IBG Contributor Mala Coomar’s Top 5 Artists of 2017

top 5

It has always been difficult for me to frame and define my tastes in music, leading me to be one of the many people who describe their taste in music as “eclectic.” Although it can be seen as a copout, I really can find myself embracing everything from the niche-ist corners of the music world to the mainstream Top 40.

There is an endless amount of good music and good musicians out there and, in any case, it certainly isn’t my stamp of approval which dictates whether a song is good. I am not a musician myself, simply a music-lover. For me, the narratives surrounding the music thought behind it, and my own associations with it are nearly just as important, if not more important, than the music itself.

Here, I would like to share five artists that contributed heavily to the musical version of my 2017 narrative.

#5: Liss

The soulful, pop quartet called Liss is a young Danish band who I saw perform at Haven Festival in Copenhagen this past year. They are rapidly rising and gaining international recognition and it is no surprise as to why. Their sound is full, smooth, and dreamy and their live performance had everyone swaying — even in the freezing, pouring rain. Maybe that just added to the romance of it all? In any case, their show was full of so much heart-melting warmth that it wasn’t until the set was over that the raincoat-clad audience took note of their soaked state of being.

#4: Glass Animals

With virtually any and all activities that I do, I enjoy having music on in the background. I usually prefer something slower and calmer which can lead me into an abyss of melancholic music that stirs emotions and leaves me laying on the floor contemplating life. Although Glass Animals aren’t anything new, they are new to me and provide a balanced sound. It is neither overstimulating nor is it sleepy — it is the perfect soundtrack to everyday life, or it is to mine at least.


#3: Arcade Fire

Before Roskilde Festival 2017, the most I knew about Arcade Fire was “Wake Up” and Paolo Nutini’s cover of the same. At this year’s festival, they were the main headliners on the final night of the festival. Since I knew they would be there, I listened to some of their album beforehand and found it to be nice enough. However, listening to them live is an experience that is somehow completely different and elevated in every way.

They are certainly a large band with a large sound that reaches every part of the audience, even a festival audience, fueling them with life and energy and providing the perfect forum to dance the night away. Their track “Everything Now” was especially good at this. I must say that their performance was such that I cannot figure out if their songs and album are really good or if they are just good at creating a fun time. It is probably some combination of the both.

#2: BTS

I always had an appreciation for Korean pop culture — when I was younger, that appreciation was primarily for Korean dramas. Now that appreciation has shifted to include Korean pop music, BTS in particular. (Yes, I have fallen on this bandwagon but the bandwagon is there for a reason.)

BTS is a k-pop band who is having unprecedented success internationally probably because of their attention to style, choreographies, videos, and performances combined with their general charisma. In a time where differences are being exacerbated and the world is continuously fracturing, moments of unity seem increasingly rare. And when that unity is behind a group whose culture and language is different than the majority of their fanbase, that unity is especially more remarkable.

With meaningful songs about societal pressures, the struggles of youth, and women’s empowerment, I had a hard time choosing which BTS song I wanted to showcase. I decided to go with “Not Today,” which was the first BTS music video I came upon and made me fall immediately in love with them.

#1: Alex Vargas

I cannot speak about live performances that are “somehow completely different and elevated in every way” without mentioning Alex Vargas. I discovered him through his track “Shackled Up,” via a random playlist on Spotify, and have kept track of him ever since.

He went on tour this spring during which I caught his concert in Copenhagen. The tickets sold out so quickly that he added extra concert dates (I almost resorted to buying tickets to his concert in Sweden just so I would get a chance to see him). Vargas’s vocals are incredible and the recordings almost don’t do his soulful voice justice — it is something that thrives on the flexibility of a live forum and it really meant to be heard live.

He works with the energy of the room alternating between more electronic vibes to more acoustic ones when necessary always ensuring that the entirety of the concert is completely live. Vargas makes each note, background sound, and beat individually. He loops and layers each sound, then sings over it bringing each entire song together. Watching and hearing each song being created is an experience that I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone.

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