Last week we chose our top albums for 2019, from rock to K-pop and everything in between. Now here are our top picks from local acts and artists throughout the year.
One of Hong Kong’s most impressive live bands, the post-rock quintet’s third EP shows a more direct and varied approach compared to the mammoth instrumentals of 2015’s debut Solid Transparency or last year’s Chemistry. The highlight is centrepiece 1988.8.9 which features a sophisticated cello part over warbled, vibrato-led guitars and booming drums, which reach an affecting peak with a triumphant trumpet solo cutting through the exquisitely dynamic post-rock haze.
After his debut single To My Queen became a viral hit on Instagram overnight, this Hong Kong rapper has gone from strength to strength, supporting ASAP Ferg at TTN, performing in Taiwan for the first time, and releasing his debut full-length 1st in the summer. While it remains his signature track, the whole of 1st offers a wide range of melodic scope, switching from the sensual R’n’B groove of BAE or the heart-wrenching cries of Bn2 4dn to the uplifting synth-pop wash of I’m Not Lonely Anymore.
Their disturbingly titled debut full-length album is by no means a continuation from 2018’s Portraits, but a creative step up, and further into the abyss. There’s No Future seems to grow in its bleakness and intensity with lead single Biting A Spectrum and Dead Souls leaning towards rampantly decaying industrial and electronic beats, with more erratic and synthetic instrumental layers creating an almost frightening cacophony of terror. With such a faultless debut, let’s just hope there’s a future where we can hear more from them.
With hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube for singles My Money (shot in various Hong Kong locations), Levitate and ANTI, there were high expectations for Young Hysan’s debut. But it’s the penultimate track Still Me which stands out from The Low Mays member’s album, culminating in brutally open lyrics with reflective keyboards and tight, intricate trap beats which make his music so compelling. Alongside a sold-out headline show at Kitec in August, 2019 has merely been the backdrop for the 22-year-old’s burst onto the local rap scene.
Kelly has swapped the upbeat indie-folk stylings we’ve grown accustomed to from her previous band, The Folk-Ups, for warmer, jazzy chords and nostalgic slow funk. Vocally, she may deliver the same dulcet tones of Mitski, painting the picture of a sun-loving carefree college kid, but hidden neatly in her lyrics is a wave of philosophical thought. This is most notable in the super-chill lounge and gentle hi-hat shuffle of Vanilla, where she softly sings, “Go leave your family for a while/Come back you’ll be a better child/If you don’t fall/You’ll never go higher.” Whatever she comes out with next will certainly be worth the wait.
While 2020 promises more outstanding releases from local acts, Hong Kong’s class of 2019 is going to be hard to beat. All the releases above are available to stream on Spotify now!