What a year for album releases here in China! Was it all the extra studio and mastering sessions that led to such a deluge of top-notch releases or the general need for something to connect to in these strange and bewildering times? Whatever the case, it truly felt like a watershed year for the independent music scene here in China as emerging labels solidified their presence, veterans labels came back swinging, and bands of all ilk had their voices heard.
Merrie Records, took their eclectic and refined taste to new heights this year. This was most evident in their stellar season-themed compilations – each of which holds numerous surprises and hints at the wide berth of acts they’ve been quietly building. It’s clear the label’s passion lies in producing albums with distinctive voices and expanding the scope of what is a Chinese act, instead of simply chaperoning the next ‘big band’. Whether it’s the cheeky infectious alt rock throwback from Guangzhou’s Hoo! or the gorgeous ambient-laced, guqin-led Both from Wang Meng & Yu Miao, or even the hazy indietronica of Xi’an based singer-songwriter West By West, they’ve curated a richly diverse catalogue this year and have solidified their spot at the table.
Maybe Mars, a label who have been operating under big boys Taihe for a couple of years, and whose sound is instantly recognizable (for better or worse) across the indie music circles here and abroad, had one of their strongest years – from Deadly Cradle Death’s long-awaited debut to the trailblazing and all-encompassing new LP from Hiperson – an album that will surely be popping up on ‘best of’ lists everywhere. Heck, even Lonely Leary’s just dropped sophomore release is spreading like wildfire with fans. That wasn’t all though, as the label made way for newcomers like Kunming’s Plastic, Xinxiang’s Muzzy Mum and Xiamen’s ReJianShaBou (whose EP technically was self-released), who inject fresh blood and new pathos into the scene.
Meanwhile, Ruby Eyes (also under Taihe for those keeping track) snuck in some of this year’s finest albums – namely Mirror’s explosive debut, Railway Suicide Train’s game-changing sophomore LP, and RUBUR’s latest descent in reverb-heavy shoegaze. Perhaps not the loudest attention-grabbing releases, but an impactful one nevertheless. And while bands like Hedgehog will get all the press, a closer look at their roster proves they’ll continuing to champion offbeat sounds and emerging bands.
Wild Records, SJ Records, and Qiii Snacks Records continue fostering the young hip indie scene – math rock, hardcore emo, indie pop and more – capitalizing and driving the collision of these genres and carving out a niche for themselves. There’s both a DIY integrity and a singularity to these labels that are reliant on both their diehard audiences and their elasticity in both structure and methods of output (it’s no wonder these cats utilize bandcamp more than anyone else). It was partially exciting to hear Default veer into indie pop territory with aplomb as well as the emo violence of Bennu is a Heron. Even more exciting, are labels like nugget records out of Beijing joining the fold and taking that DIY aesthetic even further – even producing cassette tapes themselves personally.
I didn’t even mention the experimental and avant-garde scenes which seemed to have a firmer grasp on their audiences worldwide and how to reach them. WV Sorcerer, based in both France and China, were on fire on year, with releases from Beijing based artist gogoj (joint release with Maybe Noise) and psych improv juggernauts Dolphy Kick Bebop. Meanwhile, Old Heaven Books have been putting out release after releases of recorded sessions with some of China’s most renowned acts whilst Zoomin Night’ has been digging into their stockpile of recordings and collborative projects.
Space Fruity got around to releasing some of their space’s most fertile acts – including long-awaited releases from Bayan Dalai and Boiled Hippo. The subsequent release from Sleeping Dogs was really just the cherry on top on their flawless year – again, accomplished in their singature nonchalant DIY style that Zhai and company excel out.
On the electronic music front, established labels intensified their networks with club scenes around the world – this was not only evident in proposed (and then cancelled) stints on the international circuit but also in the collaborations that came to fruition on the labels – Gooooose’s magnetic and dizzyingly kinetic release with DJ Scotch Egg, or Scinntii seeing her release find a home on Houndtooth in London. At the same time, more and more clubs and promoters are utilizing their own ecosystems and expanding from there – take VOLT Records (emerging from Shanghai’s 44KW) who have already put forth five releases since their debut this summer. Or perhaps the label with the greatest output this year – Eating Music – whose adventurous hip-hop and jazz leaning palette feels both fresh and intimate – climaxing in the ambitious and quietly moving sharp, sharp from sound artist Zuho which is unlike anything I heard this year. But really, it’s just great to hear the diversity of stuff out there. Ran Music once again quenched my hidden need for house music with the lush and alluring Brizlli, while FunctionLab and producer Mice gave me all kinds of IDM goosebumps. Don’t even get me started on BowAsWell which is an outlier – a cool-headed fusion of hip-hop, R&B, downtempo electronica, and neo-psychedelic music that simply slaps.
