It’s the beginning of a new year, so what best to celebrate the new by honouring what’s past! We compile all of the songs we thought were excellent this year from our Malaysian scene.
We’ve seen a lot happen in the music scene this year, with the smell of indie renaissance in the air and the local reclamation of trap rap taking all we know from our influences while making it ours. More than that we have crispy dream pop and tons of other creatives just making their own sound; breaking every mold. Sometimes it’s not more than just making catchy tunes, it’s also about finding out how much we can push in music to come up with something new. Although the classics can be so impactful and inspirational too, that we can’t simply neglect the familiar.
It gets complicated sometimes but a lot is taken into consideration, like the impact a song has on the genre, the vibe, etc, but it all comes to down to personal taste at the end of the day. Here’s our Tracks of the Year!
It’s been a banner year for Malaysian emo punk, but Spooky Wet Dreams track feels like the most seasonal, topical with it’s terse, honest criticism of our society. And it’s just Spooky with their classic pop rage and anthemic riffs again, so what’s not to love!
Retro-futuristic pop funk band The Peachskins released an EP in January, that should have gotten more recognition than it did. It’s adequately cheesy in its lovesick lyricism and really an optimistic hint to what the Malaysian music scene brought to us in 2017, a cry for future sounds and an homage to the old and familiar.
Supergroup Toko Kilat stands out with Nahas as one of those tracks that oozes cool-ness and alternative suaveness that gives it an almost enduring symbol that Malay indie is not dead. In fact, it’s live and kicking.
Dancehall beats, smooth electronic productions by Kuizz Shah, and a subject matter that makes it the landmark of her album Young Adults, Bil Musa finds her identity and escapes the bedroom acoustic typecast she was caught in for a long time. Also a timely anthem for the youth having to carry the millenial label with disdain, constantly disproving stereotypes of entitlement and laziness. No more excuses!
Hiao is the epitome of how Soundcloud rappers and producers can just come at you with that ambush, pleasantly surprising you out of nowhere. It makes it even more impressive that this track came out in freaking December, and we can’t get this sensual yet chilled out flow out of our heads. Everybody learned a little bit of Hokkien listening to this, and all the Hokkien speakers with nonchalant seductress qualities rejoice.
Youth Portal has been one of the staples of Malaysian dreampop for the past few years or so, and they have established their mark yet again with a floaty, simple song about breakfasts you wish would last forever.
It’s a great toss-up between two songs from Zamaera, since she released two bangers this year, Wanita being the other one. But Helly Kelly as Zamaera’s debut this year takes the slightly bigger piece of the cake, bringing back firey disses back to Malaysian rap, with an incomparable aggressive flow.
Sugar Shrill‘s brand of kawaii electronica is incomparable to any other local producer at the moment, and Bleach is them at their quintessential eccentric, but fast-paced. It’s club-worthy, but is also creatively mixed saving it from any second of boredom. Sugar Shrill makes the Cash Me Outside girl slightly tolerable. Bleach is definitely one of the most memorable dance tracks in Malaysia this year, even if it did end up lost in the saturated world of Soundcloud.
MonoloQue’s album ‘Jangan Puja Sampai Kecewa’ continues their experimental Nusantara legacy in its themes and also musicality. Although Loque’s singing voice is distinct in its raspy lamentations and always rings out in all of his songs, each song has a different level of production, experimentation and instrumentation that keeps the album alive. From the soaring harmonies of Ringgit to soft almost-ballads like Abah. But Slagi Ada Waktu captures the essence of Loque the best in how it conveys spirituality with all of its vulnerability and rawness.
Ishq Kudha is one of the strongest tracks in Nadir’s latest album, Synesthesia. It fares well on its own as Keeran Raj‘s sitar and Santosh’s carnatic vocals weaves around the poetry of god is love and love is god. Nadir is one of the best example of cultural fusion in Malaysia right now, as it takes elements not just from Malaysian culture but from around the world as well (such as Irish music and sometimes even the grittiness of metal). There are so many good tracks in Synesthesia, of which the track arrangement also flows like a river, that it’s really hard to pick. But out of all the tracks in the album, Ishq Kudha was the one that sent us to another musical dimension due to the ambience it creates as it arches over a chant that we all can use to find internal peace.
Slightly reminiscent of ambient, post-rock classics like Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven from Godspeed You! Black Emperor, especially with the radio voice that punctuates their track Crying of the Unheard. The radio voice talking about the suffering of the world (We were told that we were fighting terrorist, but the real terrorist is me) is the type of moral ambiguity that really pushes the vibe you get from this track. On A Trip is a post-rock band that still only dwells in the cracks of recognition, but their sound feels large and embedded with a sense of gravity that nothing in Malaysia can trump in 2017.
Reverberating, bedroom pop with a little tinge of R&B; Sasha Ningkan‘s Got You is such a soothing experience. The little things in this track makes Got You wonderfully chilling, such as the rain sample and Sasha’s beautiful voice. Although in our initial review, we were slightly disappointed with its lack of drive, Got You gradually became the type of track that didn’t need to be loud or rambunctious in order to pass off as a solid pop song. And it really is one of the best love songs this year, owing merit to simplicity and a vibe you just can’t beat on a somber, cloudy day.
Released as a single in 2016, El Beasto took its fullest form this year after the release of their album Paraverse. In fact, the album owes it strong start to El Beasto, with an ominous and anthemic rhythm that is a desert rock psychedelia moment at its best. The sliding bass intro which transitions into a bursting coda midway through the song is unforgettable, and although it only stands slightly taller than some of the other tracks in Paraverse, El Beasto is a wonderful introduction to the type of mighty diversity that Capt’n Trips and the Kid has to offer
This track has the most memorable bass line on this list hands down. Malicious Judicious would not sound strange as the score of a spy thriller. As lead singer Syabil (who incidentally is also in Capt’n Trips and the Kid) sings the lyrics, “Conceive before the treat, It’s a different kind of blessing, Until you let it breed”, the song crescendos a couple of times to build to a cacophony of a blues guitar solo riddled with drums while the subtle beats of the tabla fills your ears with an otherworldly symphony. Other than it’s stylish combination of funk and surf turns the track into a hypnotic trance that gives the alternative rock scene a groove it deserves.
Proclaiming themselves an emo band, Milo Dinosaur breaks all boilerplates with their focus on hearty instrumentation as opposed to screechy lyricism to carry the spirit of their song. Usah Resah is the best example of their musical ethos, earning them a place in our list for reframing the emo mentality into the usually huge range that the genre actually covers, bringing out the best of themselves by digging into what is often condemned as recycled and trite. The same way that the beverage Milo Dinosaur is a drink made more interesting by adding something that is already inherent to it but in a different form, Usah Resah does this (and more) with laudable substance; serving up one of the best tracks of 2017.