10 New Music Releases to Kick Off 2023

10 New Music Releases to Kick Off 2023

Crank up those speakers as we welcome the New Year with new tunes by musicians from Beijing, Chengdu, Dalian, Qingdao, and more

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5:30 PM HKT, Tue January 3, 2023 4 mins read

New Music is a monthly RADII column that looks at fresh Chinese music spanning hip hop to folk to modern experimental, and everything in between. To ring in the new year, we introduce you to new material from DBZ, Lexie, Penicillin, and others.

It took long enough, but 2022 is finally coming to a close. It’s been a hectic year mentally, physically, and existentially for people in China. One silver lining has been the onslaught of new releases from artists and bands, which has helped us get through the year with our sanity intact.

December has seen drops from both internationally recognized acts as well as some of the local scene’s best-kept secrets. So crank up those speakers as we welcome 2023 with some new tunes.

1. DBZ — Wabi-Sabi Romance (侘寂罗曼史)

DaBozz, a Nanjing-based hip hop singer, reinvented herself a couple of years back, and now goes by the moniker DBZ. She has turned her music into dreamscapes full of hip hop swag, trip-hop pulp, and art pop ambition.

Her third full-length release Wabi-Sabi Romance finds the artist opening her heart — leaving her bare and vulnerable — as she reckons with the act of love as both a dissipating and afflicting force of nature that one nevertheless gravitates toward.

The new album is all about hushed transgressions, impassioned pleads with one’s self, and pining wrath coming together (yet DBZ’s poetic pose never comes off as gimmicky), finding solace in a lovesick world.

2. Stolen 秘密行动 — Eroded Creation (侵蚀体)

Chengdu techno rockers Stolen follow up their genre-smashing internationally recognized sophomore release Fragment (which got them to tour with New Order) with the even bigger and bolder Eroded Creation.

Produced by Mark Reeder and Micha Adam in Berlin, the six-piece band’s stylistic melding of synth-filled electronica, elaborate prog rock, jagged metal theatrics, and psych-filled rock feels wider in scope with tracks like the cinematic ‘Shirt Of Darkness’ and ‘Hibernation Pod’ recalling Son Lux and Muse in equal measure, finding both cerebral sonic catharsis and arena rock conviction deep within its exoskeleton.

3. Lexie 刘柏辛 — The Happy Star (幸福星)

The Mandopop scene has been reeling from the sudden drop of singer-songwriter Lexie’s latest album The Happy Star. The whiplash feeling can be extended to the artist’s shape-shifting sound, which finds her evoking everyone from Grimes to Charlie XCX as she wades into the waters of hyperpop, electro punk, and more.

Slick, buoyant, and still maintaining her distinct zeal and personality (where else can you find someone who seamlessly switches between singing in English, Spanish, Sanskrit, and Chinese!), the pop star seems pretty much posed to tackle the international stage with her latest.

4. The Cheers Cheers — ‘Circle

Started by Wang Keguan (王客观) in 2016, The Cheers Cheers has become one of China’s indie pop scene’s best-kept secrets for both its C86-inspired sound and minute output.

In 2021, the Zhejiang-based act expanded with the addition of vocalist Zhang Xun (张寻). Over the summer of 2022, the band put out its first LP, Analog Love. Since then, the band members have been busier than ever, putting on shows and releasing a slew of singles while continuing to make their way via their label SJ Records.

Anchored by soothing, enveloping synths and steady bass lines, their latest single taps into bittersweet downtempo pop sensibilities with restraint and melancholic fragility.

5. Awake Mountains 醒山 — Afterlight (后来的灯火)

Beijing’s Awake Mountains, which is known for its magnetic and deeply felt metalcore sound, has updated one of its more temperate acoustic single ‘Afterlight,’ which had initially been released two years prior.

Juxtaposing its guttural razor-sharp aggression with the melodic, impassioned, and pop-laced catharsis, the band mixes metal, emo, and post-hardcore sounds with solemn sincerity, allowing its swirling emotions to elevate the genre’s more extreme aesthetics. As the band states in the logline for the music video, “different times, different moods.”

6. DalDa GO!东九 — RainBowRain

Up-and-comer DalDa GO!东九 (formerly Barrel Barrel), which is made up of musicians from Dalian and Qingdao, is the latest act to team up with indie pop imprint SJ Records.

Specializing in jangly, upbeat, funk-flavored pop, the band feels both contemporary and timeless, and pays tribute to its jazzy forefathers as well as the wide, eclectic world of Korean and Japanese indie pop.

Korean Chinese singer Nan Enhua (南恩花) often sings in Korean, including on the last track of the latest EP. The band’s breezy, supple, and twee pop centers on the minutiae of life and all its refractions.

7. punx — Pray for Nothing

Known for his dense, sprawling live sets, techno producer punx has been making a name for himself here and abroad for some time, welcoming listeners into his icy cool, intoxicating labyrinth of electronic world-building that’s as immersive as it is effortless.

Ominous in its slow-burning patience yet persuasive in its tone, the track ‘Pray for Nothing’ is just one of seven off of the producer’s latest solo effort Reforge, which was released with Chengdu-based electronic label Crater Monde. Much credit to the mind-blowing 2D hand-painted music video for the song, from animator DaDazoo.

Expect a strode-heavy, consciousness-spilling, acid trip from the song:

8. Hardcore Raver in Tears (白纸扇) — ‘New Everlasting Regret’ (新长恨歌)

Wuhan’s new wave, disco-punk outfit Hardcore Raver in Tears (led by Lu Yan of AV Okubo fame) joins forces with filmmaker and artist Chris Zhongtian Yuan for the single ‘New Everlasting Regret’ (新长恨歌).

Doubling as the theme song for Yuan’s black and white, 16mm film Cloudy Song (commissioned by Somerset House in London and the Alan Turing Institute as part of a virtual exhibition), the content fits right in with Lu’s output.

According to Yuan, the song and the film envision a “world where the lines between past and future, humans and artificial intelligence, homeland and exile continue to blur” as our main characters look to “piece together forgotten memories through music and stories.”

9. Taiga — Taiga

Based out of Chengdu, electronic duo Taiga finds bliss by merging of psytrance and world music on a self-titled EP. With its members hailing from Xinjiang and Mongolia, the act is as inspired by the traditional nomadic music of their ancestors as the dance floor.

Taiga utilizes an array of ethnic instrumentals (from the morin khuur to the doshpuluur) and techniques (throat singing) to synthesize an organic yet propulsive soundtrack tailor-made for the club, or better yet a moonlit jungle festival.

10. Penicillin (盘尼西林) — Ephemeral (浮生若梦)

The Britpop hopefuls behind Penicillin, which rose to fame after a stint on the first season of The Big Band in 2019, continue to evoke their idols on their latest album Ephemeral (浮生若梦). They even went as far as to record it in Yellow Arch Studios in Sheffield, England in the first half of 2022. The studios’ cofounder Colin Elliot also served as the producer, backing vocalist, and instrument player for the album.

While similarities to acts like Oasis are impossible to shake off, the three-piece band has beefed up its sound considerably, and, as evident on the track ‘Morning Song’ (黎歌), know their way around a catchy melody.

Cover image designed by Haedi Yue

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