Of course, ModernSky kept their fire lit though nothing of their output spoke to me the way the above releases did – besides say a new Low Wormwood album. I’ll be curious to see what their new sublabels White Cat Laundry and SoundBlanc pull off next year as they’ve already have rounded up a robust roster (taking a cue from Taihe perhaps). And some more outliers – like Li Xingyu’s excavation of Xinjiang music, Wang Wen’s latest masterpiece with Space Circle, Li Shihai’s buoyant jazz release, and Salty Tomorrow’s self-releaed EP, which kicks all kinds of ass.
All in all, it’s been a hell of a year for independent music in China – one that hopefully maintains its momentum into 2021. Here are my favorite albums of the year! Click on each album for links and full review.
Zuho – sharp, sharp (Shanghai/Eating Music)
A meditation on the power of music and how it comes to “soundtrack” our lives, Zuho, the Shanghai-based producer/musician finds sublimity in those moments, big and small, and gives it a musical score. Using and manipulating everything from a saxophone to a melodica, and even his voice, Zuho takes listeners on a fanciful and transcendent journey – experimental in nature but lush in its stylistic flourishes – touching upon jazz, ambient electronica, and classical music, recalling everything from the soundtrack work of Jon Brion and Terence Blanchard to the innocent beauty of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and even the textural ingenuity of artists like Youth Lagoon. Mesmerizing stuff. Bandcamp / Netease
Hiperson 海朋森 – Bildungsroman 成长小说 (Chengdu/Maybe Mars)
Chengdu’s Hiperson returned bolder than ever, with their stunning and ambitious new LP Bildungsroman. Taking an almost operatic approach to their lush mix of spoken-word poetry and high stakes indie rock and taking everything from the band’s past – the razor-sharp guitars, propulsive percussion, Chen Sijiang’s poetic prose – and elevates it even further, weaving an epic, emotionally taut coming of age story. Shifting between moments of delicate vulnerability and cathartic declaration over richly detailed passages that furiously blends post-punk with Chinese folk, it’s urgent and restrained all at once. A monumental achievement, Hiperson has once again left nothing on the table. Bandcamp / Netease
Railway Suicide Train 卧轨的火车 – Continent 大陆 (Hangzhou/Ruby Eyes Records)
Leaning into their psychedelic chops and further away from their indie-pop sensibilities, Hangzhou’s Railway Suicide Train struck gold on their dense and beautifully realized sophomore LP, Continent. Recorded in the nomad paradise of Gebi (in Yiwu), the band is firing on all cylinders here, ratcheting up the vibrant and at times haunting atmosphere whilst keeping the tension taut and melodies infectious. And while more and more bands are finding repose in the possibilities of neo-psychedelic music, the band is finding solace in the rich flourishes of world music, and their train of thought feels firm, with nothing ever getting muddled or lost in translation. A band in complete command of their craft, it’s one of this year’s best. Bandcamp / Netease
Bennu is a Heron – Hate/Love (Guangzhou/Qiii Snacks Records)
Emotions are high and volatile on the riotous debut album from Guangzhou-based Bennu is a Heron. Taking the framework of emo and injecting it with the fierce precision of hardcore music, power violence, and screamo, the band features much of the Guangzhou underground scene including members of Die!Chiwawa!Die!, Shameless, and King Lychee. Needless to say, it’s a fury of entangled emotions that breakthrough like a compound fracture jetting out of your forearm. Shifting between hope, despair, love, and hate, it’s messy, it’s brash, and hits a raw nerve. Bandcamp / Netease
Tomorrow’s Salt 明天的盐 – As Spring Faded 灯和蓝 (Hangzhou/Self-Released)
Former Wisdom Tooth singer and guitarist Li Wangnian returns with a vengeance under the guise of Tomorrow’s Salt, a post-punk outfit that keeps the focus on its razor-sharp yet emotionally potent lyricism and jangly and loose melodies. This is most evident on the exceptional “雨朵” which manages to find beauty and innocence lurking in the dark corners of the genre. And a reminder of the surprises still to be found in China’s increasingly saturated post-punk scene. Netease
Sleeping Dogs – Space Puppy (Beijing/SpaceFruity Records)
