Feduk, Husky, Leningrad – never heard of them? Don’t worry, Tom Waugh is here to give you a run down of the sickest Russian songs of the past year.
Aigel – Spirits of Fire (Духи Огня)
The brainchild of Tatar poet Aigel Gaisina and Saint Petersburg producer Ilya Baramia, Aigel have won the hearts of Russia’s critics with their eerie electronic instrumentals and politically-minded lyrics. Spirits of Fire, with its ominous beat and feverish vocals, is Aigel at their unconventional best – you haven’t heard anything like this before.
Buerak – No Love (Нет Любви)
While post-punk duo Buerak are best known for their upbeat melodies and ultra-ironic lyrics, the lead single from new album Repost Modern reveals an uncharacteristically sensitive side. No Love’s hypnotic rhythm, wistful guitar lines and gentle saxophone underscore singer Artyom’s lament to lost love, and the arthouse-influenced video of a murderous game of hide-and-seek in a Siberian forest provides a fittingly surreal accompaniment.
Hleb – Shashlindos (Шашлындос)
In Shashlindos, notorious rap jokers Hleb – whose name is not an homage to cult Arsenal footballer Alexander, but the Russian word for bread – have created yet another anthem for their massive internet fanbase. The chorus of this tongue-in-cheek tribute to the great Russian tradition of going to the countryside and having a huge barbecue doesn’t really consist of actual words, but who cares. This is a feel-good summer tune which provides a welcome escape from the harsh Russian winter.
Feduk – Close Your Eyes (Закрывай Глаза)
A not-so-guilty pleasure of the Kollektiv team, Russia’s leading hitmaker Feduk returned this year after dominating last summer with Rozovoe Vino. Following the same formula as the singer’s previous hits, Close Your Eyes is a summery club banger, with a massive house beat to accent Feduk’s impressive voice. Go on a night out in Russia and be prepared for it to go off when this comes on.
Husky – Judas (Иуда)
It’s been quite the year for rapper Husky. He’s had gigs cancelled, videos blocked, done jail time, and sparked a nationwide debate on the position of rap music in Russian society – and that was just in November. Judas, the video for which is still blocked in Russia, is a synthesis of everything that makes Husky the best at what he does: the delirious flow, chaotic beat and heavily allegorical lyrics on display here show why he’s head and shoulders above the majority of Russian rappers. If you want to understand the state of Russian music today, this is essential listening.
IC3PEAK – Death No More (Смерти Больше Нет)
Dark, nihilistic and deeply unsettling, it’s no wonder IC3PEAK’s music has got them into trouble with Russian authorities; a song that opens with the line “I fill my eyes with kerosene, let it all burn, all of Russia is watching me” was never really going to endear them to the country’s conservative ruling elite. Call them witch house, the Russian Crystal Castles or, as they call themselves, “audiovisual terrorists”, IC3PEAK’s music is nothing if not provocative. Watch the video, in which the pair engage in some light arson, decapitation and blood-drinking in front of Moscow’s most recognisable government buildings, and you’ll see why that “audiovisual terrorism” moniker is justified.
Leningrad – I Don’t Want to Be A Muscovite (Не Хочу Быть Москвичом)
No list of Russian songs would be complete without Leningrad. Celebrated in Russia and abroad for their cinematic videos, here the Saint Petersburg legends go back to basics to assert the supremacy of their city, Russia’s “cultural capital”, over Moscow. While not quite as bombastic as recent classics “Exponat” or “In Petersburg, Drink”, singer Sergey Shnurov’s distinctive growl and profanity-ridden lyrics make this unmistakably Leningrad. The perfect soundtrack for knocking back the shots in a bar on Petersburg’s infamous Dumskaya Street.
Luna – Sleeping Beauty (Спящая Красавица)
Despite hailing from Kiev, Ukraine, Luna has taken Russia by storm with her sultry, hypnotic pop. Sleeping Beauty’s pulsating bassline, reverb-heavy vocals and lightly psychedelic video are straight out of the 1990s and give the whole thing the atmosphere of a hazy dream. As the song draws languidly towards its conclusion, Luna starts to repeat “I’m a beauty”. When she’s making music like this, who could disagree?
Monetochka – Every Time (Каждый Раз)
Having enjoyed immense internet popularity for some time now, it was in 2018 that Ekaterinburg’s Monetochka made the transition to breakout mainstream star, with the obscenely catchy Every Time becoming a fixture of pretty much every radio station playlist and TV ad break. A YouTube comment says it better than we can: “I’m a forty-year-old fella with a beard. I don’t listen to Russian music, especially not pop. I listen to U2, Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Nirvana, Metallica and Rammstein. But there’s something about this girl…I’ve listened to this about fifteen times. What’s up with me?”
Redo – Black and White (Черно-Белый)
Though relatively little-known within Russia itself, Redo is recognised by those who know as the country’s leading grime artist. Black and White is a nightmare at 146 BPM, with Redo’s effortless flow proving the hard consonants and rolled R’s of the Russian language are perfectly suited to the genre. The video is appropriately dark, showing the rapper indulging in a bit of vigilante justice as he dispatches serial killers in gruesome fashion. For more of the same, marvel at the size of Redo’s lungs as he spits over beats laid down by the UK’s Big Alf in his Christmas freestyle.