One thing that is very well known about Malta is the high regard we hold for the Eurovision, but that doesn’t quite do justice to the quality of music you’ll find here if you dig a little deeper.
Now, we’re not necessarily trying to demonise that festival, but we will say that it’s almost embarrassing how few people in comparison know how great and vibrant Malta’s live music scene is, especially once you start looking into local alternative acts who are bold and experimental in their approach while still being tasteful and catchy.
It’s really easy to get excited for local music, especially in 2017, when so many stellar acts have promised that an album or other kind of release is in the pipeline. The only pity is that not enough people know about them!
That’s why for this article, we’ve skipped the bubblegum pop and went straight for bands that aren’t necessarily given the right attention by local radio stations! That’s not to say that most of these acts are unknown, as many of them draw pretty astounding numbers in their respective scenes. We will warn you that many of these bands do actually sing in Maltese, but if the language is completely alien to you, that shouldn’t detract from the catchiness!
Take Brikkuni for example, who have filled quite a few theatres since their inception in 2008. This is a band that has received significant media coverage, but usually for controversial reasons. The latest Brikkuni-related fiasco saw the band getting banned from performing at the annual Farson’s Beerfest after the lead singer had some not-very-nice things to say about a certain political figure (and we’ll leave it at that).
In fact, Brikkuni is not a very shy band, and this is one of their selling points. It is the delight of fans at their gigs to sing along to the cheeky, and often vulgar lyrics.
The band’s new album, Rub Al Khali, marks a departure from the brashness, and fans are going to have to adjust. The band have described the new album as a more sombre, sentimental album that is more challenging to the ear. At the time of writing this article, only the album’s title track has been released. You can listen to it here:
The good news is that the band has promised that this album will be available to download for free off Bandcamp, meaning that the band has taken a different approach to previous releases in almost every single way. Speaking of which, if you want to hear the difference between Rub Al Khali and the older, folksier Brikkuni sound, most of the band’s repertoire is on Youtube:
Plato’s Dream Machine
When Plato’s Dream Machine released their debut album in 2014, we’re not sure that anyone could have anticipated the sounds that would be on it. Once a folk act, the debut album Għera marked a complete shift from that genre. Plato’s Dream Machine took on a Radiohead-like approach with introspective lyrics and an unmistakable, unique charm. Check out Flien, from the first album, to see what we mean:
For the new album, which has yet to be titled, the band took advantage of crowdfunding platforms, and it paid off. Though no recorded material has been made available yet, the band has already been playing its new songs live, and they sound just as great as those on Għera. They’re even, dare we say, somewhat poppier! Filgħodu is one of the tracks that we’re really excited about hearing in recorded format:
Brodu is another band that released its debut album in 2014, and what an album it was. Titled Ħabullabullojb (don’t worry readers, that’s a made-up word and we can’t wrap our tongues around it either), the album was a seamless display of styles and emotions. Though the lyrics are in Maltese, the music will make you bop your head with feel-good emotions, as well as make you cry your heart out.
Knowing the lyrics help, of course, as they are some of the most mature and beautiful that we’ve read in any language. Singer Mark ‘iz-Zizza’ might not be the greatest singer in the world, but he’s easily one of the most charismatic. Take a song like Iċ-Ċimiterju, where in five minutes he convinces you that cemeteries have less to do with death and much more to do with feeling proximity with people who have passed away.
Brodu also know how to be upbeat. Check out Kemm Jiena Cool!! from the same album, which cheekily makes fun of faux-activists and anyone else too far up their high horse.
With such a dynamic array of sounds and themes to look forward to, we’re itching to learn more about the 2017 album. Alas, not much has been revealed yet!
Fuzzhoneys are the first band on this list to sing in English, but that’s far from being the most exciting thing about them. Their dirty, blues-rock sound is bound to appeal to a wide range of people. The band already has a few songs on Youtube and an EP, CD tal-Ġenn, that was released last year, and although those songs really blend bounciness and grit well, we have reason to believe the full-length album is going to be heaps better!
Beesqueeze are a rather recent project, having risen from the ashes of now-defunct punk outfit Cable35. Beesqueeze shows a more experiment side to the remaining members, and although the live gigs have proven there’s still plenty of penchant for high-octane energy, there are also some mellower, broodier moments, as you’ll find in the band’s debut single from last year:
For 2017, Beesqueeze have promised an EP rather than a full-length album, but we’ll happily take it!
Though The Ranch are often associated with the jazz scene, the truth is you’ll find every kind of sound seamlessly fused into the eclectic palette of The Ranch. The band’s debut album Cuckoo Island, released in 2015, made waves as one the best instrumental albums to ever grace Malta.
In 2016, The Ranch saw a pretty significant change in line up, and now the band has a new bassist and guitarist - that’s 2/3 of the group! Yet, the new members have proved that they are more than capable of doing justice to the old material. It was a big year for The Ranch in other ways too, as the band recently embarked on an international tour. What we’re really excited about is how The Ranch (2.0) will approach an album with new material! Luckily, we’ll be able to find out in the coming months.