Beijing instrumental outfit Sleeping Dogs – made up of some of the indie underground’s most prolific characters (whose other credits include The Molds, Boiled Hippo, Deadly Cradle Death, and Chui Wan) – have conjured up this year’s grooviest record, Space Puppy, a gorgeously arranged four-track EP that resides on a wavelength that I can only describe as “meticulously loose.” Taking elements of African and Middle Eastern music and coloring its edges with a psychedelic simmer and a jazz-flavored fluidity, it’s instrumental music that’s a delight to get lost in and feels full of rich details and layers that never overwhelm. Beguiling. Bandcamp / Netease
Hoo! – Hoo! (Guangzhou/Merrie Records)
Tight songwriting and infectious hooks run amuck in Hoo!’s exceptional self-titled debut, out on Merrie Records. The Guangzhou indie outfit whose youthful vigor is colored in shades of city pop and scrappy alternative rock is anchored by the dynamic voice of lead singer Duo Jun, who brings an eccentric yet deviant prowess to many of the songs irresistible melodies. There’s not a weak song in the eight-track release, from the floor-stopping cathartic chorus of “Ramble 漫步” to the playful flirtation of “Pinch,” each song stays strong on its own two feet. Hot-blooded and fierce, the new generation of indie rock has something to say. Hoo! Bandcamp / Netease
ReJianBeiShaShou 热键被杀手 – 我最珍贵的 (Xiamen/Self-released)
Noise rock daydreamers ReJianBeiShaShou bring raw angst and sensitivity to their vigorous new EP, 我最珍贵的. The young Xiamen band are in fine form, turning growing pains and adolescent dread into a swirl of guitar reverb, rising synths, and impassioned vocals. Noise pop with an emo heart, post-punk that’s still spry, whatever the case, ReJianBeiShaShou wear their hearts on their sleeves, sincerity jumping into the chaotic sea of emotions that comes with growing up too fast. Netease
Wang Wen 惘闻 – One Hundred Thousand Whys 十万个为什么 (Dalian/SpaceCircle)
Seminal post-rock band Wang Wen, out of Dalian, return with their 11th studio LP, One Hundred Thousand Whys, which contains some of the outfit’s most beautifully rendered compositions, and some of their most agile. While their signature touch and deft musicianship are very much present, the band feels more at ease exploring other realms throughout the album’s eight tracks, finding room for warm Spanish hues, surf, glitch electronica, and 70s prog-rock synths. As always, the way the band weaves in and out of these distinct styles and layers while sticking to an overarching theme is mesmerizing on its own, particularly on the standout track “Dare Where To Ask,” which kicks off with a supple flute-led melody before turning the adrenaline up and building into a taut John Murphy-esque score before finally crashing down into a synth-heavy prog metal climax. It may not have the bombast of the earlier albums, but the pioneering post-rock spirit is stronger than ever with Wang Wen. Bandcamp / Netease
Brizzli – Forecast (Shanghai/Ran Music)
Italian-born and Shanghai-based multi-instrumentalist and producer Alessandro Pavanello found tranquility within the intersection of dance music and ambiance on Forecast – out on Ran Music – creating an album full of lush, dense arrangements whose house vibes run deep. Using drum machines, guitars, and synthesizers to both richly detail his atmospheric soundscapes and keep the momentum flowing, there’s an organic edge to the grooves on hand, both in the live instrumentation and the cosmic and earth-bound textures that emanate from each track. It’s hypnotic and almost blunt in its seduction, the kind of club music that’s tailormade for a festival deep within the forest or jungle. Bandcamp / Netease
Deadly Cradle Death 致命摇篮死 – Disconnection 断线指令 (Beijing/Maybe Mars)
An antagonistic assault on the senses that gloriously veers off into the deep end and revels in the trenches of hip-hop, drum n bass, and experimental music, Beijing-based duo Deadly Cradle Death – made up of veteran rockers He Fan (Birdstriking) and Liu Xinyu (Chui Wan/Sleeping Dogs) – is boundless in its madcap musicality and deviance. Cathartic punk music filtered through one distortion after another, electronic music hooked up to an IV drip of ketamine, it’s music that’s unapologetic, wily and mischievous, and tailormade for the strange and beautiful beast that Beijing has become over the years. Bandcamp / Netease
Gooooose & DJ Scotch Egg – JAC (Shanghai x Berlin/SVBKVLT)
