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Similar to my Japanese albums list, I combed through the internet to look for records that have been released from Korea at any point in time, then recommend my favorite ones to you.
This time around we have a 12-member K-Pop girl group, an underground and Reddit darling that has gone through 2 name changes in his career already, plus a band that’s made some of the best rock I’ve heard in my life.
LOOΠΔ – [+ +]
Released: 20 / 8 / 2018
Prior to the release of the project, Loona’s label had formulated a year-long pre-debut process. Firstly, each member released a single, then three sub-units were formed – LOONA 1/3, LOONA ODD EYE CIRCLE and LOONA yyxy; with each group releasing an EP over a couple of months. Though all these projects were met with various degrees of success, it did set the main group’s debut up as a major event in the eyes of their fans.
Though I’m unfamiliar with their lore (yes, there’s an actual plotline for the group’s merging), the music is more than good enough to speak for itself. A bubblegum pop record through and through, much of the production on [+ +] also feature elements of contemporary R&B, providing a neat contrast to the high octane energy that each member brings. Clocking in at only 19 minutes, the group leaves an incredible first impression with “Hi High” and consistently delivers memorable performances throughout. Thus making it all the more exciting for a true full-length debut down the line.
Genre: Electronic, Folk, Lo-fi
Released: 07 / 08 / 2018
First debuting under the name Hyoo (휴) then changing his name to Public Morality (공중도덕) three years later, he finally settles in on the stage-name Mid-Air Thief. An absolute enigma even back in his home country of Korea, there’s still much that isn’t known about him (I could barely find any information on him online – shoutout to Sam Rosean). Still, he’s had a breakout year in 2018. Sitting at a pretty #16 spot on RateYourMusic, it’s the only non-Western release in the top 25.
Perhaps Mid-Air Thief’s appeal across borders can be attributed to the impeccable way he fuses both folk and electronica. Serene without sounding overly sentimental, the album is able to come across as futuristic while still being rooted in tradition. Breaking up the glitchy production with hauntingly beautiful guest vocals from Summer Soul, Crumbling is a record that is very much as intriguing as it is addicting.
SURL (설) – Aren’t You
Genre: Math Rock, Indie
Released: 05 / 12 / 2018
Aren’t You is SURL’s first ever project. Running with just a tight 5 tracks, there’s little room for error as the band makes their official debut in the already crowded Asian math-rock genre. And in my humble opinion, the band completely knocks it out of the park with this album. Not as high octane nor as technical as many other math rock bands out there, SURL instead chooses to mellow out their sound yet still skillfully displaying their innate talent in their craft as well.
Every song on here features incredibly soothing vocals from lead singer Hoseung Seol (설호승), while the backing guitars and drums perfectly compliment the smooth aesthetic of each track. There’s no jarringly disrupting production detours here or excessively indulgent guitar solos. Each element of Aren’t You is a meticulously placed piece that works the best when it comes to the grand scheme of the album. Though some parts of the record are rough around the edges, it’s undeniable that the band’s music has incredible potential to break into the mainstream, be it in Korea or anywhere else round the world.