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Grimescene has been tripping on the alternative music scene a bit. It is not so much about the “Alternative” genre… but about bands/artistes one wouldn’t have normally heard (atleast in India). In fact I am willing to bet the strings on Gilmour’s guitar that you wouldn’t have even hear of these. Which is a pity, considering we are talking about top notch musicians here. Well – here is a list of 5 bands you should hear as soon as you get the chance. And yeah… one of them is even Indian!

1) Phoenix (France)

Founded in 1996, Phoenix released their fourth studio album “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” in 2009. It is hard to categorize Phoenix into a genre. Rock-Techno-Funk could be a way. Ranging from the sparse guitar feel of modern Alternative rock to over-indulgent keyboard hooks and programmed drums – Phoenix create their music as a bunch of stimulant-fueled young artists would swing  paint brushes wildly and create a miraculously beautiful painting. But beneath the wild ways, is solid song writing and an uncanny feel of rhythm and melody. Don’t believe me? Check out the sublime (and 8 min long) “Love like a Sunset”. I don’t believe I have heard a song so goddamn powerful in long long time – Daft Punk meets Alan Parsons meets Oasis meets…. oh forget it! Just listen… (hint: put on good earphones, and turn the volume UP and resist the temptation to reduce it as the crescendo hits…)

2) The Mars Volta (Mexico)

Ok… these guys aren’t exactly unknown. After all they won a grammy for Best Hard Rock performance in 2008 and were named as the “Best Prog Rock” band by the Rolling Stone magazine. But try to find a CD of theirs in India and you will be met with blank stares. Their music is closest to veteran prog-rockers Rush…but much richer in terms of soundstage and instruments used. Also heavier and edgier… but their last album “Octahedron” was a turn towards the calmer. Complex melodies and with song names such as “Halo of Nembutals” and “Cotopaxi” – this Mexico based band effortlessly mixes hard rock and jazz to create a music blend that is, well, unique and cerebral. Here is “Since we’ve been wrong” – the opening track from Octahedron. Tell me they aren’t awesome… (the music starts after 1:10 – so jump to that)

3) Elbow (UK)

Elbow, based out of Ramsbottom near Manchester, released their first album in 2001. Called “Asleep in the back” – it hit critics and discerning fans like a ton of … well… awesome music. Their music is again (like the rest of this list) a bit hard to desribe… Radio friendly alternative rock-jazz could be a vague description. They are so much more than that… Guy Garvey’s singing voice stands out in today’s music scene and his lyrics are provocative and very real. Their last album “The Seldom Seen Kid” finally saw them getting the commercial success that their innovative music deserved. In fact “Grounds for Divorce” from this album was featured in the Coen Brothers’ movie Burn After Reading. They are also the most accessible band in the list… and you should hear them if you get the chance. (impossible getting their CDs in India though…) Here is Elbow playing “Mirrorball” live from The Seldom Seen Kid…

4) Poets of the Fall (Finland)

My absolute favorite in this list. The world is a poorer place because most haven’t recognized the sheer virtuosity of this band. And I am ranting.

Seriously… POTF (as they are known on the internet) has a rabid fan following, most of it from Europe. Just three albums old, they are already legendary in their native Finland. Their CDs sell online for ridiculous amounts of money. Their tours to obscure places in Russia are sold out months in advance. And guess what – they played at the IIT Kanpur culfest. (can you believe it?) Their music is shamelessly hard rock-pop. Frontman Marko Saaresto has one of the most versatile (and heart breakingly mellifluous) voices I have ever heard. Each of their albums is a gem and they have been progressively improving and sounding more mature. Their last, Revolution Roulette, is a tour-de-force of modern rock music. And if you have not heard them – beg, borrow, steal but hear them. Not convinced? Here is the title track from their second album “Carnival of Rust”:

5) Contra Band (India) 

Contra Band peforming in Delhi

Well, this band is a bit closer to heart than most. I almost saw it being built. Comprised of working professionals from the city of Delhi – Contra Band is a bit more than just a manifestation of the band members’ love (and talent) for music. They have around 7 original compositions so far – and each one is unique and carefully constructed. The frontman, Krishnan, has a voice that is made for rock and is perfectly complemented by Avik on the keyboards, Raja on the guitar, Tony on the bass and KK on the drums. They recently played live to a packed audience at Cafe Morrison in Delhi. Their sound is modern, with an infusion of a healthy dose of good ol’ rock n’ roll. There is also a sense of grandeur in their sound and lyrics, making Contra Band “anthemic”. Take “The Contra Band Song” for instance – catchy and perfect for a live arena. Or the beautiful Ephemer and the classic “Holiday”. Listening to them play these songs it is hard to imagine that these guys have full-time day jobs. They have a facebook page

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Contra-Band/88009138541 

where you can hear their music, read the lyrics and also watch some video clips of them performing live. Go ahead, sign up and become a fan. When the latent greatness is realized… just remember you heard about them first at Grimescene. 😉 Update 2nd Dec: New Contra Band pic.

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