Electronic label SVBKVLT unleashed their latest dizzyingly good release, JAC, a collaboration between Shanghai’s Gooooose and Berlin-based DJ Scotch Egg (who met at the Nyege Nyege Festival in Uganda a year prior). A rollercoaster ride of feverish breakcore, footwork, and atmospheric jungle ambiance, it displays the Shanghai virtuoso’s rigorous percussion and impeccable sound design. An invigorating contraption of grandiose world-building and razor-sharp details, it manages to be both playful and stirring, guiding listeners to new sonic frontiers. Besides featuring Swordman Kitala on guest vocals, the release also contains remixes from Slikback, Seven Orbits & TSVI. Bandcamp
Mice 李洪祥 – 0.01% (Hangzhou/FunctionLab)
Mice – the maverick Hangzhou producer – known for his angular, riveting, and off-kilter IDM returns with his finest yield yet, 0.01%, out on FucntionLab. Divided into four chapters that echo and recall the “life cycle of a parasite” and its “metempsychosis from fear to calm,” it’s a driven piece of work, one that’s pulsating with hypnotic melodies, heavy beats, fraught feedback, and intricately crafted details. Recalling the more ambient-laced work of producers like Jon Hopkins, it’s an album that works both as a club floor pleaser and a bedroom mind-blower, featuring larger-than-life soundscapes that get the adrenaline pumping and neurons doing cartwheels across your brain. Techno music with an IDM heart, 0.01% is one of the year’s best. Bandcamp / Netease
gogoj – oviparity 卵生 (Beijing/Maybe Noise and WV Productions)
Armed with an electric cello and a penchant for swimming deep into the waters of drone and noise, long-standing Beijing-based experimental artist Sheng Jie (aka gogoj) released the immersive, elegant and haunting LP oviparity. Revolving around the Bon religion and the gods that have shaped the universe into being, the seven-track release on Maybe Noise and WV Productions strikes a foreboding atmosphere, using bows to both bewitch and petrify with equal parts conviction and grace, leaving listeners stunned. Bandcamp
Lonely Leary 孤独的利里 – Passenger on the Eve 前夜的乘客 (Beijing/Maybe Mars)
The lore of Lonely Leary deepens on the Beijing post-punk band’s ravenous new LP, Passenger on the Eve. Unfolding like a pitch-black fairy tale that traffics in seductive malice and twisted truths, it finds the band barreling into the mouth of madness armed with manic fervor and intrepid storytelling. As Qiu Chi’s exasperation, captured in barbed snarls and instinctively on-point basslines, bleeds into Song Ang’s piercing and residue-omitting guitar melodies and Li Baoning’s thrusting and persuasive drums, Lonely Leary slowly turns their anxious and askew philosophy into gospel, luring listeners into a savagely alluring underworld akin to the Pied Piper. Bandcamp / Netease
Mirrors 解离的真实 – Within An Endless Dream 昏古七 (Shanghai/Ruby Eyes Records)
Shanghai trio Mirrors brought their kinetic cock-eyed brand of psychedelia on their muscular debut. “Dedicated to those who have lost touch with the world, to those who are neither asleep nor awake,” is a precision missile of hard-hitting rock and roll that’s primal in its seduction. While singer and guitarist Aming’s fierce guitar and madcap vocalizations are the first things to stand out, the trio is very much a unit, propelled by the pulsating drums of Daniel, and the rock hard grooves of bassist Bai, elevating every song to a cultish frenzy, and in the end, shaking you to the core. Bandcamp / Netease
RUBUR – Persephone’s Seasons 珀耳塞福涅的四季 (Shanghai/Ruby Eyes Records)
A year after their gorgeous debut, Shanghai shoegaze band RUBUR returned with an even stronger sophomore release, Persephone’s Seasons. Built around the character of the Greek goddess and wife of Hades, whose dual roles as presider over the dead and conveyor of fertility was frequently used to explain the cycle of the seasons, the album is split into two halves coinciding with the ups and downs of the seasons. Mythological narrative aside, this is how shoegaze ought to be done – dragged across the concrete, as the reverb floods your earlobes and hushed omnivorous vocals lull you into walls of ethereal melodic noise. All the elements come together beautifully, tuned with just the right amount of intensity and emotional resonance to give you more than one sonic epiphany. Bandcamp / Netease
Default 缺省 – Can You Hear The Whistle Blow? (Beijing/ShengJian Records)
