Best Croatian Albums of 2018 (So Far)

By 25 June 2018

2018 has reached its halfway point so it's an ideal time to take a look at a few choice pieces that the Croatian music scene has given us so far this year. There's a lot of good stuff out there but here's a short list of 5 releases from the first half of 2018 that are definitely worthy of your attention.

Svemirko - Tunguzija

This is Svemirko's second full-length album in just as many years. Their previous release, Vanilija, has seen a lot of action on my speakers since I discovered it at the tail-end of last year. When I heard about this new LP, I was, as the kids used to say, "stoked". With Tunguzija, Svemirko have come back with their familiar minimalist 80's-esque new wave sound but this time with a little more atmosphere and polish. Now they're hitting your ears from all directions instead of just right in front of you and there's a ringing clarity to the tone of some of the instrumentation where there was more of a "listening from the other room" sound before. Their songs are still catchy but often not as upbeat as before and there are a few extra layers of complexity in there too. This new albums shows us that Svemirko have grown but they still remember where they came from.

Punčke - Valovi

Punčke's EP is tightly-packed with an excellent mix of highs and lows on the intensity scale, most often exemplified by the alternating clean and crunchy guitars and soft and screaming vocals. I'm a fan of a good scream and by that, I mean a really good scream. And you can hear some of these beauties at the end of the opening track, "Ples". With Valovi, Punčke delivers a collection of grunge rock tracks that sound like flannel shirts and Doc Martens are going to bust right out of the speakers. Even though all of the mainstream hype has long since dissipated and MTV seems to favour reality TV over music videos, there will always be a place for really good 90's-style alternative rock like this stuff.

Snooze in Motion - Kovora

This 4-song EP caught my attention very quickly in the opening track, "Sound Trigger". It starts with that familiar heavier-in-the-middle garage rock guitar tone playing the kind of punchy two-chord progression that I'll never get tired of. When the drums kick in, I'm hearing, seeing, and feeling the garage, basement, or other messy jam space from which this sound emerged, even if only metaphorically. Then a brief pause, a little bass breakdown and back to the same progression, this time with slightly muffled vocals embedded right into the middle of the sound but occasionally reaching up with intensity. At this point, I'm thinking, "Yeah, these guys have got it" but before I can think any further about it, the song takes an abrupt down-shift from 4th to 2nd gear and hangs around just long enough to recalibrate your brain and then shifts right back up again. I know that's a lot of description for what amounts to about a minute and ten seconds of music but if you listen to this, you'll understand why I'm so hung up on it. If you're only going to deviate from your listening routine long enough for one song, make it this song. Yeah, and there are three others on this EP: two more laid-back ones and a finale that bookends them nicely with the same high energy that came from the opener. This EP has succeeded in peaking my interest to the point of clipping. 

Jonathan - To Hold

Jonathan's To Hold showcases a brand of alt-rock with transitions and builds that move like the storyline to a really good film. There's a lot of emotion wrapped up in these tracks and many of them are even anthemic in nature with their bursts of chants and instrumental breakdowns. From start-to-finish, this album keeps the dynamics flowing with song structures that are just enough off kilter to stray from expectations at just the right times. It's relatable but still a few twists and shakes away from the familiar to keep things interesting.

Parnepar - kako, molim?

This album is an energetic grouping of tracks that blend lo-fi post-punk, new wave, and garage rock all together to create something new from old parts. It's is like one of those freakish beasts that crazy taxidermists create by fusing the parts of various animals together. The drums are pounding, the bass is rattling the low-end, the guitar is cutting out notes from notes of notes, and the vocals are a combination of an almost causal style with occasional backing shouts. All of which was captured with a real "live off the floor" vibe. It's really raw and dirty and it's got a lot of bite. This is some of that rare breed of music that has an attitude that rivals the sound itself.