The Year in Alternative Pakistani Music: Top 20 Tracks of 2018
11. Mithu Donda – Laqeer Ke Faqeer and SomeWhatSuper
Husband-wife duo Mariam Shams and Shams Gondal prove themselves to be gifted songwriters with their debut single Mithu Donda, crafting a narrative around two young children from different ends of the socio-economic spectrum. SomeWhatSuper provide their production chops, merging together their talents at creating stadium-filling electronic sound with rock guitars. These days rock in Pakistan can feel like it’s out of date and stale, but both Laqeer Ke Faqeer and SomeWhatSuper manage to avoid this pitfall, making Mithu Donda a rock anthem that feels right at home in 2018.
12. Almost Tuesday – Poor Rich Boy
If you’re a fan of Sufjan Stevens, you’ll love this. Poor Rich Boy songs always carry the feeling of impeccable craft, that even when the songs get loose in their composition, it’s all purposefully done. On Almost Tuesday, they sound as melancholic as ever but some electronic elements creep in here too, a keyboard staccato in the background, underlined with electric guitars. What starts off as an expected Poor Rich Boy folk song turns into something darker, more introspective and weird. ‘It’s almost Tuesday’, sings lead vocalist Umer Khan, but you also get the feeling he’s been waiting for that Tuesday all his life.
13. Maa Behen Ka Danda – Garam Anday
Anger has emancipatory potential. Just getting really pissed off, snapping and being totally unwilling to adhere to the status quo is freeing. Maa Behen Ka Danda by Karachi outfit Garam Anday is the embodiment of this anger-as-catharsis idea. Their guitars sound punk, rough and raw around the edges, the chorus is bellowed out like a call to arms.
14. Pareshaniyan – Kashmir
It’s never easy for a band after winning a national competition like Pepsi Battle of the Bands. Coming out of the corporate cocoon, they have to begin crafting their own identity, merging who they were before the competition with the newfound popularity they’ve gained after it. Kashmir has managed to do this admirably, and maybe that’s because they have impressive range as a band. They can go slow, ambient, and introspective on something like Khwab, and then put out a glittering pop number like Pareshaniyan. Produced by Xulfi, there’s a perfect amount of bouncy summer vibes in here. The drum beat is uplifting, the guitars sound like they bathed in sunshine before recording. Bilal Ali’s vocal stretches across his range, the falsetto sounding particularly great here. Pareshaniyan is one of the most uplifting and pretty songs of the year. If 2018 treated you badly, this is the pick-me-up you need.
15. Glass – Sail Into Night
This one is for shoegaze fans. Pakistani duo Nabil Qizilbash and Zara Mahmood, aka Sail Into Night, create a beautiful sonic texture on their latest single Glass. The repetitive guitar riff stretches out over the song, like a road running out into the horizon, while ambient guitars buzz nearby in a haze of sound. The vocals take a back seat here as they meditate about lost connections: ‘I’ve been waiting all night long / when you come back home…’ If you let it wash over you, Glass is a deeply affecting track, emanating that sunset glow of regret and expectation, all at the same time.
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