Beijing shoegaze outfit Default transforms before our very ears on their bold and surprising new EP, Can You Hear The Whistle Blow?, out on SJ Records. Shedding a good chunk of their overflowing reverb-soaked sound, the band aimed for something more pop-originated, crafting four tracks that retain their appeal for emotional gravitas through the medium of indie pop, American folk guitars, and female-led rock and roll (ala Cranberries, Passion Pit, and Wolf Alice) thanks to the addition of vocalist Edine. It’s an intriguing new direction and though it may disappoint fans, it’s an album that’s rich in its arrangements and one that sneaks up on you with its resonance over time. Bandcamp / Netease
BowAsWell – Neon Donuts (Beijing/Mastermind)
There’s a cool-headedness to Zhang Yichi’s fusion of hip-hop, R&B, downtempo electronica, and neo-psychedelic music that’s hard to resist on the infectiously listenable Neon Donuts, the debut of multi-instrumentalist and virtuoso producer BowAsWell. Not in just the way he skillfully takes everything from analog synthesizers, groovetastic basslines, and washed-out vocals and merges them gracefully around slick, retro-fitted melodies, but also in its jazz-evoking playfulness, which never loses it’s conviction and production pizazz amidst its elasticity. Sensual in both its craft and touch. Netease
yourboyfriendsucks! 你男友係碌葛 – Episode 02 第二集 (Guangzhou/Qiii Snacks Records)
Guangzhou indie rock outfit yourboyfriendsucks! – one of southern China’s most prominent fixtures of the DIY scene – may not be hitting the stage anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean the band has run dry of material. Case in point, Episode 02, which digs up and dusts off some of the band’s recordings from 2014-2015. And what a gem the five-track EP is: Bewitching dream-pop singles that aren’t afraid to turn the dial-up and distort its melodies into a glorious mess of emotions. Jagged indie-pop that tugs on those heartstrings whilst having you bop your head in delight, it proves what made the band such a game-changer in the first place. Bandcamp
Late Troubles – Language Barrier (Beijing/Merrie Records)
Chen Xi, frontman of the influential post-punk trio Snapline, digs into his bonafide indie-pop chops – evoking everything from Thom Yorke to Lightspeed Champion – as he confronts the “dislocation and alienation of a newly arrived Chinese immigrant in America,” and the language barriers that follow him every step of the way. With the help of Toronto producer Zuo Wei (aka WISEFAKE), Xi has crafted a bewitching and lyrically lush ode to the complexities of being in a foreign place, and finding comfort (offbeat as it may be) in the strangest of times. Bandcamp / Netease
Li Xingyu 李星宇 – The Farthest Place From The Sea 离海最远的地方 (Beijing/Stallion Era)
Li Xingyu, the prolific composer and bandleader of the instrumental ensemble Whale Circus, brings an ethnomusicological ear to his latest spellbinding release, The Farthest Place From The Sea, out on Stallion Era. Born out of a 2018 trip to Xinjiang with his 52Hz Soundcabinet Project (which aims to collect, preserve, and pay tribute to sounds from around the world), Xingyu led a team across the wide and culturally rich region gathering local folk songs, melodies, and artists before returning to Urumqi, where he and an array of local musicians recorded and pieced together the sprawling and deeply felt album. Dedicated to master dutar player and music educator Musajon Rozi. QQ
Boiled Hippo – Boiled Hippo (Beijing/SpaceFruity Records)
Neo-psychedelia finds a groovy new home in Beijing’s Boiled Hippo, the four-piece outfit whose cosmic yet laid back aura is irresistible on their debut from SpaceFruity Records. Full of erotic riffs, offbeat guitar rhythms, and some surprisingly beautiful intonation from frontman Abing, it’s a sun-soaked tonic that’s downright sensual in its head-spinning grooves and rich psychedelic shimmer. A kaleidoscopic journey that wears its heart on its sleeve and puts out some great vibes. Bandcamp / Netease
Ts. Bayandalai – kemel (Beijing/SpaceFrutiy Records)
Long-standing Xinjiang-raised Mongolian musician Bayan Dalai – known for his imposing presence and voice in Mongolian grassland troupe Horse Radio and the more experimental avant-garde folk duo december3am – emerges triumphant on his bewitching solo debut, Kimel. Tracing the artist’s bond with the grasslands and the shaman gods that occupy them, there’s a quiet beauty to the atmosphere Bayan Dalai is able to conjure here, exploring the outer edges of his ancestors’ music and finding solace in every word, every guitar chord, and the spaces that fill the void in between. Bandcamp
