The independent music industry in India is doing far better than the other music industries of the country. Only seven months into 2018, it has already given us a good number of well-produced, well-rounded releases. Noticeably, indie hip-hop music has found new listeners as talented artists like Prabh Deep and Tienas are taking over. On the other hand, musicians from other genres continue to up their game and put their best foot forward.
Here are the 15 best independently produced songs to have come out between January and June this year.
15. Strike Three – One Last Shot
Strike Three’s first EP Essentia offers a lot, varying styles and a whole range of emotions. Although it sounds like the band is still trying to find a sound it can call its own, the song ‘One Last Shot’ definitely stands out. It was written last year before their bassist, Jeremy Fernand, passed away in a suspected train accident and gave new meaning to the lyrics of the song, and another reason for the bandmates to give their all.
14. Morning Mourning – Fingernails That Grow Forever
New is always better and even though going back to Shantanu Pandit’s debut EP Skunk in the Cellar becomes a habit, his new moniker has the appeal of everything fresh. Pandit has embraced his melancholia and called it Morning Mourning. He has poured all 23 years of sorrows in his first EP, Is This Biodegradable. ‘Fingernails That Grow Forever’, the first track of the album is a must listen this year.
Mumbai-based singer-songwriter Sunit Zadav’s ‘Mush’ is just as breezy as a pop song requires to be. With just one original release so far, Sunit promises to be a talent to watch out for, with his original style of guitar strumming and relatable lyrics.
Aditi Ramesh, who promises to be the next big thing, released a new track ‘You’re Not So Wise Now’, post the release of her EP Autocorrect. Her velvety vocals are soothing, and her words are powerful. It’s fun to listen to her Carnatic roots pop up in unexpected places on this jazzy song, making it an interesting addition to a 2018 playlist.
Smalltalk made a strong debut with their EP Tacit earlier this year and their song, ‘What A Mess’, made a lasting impact. They add to Mumbai’s thriving culture of independent bands that are not afraid to experiment with their sound and step outside genre boundaries. They give their spin to a basic RnB sound and deliver a very short and sweet EP, with four lovely songs. The mellow but catchy hook of ‘What A Mess’ strikes a chord right away.
After giving backing vocal for Tamil composers, Maalavika Manoj aka Mali switched lanes and reinvented herself as a pop/country singer-songwriter. She has been creating ripples in the indie circuit since releasing her debut EP Rush. Her latest offering, ‘Play’ is a song dedicated to and inspired by her grandfather who was also a musician in his young days. He features on the song himself, with a mouth organ and the will of a soldier as he fulfils his granddaughter’s wish for him to play music one more time.
After playing for several years based out of Delhi, reputed guitarist and songwriter Takar Nabam has now moved back to the North East. Before leaving, he managed to finish his second album, This Home That Home. The album screams of lost love with slow guitar work and low vocals, and ‘Melodrama’ is one of the sadder, underrated songs of the album.
Dhruv Visvanath, a master guitarist and a celebrated musician in the country, released his sophomore album The Lost Cause in April this year. Opening to widespread acclaim, the album topped Indian charts within days of its release. The catchy hooks and the passionate riffs become the spine of his songs around which he casts his message clearly, that of pushing through and following one’s dreams. ‘Wild’ is an instant earworm.
The Delhi-based band has been serving up nostalgia and funk for several years, revisiting classic tunes of times gone by. Earlier this year, the band ventured into producing original tunes and released six singles, all of which have different moods and vibes. The last song ‘Rough and Straight’is exactly that, a lot of funk delivered rough and straight. It is one of the grooviest tracks to have come out this year so far.
Kanishk Seth’s deep and soulful voice works perfectly in a sad, ballad setting. His very first single, ‘Aane Ko Hai Khaab’ is an easy and pleasant listen. Its Hindi love song vibe is a fresh sound for the independent scene, which is mostly shifting to western genres or a fusion of Indian and Western sounds, as is evident on this list.
Sutej Singh became an overnight star, at least from the Indian independent music industry standard. Even he did not expect his album to be so well-received, given that he had hardly put out any original content before the release of his debut full-length album The Emerging’. The album rose to the top of the charts, and Singh quickly became a young gun to look out for. On his song ‘Oceans Apart’, the Solan-based guitarist offers the depth that is unmatched and incredibly moving.
‘A Dream To Remember’, still not out in its entirety, is unarguably the grandest offering of 2018, courtesy of Bengaluru-based Carnatic rock band Agam. ‘Rangaapura Vihaara’, the sixth song from the album, is set apart from the other releases for the skilful rock treatment given to an 18th-century hymn of the same name. The group of talented people involved in this project are helping make the final product bigger with every step, with every new song.
3. Prabh Deep, Seedhe Maut, Sez on the Beat – Class Sikh Maut Vol. 2
Prabh Deep was the first runners-up on our list of best indie albums last year, for his much-lauded album ‘Class Sikh’. His follow up to that in the single ‘Class-Sikh Maut Vol. II’, another collaboration with Seedhe Maut and Sez on the Beat, did not disappoint either. The song, featuring three of the hip-hop scene’s most influential artists, is unmissable.
Tanmay Saxena is the new sensation in the world of hip-hop, and we are here for it. Under the moniker Tienas, he released the electrifying lead single ’18th Dec’ along with a powerful video. There is so much angst in this song, in its lyrics and Krithika Iyer’s representation of the same, that one listen is just not enough to process the whole product. If the upcoming album is anything like what the single was like, then Saxena is sure to shake the industry with his music.
The amount of uninhibited brilliance offered by Laxmi Bomb on their very first full-length album Bol Na Ranti is next to unthinkable in the current Indie circuit in India. ‘Freak on Alisha’ featuring Sonia Hyam, the second track on the album is not only a crowd favourite but sets a benchmark for upcoming musicians who would like to pursue this genre. In an interview with A Humming Heart, the band broke down the meanings of the songs and explained that ‘Freak On Alisha’ is centred around the “bewilderment of the common Indian man towards white-skin women.”
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