Loved by some, missed by many – here’s a list of our favorite Mainland albums from new artists released in 2014. Buoyed by a growing number of livehouses popping up across second and third-tier cities, the rise of online music services like Douban and Xiami, and a new generation that - gasp - is actually paying for music, this year has been an epic one for releases. Last year, we made note of some of 2013's Notable Albums, but this year we took the plunge and listed our Top 25. We're still going on this week, recounting our Rookies of the Year and forecasting 2015's big releases. Feel free to send all love and/or complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org (preferably love), or better yet, comment below about what albums you think we missed. For the rest of the series, click here.
The Hormones: Elephant
No VPN? Listen to the album at Xiami.
How much better can things get in Chengdu? The Sichuan Province capital is already considered the Mainland’s most livable city and it’s becoming a hub for electronic tinged post-punk. The Hormones are among the country’s most promising acts. The female quintet placed second in 2013’s MIDI National Campus Band Competition and wrapped up an extensive national tour to celebrate their debut EP. Comprised of musicians that majored in music composition and performance, Elephant is a bewitching mish-mash of spiderly riffs, spooky synths, a tight rhythm section anchored by Zhu Mengdie’s commanding vocals.
This experimental indietronica group also represents for Chengdu. While tagging along with P.K. 14 on their last national tour, documentarian John Yingling described Stolen as “one of the best bands I saw.” The 2011 MIDI National Campus Contest winners have mined a dark sound that echoes musical touchstones Joy Division, Kraftwerk and Talking Heads. On Demos, they widen the parameter of their sound from retro-futurist synth-rock of ‘Suicidium Morbus’ to the gradual buildup of ‘ALaBo’
Anlaining: My name is An
No VPN? Listen to the album on Xiami.
Six years in the making, the Shanghai troubadour has finally released his debut album, as the country’s wenqing (hipsters) continue to be entranced by urban folk. My Name is An opens with an English verse on ‘Goodbye Wehui Road’ that boldly references Dylan. The disc is a gentle affair that spotlights An’s acoustic guitar, melodic vocals and his poetic lyrics. It closes with a pair of tracks recorded from 2006-07, accentuating the journey that An took in making the disc.
FAR/∞: Dark Bridges
On his debut album, Beijing-based multimedia artist and burgeoing electronic music producer Liu Yiwei creates mechanical ambient soundscapes that’s surprisingly soulful. As FAR/∞, he’s created a buzz for ccreative live sounds, exhibitions and installations in contexts ranging from the CMODA (China Museum of Digitial Arts) to the Get It Louder Festival to Beijing Design Week. He’s blazing a path for future experimental visual and sound artists to burst through alongside the new Beijing electronic musical label Sinotronics, whose first release Module 1 is a compilation and collaboration of cutting edge artists in Beijing and New Delhi.
Nine Treasures: Nine Treasures
It’s technically their second album, but we had to find a way to salute Nine Treasures. Trodding along the same Mongolian folk-fusion path that Hanggai, Ajinai and Tengger Cavalry have taken to global acclaim, Nine Treasures is proof that the genre of has a promising future. Winners of the 2013 MIDI Best Rookies Award, the quintet continue to finetune their mix of Mongolian folk and metal. Sludgy guitar riffs seamlessly coexist with squawls from the horse head fiddle on their sophomore record. The band recently wrapped up a national tour to promote it and are showing no signs of slowing down in 2015, just releasing a new track ‘Galloping White Horse.’
Check back tomorrow as we look ahead at what records will come in 2015. For the rest of the Top 25 Mainland albums of 2014 series, click here.