MP3 Monday is a weekly SmartShanghai column, serving up mp3s from bands living and making music in China (or coming to China, or thinking about coming to China, or whatever). Copyright holders: if you would like your song removed, please email us here, and we'll honor your request promptly.
Happy Festivus, Shanghai! As you know Festivus comes on December 23, and after gathering around the aluminum pole starts with the airing of grievances. Well I got a lot of problems with you people, most of all why you’re not checking out all these sweet releases out of China from the past year. Everyone loves a good end of year list, whether it’s the worst flyers or who wore it best, I pretty much don’t watch or listen to anything new all year so I can cut through the crap and get it all done in one sitting.
If you’re like me, since Christmas is two days away, you just started gift shopping. If you have any music lover on that list, maybe an aspiring rockstar junior high nephew back home or your ayi that needs to spice up her iPod while cleaning those underwear track marks then music is truly is the best gift. Obviously, if you have the time and taxi skills, then picking up that CD or vinyl record for loved ones is best (especially if it’s vinyl). If no time you should really consider sending digital album gifts, which are available via most of the bandcamp links below. You’ll find it’s on the same level of making donations to the Salvation Army, except the money won’t go to anti-gay street soldiers but rather support musicians while turning on your loved ones to new songs from our great red land.
2013 was the undisputed year of PK14 front man Yang Haisong. I took a little poll around town about people’s favorite albums and 80% of them said 1984 from PK14 right away. Also, this year, Yang started his own label ‘Share the Obstacles’ which first release was his side project band After Argument. Then there is his other side project Dear Eloise that racked up four vinyl releases and garnered attention from review sites in Japan, America, and Europe. Since it appears he does not sleep, Yang also produced albums for some of China’s best bands like Carsick Cars, Skip Skip Ben Ben, the Dyne and Alpine Decline. Keep on trucking, good buddy.
The Shanghai label to watch out for is our favorite dark arts specialist SVBKVLT who put out some stellar cassettes from artists around Asia, like Caliph8 from Manila. Just recently they’ve graduated to vinyl releases and put out Shanghai’s own S L V on a sweet 10” record. Resident Advisor was called to attention saying: It's unremarkable rap at the opening, with a down-pitched vocal sample intoning "Get your money, hustle up" over drilling snares and 808 bass. Pick it up in stores today!
Track redacted by label boss...
Rainbow Danger Club
If you love indie pop, and we all know you do, then the stunning 18-track final release of the now-defunct Rainbow Danger Club is a must have for you. The band matured with their years of playing shows around Shanghai, they really came into their own with this album. The songs are uplifting and heartfelt, and the arrangements are layered and well thought out. The album was mixed by bassist Dennis Ming Nichols and mastered by Adam Gaensler, both of whom have left Shanghai along with singer Jesse Munson. We are all sad to see them go and I suggest listening to this album once a day until the end of time.
Another Shanghai band that I am sad to see go is Pairs, with the fiery Shanghainese vixen guitarist F and outspoken Australian drummer Rhys who really embraced the local scene for everything it was worth. Rhys both made an effort to collaborate and support local Chinese musicians and helped touring foreign bands get a foot in the door here. I highly suggest you get a copy of this split vinyl record with Kiwi masters God Bows to Math.
Here is a little-known Chinese hip hop gem that walked into my store from two-piece group Madpete. Beatmaker Pete Chen teamed up with Guangzhou rapper Madprole to put out this Cantonese-sung work of science. This is the first release from Hangzhou label Groove Bunny Records and they are going all out with a CD version, cassette tape dubbed professionally in America and an all-instrumental 12" vinyl record. I look forward to more from the Huangzhou label and from Madpete.
Record Furs of Time is a personal favorite from the prolific Yang Haisong. After Argument is a two-piece boy / girl band based in Beijing, who did an in-store record performance in Shanghai earlier this year and nailed it. Drummer ZaZa and guitarist Yang Haisong formed on a mutual love of Washington, D.C. DIY bands and finally put their recordings on wax with Furs of Time. They also state their love for legendary producer and former Big Black front man Steve Albini’s music.
Instrumental duo The Dyne are a new band to storm out of the Beijing gates with a sweet vinyl 7” from Genjing records. Their sound is mostly instrumental and could be described as "garage surf pysch" or "just awesome." They cite guitar pioneers like Dick Dale as their influence which explains their explosive live sets. They released the record back in April on record store day making them one of China’s first releases for the new holiday.
If you want to talk about amazing album release shows, then my favorite of the year hands down was The Horde’s Consider Yourself Conquered debut. I didn’t get off my ass in time to give Nick Taylor the description in his best music events of 2013 article, so I’ll share now. They played two gut-wrenching sets throughout the night that kept up the energy from start to finish. Also they brought on a medley of guest musicians to make the show all the more special. We almost lost the Horde when they got picked up by the police for being too awesome for the PRC, but luckily they were let off with a slap on the mandolin.
FeiMa are a Shanghai band that a made a name for themselves by doing Carsick Cars covers that were all the rage with the kids. That was waaaay back in 2012, and since that time, they recorded a full album of their material which is due to put Shanghai put on the rock map. Take that, Beijing, with your thousands of bands and tight pants. We got your number. The band name FeiMa comes from a mathematical theorem’s name, which reflects their high math rock aspirations. After the front man Wang finishes Jiaotong University it looks like he has plans to move to Netherlands so get all the FeiMa you can right now.
Street Kills Strange Animals
Last, but not least, of my 2013 must-have records is Street Kills Strange Animals. Formed in 2008, this band is straight-up lo-fi and noise bliss with generous helpings of fuzz pedals. The band comes from influences of the New York no-wave scene of yesterday and front man Leng Mei keeps it creepy with his band name after a dead animal he saw run over by a car in his youth. Leng Mei also runs a second hand instrument shop, so he is skilled. This kid is in the union.
Well there ya go, Shanghai! All your holiday shopping done in one shot, I suggest the Street Kills Strange Animals for your Mom and Cantonese hip hop Madpete for your Grandpa.