More Korean music articles here.
Back again with another combined post because I can’t juggle my university and blogging schedule well.
This time around, I’ll be grouping the albums up based on the year they were released in so it gives me room to recommend more than just a single genre.
July » 2016 | August » 2017 | September » 2018
Sam Kim — I AM SAM
Genre: R&B, Pop
Sam Kim’s debut album was a tour-de-force in pop balladry. On his debut EP, he lacks the concise vision that made Sun & Moon great. I AM SAM is scattershot and tonally all over the place, yet every song on here is great despite the project’s overall lack of cohesion.
Loaded with upbeat pop tunes (“DANCE”) to endearing ballads (“MAMA DON’T WORRY”), the range Sam Kim exhibited on the record is a wonderful first impression of what he’s capable of doing.
Lang Lee — 신의 놀이
Genre: Folk, Pop
신의 놀이 was initially only downloadable through a physical book bundle that contained a code to be entered on her Bandcamp. It’s a pretty out-of-touch method of promoting her work given declining book sales recently, but it does represent the atmosphere and aesthetic of the record well.
Filled with gorgeous string sections and suitably sombre vocals, the album is shoegaze-like in its presentation. Yet it’s Lang Lee’s adorably upbeat vocals that inject 신의 놀이 with a jolt of personality to separate itself from the many lo-fi folk records out there right now.
BTS — Wings
Genre: K-Pop, Rap
The world’s biggest boyband didn’t just rise to the top purely off their (VERY) good looks. A listen through their catalogue reveals a discography that’s unique within the realm of K-pop, and amongst those albums, Wings stands out as one of their very best.
Before they dove into glitzy stadium pop, BTS’ work was drenched in R&B and rap. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel by any means, but it does present a tried-and-true style that is polished to such a degree that it’s hard not to fall in love with their sound.
Boys in the Kitchen — Out of the Kitchen
It’s pretty clear where Boys in the Kitchen take their inspirations from. Nearly every track on here could be a great Japanese shounen anime opening theme. Reminiscent to work done by Japanese bands like ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION and BURNOUT SYNDROMES, the band’s brand of pop-rock doesn’t fit in with Korea’s trends.
From their buzzing guitar playing to bombastic vocal deliveries in both Korean and English, the band confidently emulates the sound that many have done before. Yet, there’s barely a weak link on the record, which makes it an all the more engaging listen.
Day6 — MOONRISE
Genre: Rock, K-Pop
Day6 is a group that seems to be crafted specifically for chart domination. Carrying themselves like a K-pop group while at the same time dabbling in crowd-pleasing pop-rock, it’s a surefire recipe to stand out amongst the saturated Korean pop industry.
On Moonrise, Day6’s 2nd studio album of 2017, they trade in the stadium rock of their debut for a more rugged sound. Though ultimately, the end product is still rather overly polished and glitzy, this album isn’t one that should be ignored by rock fans because of it.
HYUKOH — 23
Genre: Rock, Indie
If you mixed traditional rock with a dash of math-rock and a bit of alt-rock, you’d come out with a band much like HYUKOH. On 23, the band never sticks to a particular sound for too long, presenting listeners with a flurry of different sounds across its 49-minute runtime.
There are moments of excitement paired with instances of absolute melancholy. The balance of the points may not be the most well-structured across the album, but like its cover art, 23 is an engaging mix of beautiful disarray.
HEIZE — Wish & Wind
Korean R&B can get pretty formulaic at times. The slow-tempo 808s and dragged out crooning are all par for the course. Yet over the course of Wish & Wind‘s 6 tracks, Heize switches things up by adding a tinge of jazz-flavoured elements.
The result is an EP that’s sensual, perky and confident. It’s stylistically consistent and really is just the perfect soundtrack for late-night drives. It’s a project that knows what it is and does it excellently.
CIFIKA — PRISM
Genre: Electronic, Dance
Dance music is a tough nut to crack. It’s more than just having a decent groove to the track, as the addictive quality that lingers in all great dance tunes need to be present too. On her debut EP PRISM, CIFIKA takes a stab at this to a fairly successful result.
Each song on her progresses rather rapidly. No single musical passage overstays its welcome as each element CIFIKA brings build upon one another, creating an electronic album that’s exquisitely layered.
Moon Jung Hoo (문정후) — Age of Exploration (대항해시대)
Former lead vocalist of Biuret and previously working under the name Moon Hye Won, Moon Jun Hoo’s solo debut is a powerful record of pop ballads that blows listeners away through the sheer rawness of her voice.
Age of Exploration is a starkly beautiful album. Orchestral passages and long, emotive performances decorate the short 35 minutes that Moon presents listeners with. It’s a shame that it’s so difficult to even look for this record on Spotify, because calling it “underappreciated” doesn’t even scratch the surface.