
Jolene: 16th of this month is when we’ll digitally release a new single, hopefully with a B Side.

TFR: One of the biggest questions we’ve had about you guys, and one that shames us for not knowing despite being huge fans, is the origin of your name. Please tell us it doesn’t actually derive from “Shakira”.

 Vikram: No real history behind the band name. We were looking for something particularly interesting and Dhruva, being the most interesting member in the group, came up with “The Shakey Rays”.

Dhruva: I suppose there’s a degree of truth to that. It’s a question that often comes up, and I wish I remember how it sprung up- I think we we’d had a drink or ten when THE SHAKEY RAYS presented itself in bold letters.

TFR: A lot of BITSians read this blog. Is there anything you’d like to say, as a closing note of sorts?

Vikram: No, not really… Thanks for the chicken!
Dhruva: Thank you for dancing, BITS!
Abhinav: Thanks for Neeraj Shridar.

So there you have it. You can listen to each of the Shakey Rays’ pop gems of perfection here. Happy listening!

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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