Suliao 塑料 – The New World 新世界 (Kunming/Maybe Mars)
A candid recollection of every drunken day and night over the past four years, Kunming’s Suliao bring sincere pathos to punk music on their scrappy, earnest, and righteous debut The New World, out on Maybe Mars. Exploring our modern-day lives and the engulfing tide of alienation, decadence, and hopelessness that comes with it, Suliao paints their tattered worldview with a detached empathy that strikes a line between tenderness and cynicism all the while diving charismatically headfirst into melodically pleasing anthems that heed forward into an unknown future. Punk rock that bleeds from its heart, Suliao strikes all too relatable a nerve. Bandcamp / Netease
YouCeHeLiu 右侧合流 – Four Parts of Life 人生四重奏 (Huizhou/Wild Records)
A volatile and fizzy cocktail of intricate math rock, indie pop aplomb, and refined indie rock tropes, Huizhou’s Right Lane Convergence radiate pure energy on their new EP with Wild Records. Intertwining the four priorities of life – family, love, morals, and money – Convergence coast on arrangements a bit more whimsical and in many ways, a bit more unpredictable (that first track will throw you for a loop) leaving you feeling slightly tipsy. Undemanding yet full of pep and bursts of poetic vigor, Right Lane Convergence rest charismatically at the intersection of pop and rock, or as they put it, “akin to the impulsive rainy season in Guangdong.” Bandcamp / Netease
Lao Dan 老丹 – The Song of the Uninhabited Island 无人岛之歌 (Hangzhou/Self-released)
The improvisational musician and wind instrumentalist Lao Dan – one of the experimental scene’s highest regarded characters – continues his prolific work on The Song of the Uninhabited Island, which puts the musician’s mastery of the bamboo flute and the alto sax front and center, showcasing his evocative and mesmerizing use of them. While Dan’s fanciful flights of free jazz rear their head every so often, for the most part, it’s a tranquil, albeit swaying, piece of music that’s altogether transcendent. Bandcamp / QQ
Dolphy Kick Bebop – Briefvisit (Hangzhou/WV Sorcerer Records)
The elusive psychedelic improvisational outfit Dolphy Kick Bebop, out of Hangzhou, returned with their latest journey into the abyss with Briefvisit, out on WV Sorcerer Records. There’s a mystical quality to the way the band’s music unfurls, as elements of Krautrock, free jazz, and prog rock simmer in a haze of sun-baked psychedelia, leading you down a path that’s difficult to turn back from. Sprawling and abrasive in its musicality, lucid and seductive in its aura, it engulfs and spits you out anew. Bandcamp
Gao Jiafeng 高嘉丰 – Emotional Dance Music 幻爱锐舞会 (Shanghai/Self-released)
Shanghai-based musician Gao Jiafeng has all the makings of a viral star, throwing out an irreverent saxophone solo at will and stitching together retro-fitted music videos that often come across like something you’d find at your auntie’s KTV parlor. But always lurking underneath his guise is a multi-talented musician on the cusp of breaking through into the mainstream. Jiafeng’s chops as a producer and singer are in top form on his latest endeavor, Emotional Dance Music, a hybrid game/music release that mixes dynamic “Hyper Pop, sugar-coated dance music, lighting speed Trance-Pop,” and then some, with the frantic competitive game aesthetics of DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) for a unique multi-media experience that’s unlike anything else. Bandcamp / Netease
Merrie Records Compilations
Merrie Record’s passion for producing albums with distinctive voices and expanding the scope of what a Chinese act can be was most evident this year in their stellar series of seasonally-themed compilations, capturing the temperament of each season with a rich and diverse collection of tracks, a deep dive into spry instrumental rock, moody indietronica, and other offbeat sounds. A perfect kaleidoscope of some of the more interesting developments in the indie music scene this past year, in a year with killer compilations from just about everyone, Merrie Records surprised at every turn, taking their eclectic and refined taste to new heights. Bandcamp / Netease