• Croatia walks to its own Balkan beat. Since gaining full independence in the 1990s, it’s become a hotbed for entertainment. Nearly every kind of music imaginable thrives here, from folksy pop to thunderous house. Here we’ve handpicked five artists for your eager ears.

    Vatra

    The name of this Zagreb quintet means “fire.” You can hear that blazing talent on buoyant tracks like “Tango” and “Saturn,” off 2015’s Zmajevi Na Vjetru. Their style is a cool blue flame, like the National minus the misery. Front man Ivan Dečak is an artist that you will want to be like and will want to be with. (Much love to Total Croatia News for the recommendation.)

     

    Irena Žilić

    The best ode to one’s family since, well, the Cranberries’ “Ode to My Family,” “Cricket and Mouse” is a wholesome contemplation. Irena Žilić hails from Zagreb, but she sounds as though she comes from Nashville or Austin. Her vocals are breezy and dulcet, finding a niche between adolescent daydreaming and nostalgic adulthood. Her debut album, Travelling, is available at her Bandcamp page. (Cheers to TimeOut for the suggestion.)


    Žen

    An “audio visual progressive indie post rock band with queer feminist attitude”? Yes, please! The audio squalls and confidence exuded by the trio (and live visual artist Tanja Minarik) are like a shoegaze Sleater-Kinney. Their latest album, Jantar, came out in August 2015 and has earned accolades all over the Balkans and beyond. (Thanks to sandiron at RateYourMusic.com for the suggestion.)

     

    Novka

    Dat rhythm. Dat bounce. Dat Vibe! No wonder one of Zagreb’s hottest twosomes called this jam that name. It could awaken the dead with its seductive bridges, husky choruses and organic-sounding percussion. Label mates with megastars such as Tiesto, Novka are getting shout-outs from blogs all around the world. They’ll be playing the Zrce Spring Break May 25-29.

     

    St!llness

    Taking cues from Caribbean reggae and Nebraskan rap-rock (via 311), St!llness is a blissfully inaccurate title for this veteran band. Going strong since the late ’90s, these fellows are soul sailors of the Adriatic. Ivan Jurić does his best Nick Hexum and Doug “SA” Martinez, gelling and swelling with each big hook. Drummer Mario Validžić lets loose and gets heads nodding, while the rest of the squad bring listeners to nirvana. Welcome to the “roots rock jungle.” (Thanks to Grantland for the intro.)

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