TCN contributor Anthony Derro dives into his favorite Croatian albums of 2017.
Since moving from Canada to Croatia this fall I’ve been on the lookout for new and interesting music that I could literally write home about. I came here knowing nothing about Croatian music. Judging solely from the billboard ads, talk show appearances, and even the music video channel, my first impression was that most Croatian musicians were borderline geriatric and they’ve been playing the same musical style (and even some of the same songs) that they’ve been playing since the days of rotary phones and the Fićo.
I knew there had to be some fresh sounds coming out of Croatia but being so new here, it took some time for me to figure out where to look (and listen). After a little bit of digging around, I found out that (of course) there is a lot of new and innovative music coming out of Croatia and here are a few examples of just that.
These are five Croatian albums from 2017 that you should definitely put into your ears if you haven’t already done so.
ŽEN – Sunčani ljudi
The latest release from a four-piece with a progressive/experimental rock base serving as the foundation of their sound. This album fills the room with washy layers of reverb and delay-soaked guitar riffs over drum patterns that will have you guessing what’s coming up at the next transition. Contrary to the vibe you might pick up from the title, there is a fair amount of darkness within the body of the album as the mood within each track shifts, often abruptly, from high to low and back again. There’s definitely a lot of dynamics here and Sunčani ljudi is the kind of album that one listens to, rather than just hears.
Seine – Sno Sna
Rootsy acoustic guitar-based tunes from Varaždin but with a dark and brooding attitude reminiscent of some of the tunes coming out of Seattle during the early-to-mid 90’s. A notable exception to the above description is “Bubamara” which is a little ditty that sounds like an upbeat woodwind and brass band from the 1920’s accompanying the vocalist. For the most part, the rest of the tracks on the album carry a certain melancholy and urgency that create a strong juxtaposition to the acoustic guitar backing and soft-spoken vocalization. This album sounds like a form of multiple personality disorder but all the personalities are hanging out at the bar and the ensuing conversation is just too interesting to avoid eavesdropping.
How Green Is My Toupee – Kerfuffle
A collection of industrial beats, synth, and ambient electro noise in arrangements and sequences that will leave the listener wondering if this a new and ground-breaking futuristic genre or rather a recently unearthed recording from the darker side of the 80’s that had never been discovered until now. This album will find ways to make you think differently about sound as music. Sometimes we have to challenge ourselves to break through the plateaus of monotony that come from so many bands pumping out much of the same product. Listening to Kerfuffle is an example of an album that sets forth such a challenge for the listener. This stuff will put hair on your chest or if you already have hair on your chest, it will rip it all out.
Tús Nua – Horizons
A whole lot of guitar sound layering around drawn-out, harmonized vocals with a distant and spacey feeling. There’s a lot of sonic ups and downs in the album as a whole and also on the level of the individual tracks; at times lulling the listener into a sense of tranquility and then swelling into waves and waves of sound. You won’t find a steady beat to set the tone of background music but rather an engaging musical experience well-suited for a thorough headphones listening session. Horizons plays out like a journey. So much so that you might feel like you’re in a totally different place when you’re finished listening to it.
Svemirko – Vanilija
A blend of retro and modern sounds combined to make an album that sounds like an energetic mix of 80’s new wave and the more up-tempo side of the post-punk movement. The tracks on this album hit the listener right in the center and stay on target from beginning to end with moments of fullness and airiness throughout. Despite the broad use of effects on the instrumentation, there’s a raw and gritty sound to the album that blends very well with a vocalist who puts it out there as it is in a true and honest way like he just doesn’t care what you think about it. Listening to this one feels like showing up at a crowded house party and all your friends are there.