Radio Wave's Top 10 Czech Albums of 2016
This year’s battle for the number one position in our top 10 best Czech albums was especially fierce. Had it been put together on a different day and by a different panel, Prague-based producer dné and his long-awaited debut album could have been ranked as best, leaving the duo Tomáš Palucha behind. Both these records are as appetizing as the successful comeback of veterans Houpací koně and Priessnitz, Midi Lidi’s surprisingly serious album or the striking debut of Kovadlina, fronted by Banán.
A collaborative effort of the duo Tomáš Palucha, Guru features hypnotic guitar riffs alternating with pop moments, building on a powerful atmosphere of rhythms, gradation and above all collaboration. The so-far most accessible and accomplished album features vocals by singer Šampon of the band Prodavač and Caribou’s Aran Epochal and John Schmersal, all enriching the final product. The resulting album is a masterful and confident release, unprecedented in this year’s Czech context.
The long-awaited debut by Prague-based producer Ondřej Holý is a story of doubt and creative crisis which only added depth to the final recording. After several unsuccessful attempts to finish the album, dné opted only for a piano, clap samples and, in the case of one track, rap into the mix. In a limited space, he conjured up a record brimming with emotions contrasted by the minutiae of life.
3. Houpací koně – Kde jste mý přátelé dneska v noci (Where Art Thou This Night My Friends)
They might be sheltered in the Ústí region, however, their position as the most original Czech band seems unshakeable. On their new record, Kde jste mý přátelé dneska v noci, Houpací koně led by Jiří Imlauf followed up successfully on their brilliant album Everest and presented listeners yet again with a sincere report on existential reality in the city under Milešovka. Perhaps not the most revelatory Czech band of 2016 in terms of new sounds, Houpací koně still possess something inimitable.
Though it may have seemed like a difficult task, Prague resident producer and member of Lightning Glove Ondřej Bělíček has recorded a promising sequel to the success of his Vinyla award-winning debut Elegy of Unsung Heroes and even managed to further develop the sound quality. Influenced by grime, juke and Atlanta trap and adopting the new moniker Dizzcock, he created a living, breathing dystopia full of gunshots, police sirens and hope.
5. Kovadlina – Životy těch druhých (Lives of the Others)
Although Kovadlina and its legendary frontman Banán only released their first album, the band may still and without exaggeration be considered one of the most original on the Czech punk scene. Their new record, Životy těch druhých, is a raw and uncompromising ride full of anthemic refrains and lyrics reflecting hatred in society. Kovadlina openly revives the legacy of nineties punk, and is a band that can change your life.
6. Priessnitz – Beztíže (Zero Gravity)
Singer Jaromír Švejdík has led Jesenik-based cult band Priessnitz back to the limelight after a ten-year hiatus, only to announce that their latest release Beztíže, will also be their last. But it is a very artful good-bye. The album exhales the stagnant air of the borderland region while breathing in reconciliation. Here we find the fusion of mainstream and alternative sounds that the Czech music scene is desperately lacking.
The duo Sister / Body and Dizzcock share the same background, and for that matter, they work with the same label, Red for Colourblind, and one half of the duo, Ondřej, is also engaged in the band, Lightning Glove. Their album Spells, released on Baba Vanga records, focusing on experimental electronica, a category in which its aesthetic fits perfectly – ambitious album brimming with tension and fusing rave, noise, dub and techno. The outcome is very compelling music evoking shamanic ritual.
Midi Lidi have always been perceived as a funny band that can’t be taken seriously. But this year’s album Give Masterpiece a Chance! has convinced even the most adamant critics that the opposite is true. An album with texts full of observations is reminiscent of band member Petr Marek’s other project, the recently dissolved Monikino Kino, Here the taste of melancholy stays on the tongue, but the carnival aftertaste fades quickly.
Rouilleux started off as Luboš Rezek’s solo project and has quickly evolved into a regular three-member band. This year, they produced The Spoils, released under the Polí5 label. It is a bit more balanced than their previous album Scatter Your Soul, interspersing its dark atmosphere among the sounds of the newly-added synthesizers with a great deal of sound experimentation.
Zagami Jericho, a new appearance on the Czech electronic pop scene, was a trending name in 2016. After being featuring on producer Atrey’s record, she released her own EP, a Wild Card in Radio Wave’s talent-scouting competition, Startér. This culminated in her being nominated for the rookie of the year at the prestigious Vinyla awards. There is certainly a bright future for Zagami. Her electro pop oozing the most modern sounds definitely deserves it.