2021, A Year With Sinophone Music
It’s now becoming a tradition, reviewing the past year in music – as we did in 2020 or in 2019 with a review of the past decade. To be honest it’s complicated to top last year, with the (very) long awaited second album of Omnipotent Youth Society, the last SMZB and Hiperson incredible album. This year I’ll mix albums from Taiwan, China and Hong Kong, to give a overview of Sinophone music, in a great variety of languages – Mandarin, Taiwanese guoyu, Hokkien, Cantonese, Haifeng hua, etc. I do not pretend to be objective, this is more a list of everything I listened to during this strange year, in a world that doesn’t seem to finish to end.
I also put together a YouTube playlist here, and a Spotify one here:
Sorry Youth 拍謝少年 – “歹勢好勢” (Taiwan)
Sorry Youth has been one of the major Taiwanese indie band since their first album in 2012, “海口味”. The post-rock trio (well, quartet if you count the fish-head performer), still writes and performs in Taiwanese Hokkien, depicting the life of the not-so-young Taiwanese youth in their new album “歹勢好勢” (Good Times, Bad Times). The new album features special guests, as the experimental electro musician Sam-Seng-Hian-Ge, Chen Hui Ting of Taiwanese indie rock band Tizzy Bac, and Ke Jen-Chien of LTK Commune.
Wutiaoren 五条人 – “活鱼逆流而上,死鱼随波逐流” and “一半真情流露,一半靠表演” (Haifeng)
Not one but two albums from the folk-punk sensation Wutiaoren. After their incredible performance during the last season of The Big Band 乐队的夏天, coming back each time they were eliminated before ranking second in the finals, Wutiaoren clearly wants to live up to their hype. It’s not the best albums of the Haifeng band to be honest, but I really don’t want to be picky. I want more Wutiaoren, everyday, singing their love for KTVs, Southern China and alcohol.
Wu Wei 吴维 – “酒后咨询面对面” (Wuhan)
A year without SMZB or Wu Wei is a bad year for me. So Wu Wei, SMZB’s charismatic singer, released his first solo album, “酒后咨询面对面 ” (Consultation After Drinking). And you were not ready for this. The punk-rocker abandons his famous celtic-punk vibe for a more electro-folk-punk sound, sometimes reminding us of another famous weird folk singer, Zuoxiao Zuzhou. The album is not at all what you would expect of the godfather of Wuhan punk, and it’s a very good surprise. Wu Wei shows the extent of his art, both in terms of lyrics and sound experimentation. The songs talk about Wuhan, friendship, drinking, tattoos and – of course – politics (sometimes all of that mixed together). The tone is subtile and ironic, as “东湖情话” on the Donghu protection movement in Wuhan. And the MVs are very fun.
No Nonsense Collective 無妄合作社 – “No Mercy” (Taiwan)
The Taiwanese indie punks from Non Nonsense Collective 無妄合作社 released this year a new EP, entitled “No Mercy”, and began to perform again after the end of the COVID restrictions regarding live concerts in Taiwan last September. An EP that must be accompanied by betel nuts – 給我吃槟榔，哈哈。
My Little Airport – “Sabina之淚” (Hong Kong)
The anti-folk Hongkongese duo My Little Airport released a new album in 2021. Without directly mentioning it, the album is entirely about the state of Hong Kong after the anti-ELAB movement and the National Security Law enacted last year. After an epic 2019 concert where Hong Kong youth were shouting slogans of the social movement, My Little Airport is once again embodying Hong Kong zeitgeist. This time it’s youth depression in a city they don’t recognize. Can there still be innocent songs in Hong Kong anymore, in a city where the singer Denise Ho has just been arrested for “sedition”?
Banana Peel 香蕉皮 – “没有无辜者” (PRC)
The coolest punk-blues band from Guilin/Beijing is back with a new album! 11 tracks full of punk and blues explosion, by the singer Liu Liu (ex-Demerit, 犯罪想法) and the legendary bassist Lao Ma (SMZB, ex-Brain Failure). After a really cool first album, “魔鬼的列车” in 2014, Banana Peel still sings about the life of the Chinese underworld. Tattoos, skateboard and marijuana, the holy trinity of Banana Peel’s punk rock spirit. And we’re here for it!
FEEDPIGS 餵飽豬 – “大悲懺” (Taiwan)
The Taiwan punk band FEEDPIGS was formed in 2012, after several years of separation they reunited in 2018, and released “大悲懺” in 2021. Social commentary, irony and screaming into the microphone, all the elements of a good punk band. Their live shows are as crazy as their music.
THE 尺口MP – “抹待也” (Fuzhou)
We recently talked about The Romp (or THE 尺口MP if you prefer) in the Chaoyang Trap newsletter earlier this year with Krish Raghav on Taiwanese indie music in China. The Romp is perhaps the missing link between Fuzhou and Taiwan in terms of “leisure pop”. An ideal music to spend the day on the beach, during a road trip, or to wait for a new album by The Chairs 椅子樂團.
