New Music, formerly Yin (音, “music”), is a monthly RADII column that looks at Chinese songs spanning hip hop to folk to modern experimental, and everything in between.
We’re a month into 2022 and just two days into the Year of the Tiger, and it seems like the perfect time to celebrate some top releases. We’ve got new labels right out of the gate, an excellent compilation of covers of some of China’s most prominent singers and groups, and the return of some local heroes.
While we were treated to a slew of excellent releases in December, January was slightly slower, but the quality remains high.
As always, don’t forget to check out the latest episode of SoundCheck, where Wes Chen, host of hip hop podcast thePark, and Bryan Grogan talk about their favorite tracks of the month.
Scandal, which launched earlier this month, is a Shanghai-based electronic label that gives a platform to female producers and musicians from all over China.
The first release on the label, Alexithymia, is a compilation of eight tracks from the likes of Wuhan-based singer-songwriter Shii, Shanghai producer Laughing Ears, and co-founder of the label, Everlast Phantom, among others.
One of the most exciting indie bands in China today, Silly Function reside in Wuhan and have been rocking in livehouses in the Southern city for a while now.
Fengxi provides some insight as to where the band’s inspirations come from — in particular “Died in the 90s,” which is a sunny, funky track that makes use of a staccato guitar line. Elsewhere, “Commuter Royale” is a bit stormier, resembling a blend of noise rock and shoegaze.
One of many cover songs in a compilation released to celebrate the 40th anniversary of legendary Chinese-language label Rock Records, Guangzhou funk group Power Milk sound completely at home covering Cantopop from the 1990s.
Rock Records has been home to many excellent singers and bands over the years, including the likes of Beyond, Mayday, Karen Mok, and more. Another highlight among the newly released covers is Carsick Cars’ version of Sylvia Chang’s “The Price of Love.” Also noteworthy: Mong Tong’s cover of Wu Bai and China Blue is quite exceptional.
Beijing-based post-rock instrumental group Macondø return with their second album three years after the release of their debut. Accordingly, the new record is a tribute to their songwriting evolution and experiences during that time — a complex and stormy affair.
Opening with “Die Einde,” which translates to “the end,” it seems clear that the group is attempting to play with expectations from the very beginning. II has just about everything you’d want from a good post-rock record, with massive guitar lines and soft Odyssean passages interweaving to great effect.
The Shanghai label SVBKVLT has been spreading its influence globally for a few years now, and part of that effort has been focused on building a roster of musicians that reside beyond China’s borders. The latest is Kyoto-based producer Rilla.
With five huge tracks and three remixes by SVBKVLT regulars Osheyack, Hyph11E, and legendary producer Howie Lee, there are plenty of mind-bending musical twists and turns to chew on.
Beijing ska-punk band Underdog return with their latest single “北京 You Use to Be Cool,” a track that oozes a sense of nostalgia for a bygone time in the city, and with lyrics that speak to the issues dogging Beijing’s cultural scenes today.
Released on Ruby Eyes Records, “北京 You Use to Be Cool” is a not-so-subtle reminder of everything that has changed in the city over the past decade and more.
And here, another release from the Vladimirs, who have yet to reveal their identity but are widely assumed to be made up of PK14 frontman Yang Haisong and friends.
“Adventure” is indeed what you’d expected from Yang, with distinct vocals, muted guitar strings, and a general spoken word quality to the song throughout.
Off the latest album from Shanghai-based rap trio Straight Fire Gang, “True to the Crew” is, fundamentally, an ode to loyalty and an attack on clout chasers.
Having taken some time off to focus on solo projects, which saw Feezy and XZT make appearances on rap variety shows, the trio is back together and seemingly more focused than ever.
If you are keen to learn more about Straight Fire Gang, check out the inaugural episode of China From All Angles, where Wes Chen chats with the group about anti-Asian sentiments in the US, their experiences as overseas students in the country, and their artistic influences. To listen, visit Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, SoundCloud, or 小宇宙.
Cover image designed by Sabina Islas
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