Here are the Beijing-based bands new to my ears in 2019 who stood out — bands that wiggled their way into my earlobes; artists who left their mark; acts that blind-sided me, captivated me, and most importantly, made me curious to see them again. Time will tell but I’m pretty confident we’ll be seeing these cats make some noise come the Year of the Rat.
There’s nothing better than being blindsided by a band you have zero knowledge, and The Beauty did just that. Toeing the line between old school blues-ridden rock and rock and jangly indie-pop without missing a beat, there’s something refreshingly vintage yet contemporary about how the band carries themselves. With the instrumental and lyrical chops to back it all up, their rock and roll heart is clearly in the right place and I expect their melodic charm in gonna be winning over fans in mass come next year – just please don’t give in to the dark side of pop.
I have a friend who can’t stand whatever the Hangzhou transplant is concocting with her sound – which has only solidified my love for the singular artist – an ex-punk rocker who has reoutfitted her sensibilities into an off-kilter indie pop persona. Between her chainsaw KTV aesthetics and quirky demeanor hides some of the most innovative and ear worm-tingling songwriting this side of Beijing, seamlessly blurring the line between vulnerability and keen self-awareness.
2019 should a horde of shoegaze bands hit the scene – to the point of over-saturation. But no one attacked the genre (and tear it to shreds) like The Claptraps, whose beautifully intense, reverb-heavy sound doesn’t hold back one bit on the engulfing walls of noise and fuzz. With a temperament that’s more in line with noise rock, they did right by keeping the pedal to the floor and keeping my eardrums ringing. Go loud or go home – and The Claptraps are here to stay thankfully.
A Molotov cocktail of attitude and renegade charm that’ll have you grinning from ear to ear, Pizzaface are a riotous charged concoction of rock and roll in all its glory and incarnations – ricocheting from waltzy dream-pop one moment and swan diving in a pogoing punk rock ditty the next. Singer and frontwoman Spirit is one for the ages – fearless, provocative and sly as a fox – a performer who relishes the stage and takes command of her audience. They’re already making their presence known outside of Beijing – so best be prepared to me your maker in 2019.
Sourtower’s is the kind of pulpy groovy fun the scene needs. A stoic, dead-eyed blend of cold wave chills and psychedelic unease – almost ‘David Lynchian’ in its daft touch – the outfit has gone through many iterations just this past. What started as a three-girl band has slowly evolved in a duo with founder Wang Xu and electronic producer Another Van. However the cards may fall, you can count on sourtower stirring up some noise come next year.
Despite only lasting a year, UNIT still managed to pack a hell of a punch. A highly combustible noise punk outfit (made up of some of the scenes busiest musicians) that leaves no prisoners – they’re lean, mean and devilishly good fun. It never lets up – a highly-strung release of hard-hitting drums, jagged guitar, and rock hard bass – the kind of music that sinks its teeth in you (and warrants taking your shirt off). Rest In Peace I think not.
A few other notes – I think there was no band I saw more of this year then Xiao Wang, the kawaii core band that has continued to hone their sound (and adding some new members) – tightening the screws and delivering high-octane bittersweet ferocious tunes that strike down with precision. I was equally impressed with The White Papers this year, who seem to have stripped back their sound, giving their post punk fire more of a jagged edge and leaning into the energy of their musicianship rather than the framework of their songs. Bands like SNSOS and Backspace have been leaving bread crumbs of new stuff all year long, and yeah, it’s fucking grand. There’s a whole new wave of city pop-flavored cats about to hit the scene like a maelstrom, such as BowAsWell, a trio of killer musicians who bring serious chops and ice-cold calm to their upbeat and psych-infused sound. I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of the electronic scenes more mischievousness characters pop up like Hong Kong transplant Heta Uma whose punk rock filtered through electronica had me in snitches earlier this season. And let’s not forget the swell of talent that popped in to say hi from outside of Beijing – bands that arguably put plenty of Beijing’s best to shame, as well as points to trends that have yet to kick off in here in the capital (the aforementioned city pop) – hat tip to Poetry in Shorts, Lonely Cookies, Plastic (basically a Beijing band at this point), Hoo!, Floating in the Mist, Shanghai Qiutian and, really, too many others.