Flesh Juicer 血肉果汁機 – “GOLDEN 太子 BRO” (Taichung)
Chthonic best friends, Flesh Juicer, gave us in 2021 Taiwan best metal album with this “GOLDEN 太子 BRO”, and won several music awards. An album full of love for the singer’s hometown, Taichung (“I love my 故鄉/I love my music/I love 台中 nice city”)
Duck Fight Goose 鸭打鹅 – “生成” (PRC)
The Shanghai based band Duck Fight Goose used to be a fairly well-known indie-rock band, before turning to experimental electronic music. This new album, “生成” shows the band’s evolution toward a more experimental approach, with some 80’s electro touch.
Cui Jian 崔健 – “飞狗” (Beijing)
Of course, Cui Jian. Six years after “光冻”, the godfather of China’s rock and roll is back with a new album. A classic Cui Jian album, with experimental music, free jazz and hip-hop mixed with the original rock and roll sound of the 1980s. Cui Jian also revisits a previously unreleased song “留守者”, a pure Cui Jian classic. Will we be able to see Cui Jian on the spotlight again in China, after his “soft ban” during the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen in 2019?
deca joins – 鳥鳥鳥 (Taiwan)
deca joins blues-rock is everything you want for a calm and relaxed evening. The Taiwanese band continue to provide solid compositions that make them one of the most interesting band in Taiwan.
Regret – “Regret” (Hong Kong)
The new hardcore band of Riz, the singer of King Ly Chee (which recently reformed), Regret, released its first EP this year. The songs are of course very much talking about the political situation in Hong Kong, in English and Cantonese, with some parts in Urdu, Nepali and Tagalog, showing the diversity of Hong Kong people. The lyrics shows the spirit of resistance of Hong Kong youth (“Never forgive/Never forget/We will rise again” in “Public Execution”), and the hardship they now face (“I’m not afraid of that 5am knock on the door” in “Can’t Deny”). As sung in “We Exist”, “地係香港”.
FloruitShow 福禄寿 – “我用什么把你留住” (PRC)
The debut album of the 乐队的夏天 triplet sisters who tried to eliminate Wutiaoren several times without success. They finally released their first album this year, with several songs heard during The Big Band contest. A lot of grief and sorrow, but for what?
What A Beautiful Day – “Love Won’t Wait” (Shenzhen)
The Shenzhen melodic hardcore band is back with a new EP, “Love Won’t Wait”. WABD is part of the larger hardcore scene in South China, alongside Unregenerate Blood. They relentlessly produce Cantonese songs in a environment where Mandarin is the norm. This new EP contains one song in Mandarin, featuring 酸 from Hyperslash (you know, from The Big Band), and others in Cantonese. You can also read an interview with the drummer JC in Unite Asia. Don’t be afraid by the name of the band or the title of the EP, it’s actually incredible!
Hardcore Raver in Tears 白纸扇 – “The Survivors Club” 幸存者俱乐部 (Wuhan)
Ex-members of Wuhan post-punk sensation AV Okubo (AV大久保) formed a new band – Hardcore Raver in Tears (a reference to a famous YouTube video). Last year the Wuhan band made the headline with their song “WUHAN 2020“, after the outbreak that took place in Hubei’s capital. It’s complicated not to see a reference to the pandemic and a reflection on the future of mankind in “The Survivors Club”. The first two songs – 套餐 1 & 2 – are recited by a woman in French, boasting the benefits of clone meat in the year 2046. The album is in line with AV Okubo’s experimental post-punk approach of electronic music.
Gong Gong Gong 工工工 – “Phantom Rhythm 幽靈節奏 Remixed” (Beijing/Hong Kong/Montreal)
In 2019, the Beijing-based duo Gong Gong Gong 工工工 released Phantom Rhythm 幽靈節奏, an experimental album full of jazz, Cantonese intonations, and West-African blues. This year, they released a remix of this important album, inviting Beijing-based artists – as Zaliva-D, Simon Frank and Howie Lee – the Kaifeng-born DJ Yu Su, or the Taiwanese heroic duo Mong Tong, to remix their songs. The result is a completely new album, enriched by the input of each new (very talented) artist.
Modern Cinema Master 當代電影大師 – “告訴我他們都在本來的什麼地方” (Taipei)
The Taipei alternative-rock quartet released in 2021 their first full album, after two demos in 2019. Ironic lyrics, with subtle critics of capitalism, hippie and idol culture, but also references to other Taiwanese indie-rock bands – Touming Magazine in “透明的孩子”. An interesting digest of the past Taiwanese indie-rock decade.
Cold Dew, “欲欲” (Taiwan)
We cannot talk about Modern Cinema Master without mentioning Cold Dew, the psychedelic rock band that is defining the new sound of Taiwan alternative music, alongside Dope Purple and Modern Cinema Master. The band released in 2021 a 3-track demo, “欲欲”, and we hope to see an album next year!