More New Music - The Sounds of Mid-February
|10cm's album cover... so weird.|
EDIT: I'd like to thank bxbisf for compiling the many tracks into this post into a Youtube playlist, which I really should have done when I first posted it. Enjoy listening to it here as you read or go about your day!
First up is Humming Urban Stereo's digital single, 그날 (That Day). Humming Urban Stereo - mainly consisting of Lee Ji-lin and featured female vocalists - is a staple in the Korean indie scene, from what I know without having done any major research on him. His songs that I’m familiar with are very bubbly indie-electro-poppy (Hawaiian Couple, Banana Shake), but this single, "넌 그날" is mellower, almost melancholy. I credit it to the gorgeous, soulful instrumental - it somehow evokes the image of a lazy Friday evening in a city apartment, sitting on the window/fire escape with red wine. It comes in two versions - the official single with actress Yoo In Na on the vocals, who does a pretty decent job, and one with Lee Ji-lin himself on it, which seems darker due to his lower octave voice. There's also a remix of the Yoo In Na version, and a bossa nova intro track which I love. Definitely one of my favorite releases of the week.
The OST for the sitcom Real School featuring U-Kiss members also got released. It’s got two tracks by the boys - "Always" and "Kiss Me" - that take them back to their debut days when they were cute teenagers and not angsty man-boys. It’s nice to hear them without the autotune. I would suggest, however, that if you’re looking for peppy feel-good pop tunes sung by cute boys, you pick up SHU-I’s Japanese EP Starlight instead. It’s got a very Japanese flavor, and while I can't see this working out in Korea, I will say that it's pretty good pop music performed by pretty good performers. "陽のあたる場所" has a really great chorus that really makes the song in my opinion - my favorite track from the EP. In case you didn't know, SHU-I actually debuted in Korea in 2009 with "Bomb Bomb Bomb" but didn't make a huge splash (not much of a surprise - the song's pretty bad). They then moved to Japan and seem to have amassed somewhat of a following. Good for them.
Lee Jung is back with his first physical release since returning from the army towards the end of last year. I tend to think of him as the Korean D’Angelo, and he definitely proves it with this album, which is soulful, skillful and everything you’d expect from a veteran of his standing. “Let’s Dance” is the club/youth track - super-electro and autotuned, but not that bad. I like the verses, and though I’m not in love with the chorus, I think Lee Jung pulls the whole electro thing off (especially with the kick-ass video and awesome live performance below). “들어봐” sounds like it could have been on Taeyang’s HOT album. I love that album and this track is equally awesome. The best track, however has got to be “기쁜날” which I’m specifically recommending to McRoth and all lovers of classic ballads, because this is a good one – even I think it’s awesome. The album also includes “Breaking Up”, Lee Jung's first post-army single featuring Leessang - a great R&B track. And can we get a Leessang comeback, please? Need more of these guys.
Of course, one of the stars of last week's releases is the highly anticipated debut album 1.0 from indie band 10cm, who created a buzz last year with their debut EP First and numerous live performances. If I was to summarize this album, I would call it a collection of well-written songs that represent the band's own quirky take on indie music as a genre. Those familiar with their previous work will notice that they've added more instruments to their instrumentals, but still revert back to their original guitar and bongos for about half the tracks. I love the bongos, personally, so I hope they don't ever toss them out :) They explore a number of different sounds too - bluesy, upbeat, soulful and melancholy - yet retain their individuality all the way through. Listening to the album feels like experiencing the world through another person’s eyes - things seem familiar, but you get to see sides of it you hadn’t seen before. In that aspect, the album reminds me a lot of Clara Chung's music - I get the same vibe from both artists. Their fresh take on indie music is really what sets this band apart, and they'll definitely be the band to watch in the coming year. I won't link to individual tracks because I think the album is worth listening to all the way through - so go find it! Here's a live performance of one of my favorite tracks off the album:
Junsu of 2PM makes his official foray into the songwriting world this week: firstly with Kan Miyoun's comeback single, "Sunshine". It's a pretty, laid-back R&B number that I think suits Kan Miyoun's sweeheart image. I like the contrast it makes between her sexy image from her last single, "Crazy". Junsu raps on the track, which I cringed at at first, but his flow isn’t terrible and actually keeps the song from being too boring. Junsu and Miyoun switch off frequently and actually harmonize pretty well, both keeping the vocals light. It’s not too ambitious, and achieves what it sets out to do, which is really all you can ask for on a track, especially by a rookie music maker.
Junsu a.ka. JunK seems to be establishing his writing/producing style as a pop-R&B, as his second track, "Don't Leave" with Lim Jeong-Hee for the Dream High OST, could easily have come from the same album as "Sunshine". I absolutely LOVE this track. I'm not too surprised, as One Way's Chance was actively involved in the production process, as well as Lim Jeong-Hee herself and guitarist Sam Lee. They definitely are a great team: the instrumental is great R&B stuff, which you don't see often in either drama OSTs or idol star material (hopefully that'll change from now on?). Also, Junsu and Lim Jeong-Hee are a pleasure to listen to, and sound amazing together. I'm tentatively jumping on the J.Lim bandwagon, after this track and her awesome collabo with Younha and K.Will for the end year-shows this past New Year (here, here, here, and here for the full performance).
Also from the Dream High OST we have half of 2AM – Changmin and Jinwoon – with 사랑하면 안될까", a sweet mid-tempo ballad of their own. Nothing amazing, but I’m Jinwoon-biased, so I love that he gets a whole half of a song to sing. 2AM rarely do anything too innovative or exciting, but always deliver at vocals-wise. I would love to see them do something completely crazy and out-of-the-box, because I can see it working out very well for them.
Part 2 of My Princess's OST was also released this week. Let’s be honest – most of this OST tracks are shamefully underutilized in the drama itself, with the music director preferring to include cheesy and ill-timed instrumental tracks as opposed to the gems in the actual OST. But hey, at least the songs are being released, and the indie bands are getting exposure. The vibe of this half of the OST is more upbeat and playful, as opposed to the dreamy mellow vibe of the first half. It's perfectly suited to the drama, though, as Kim Tae Hee and Song Seung Heon manage to pile on the cute while dealing with the drama surrounding them. Two more Every Single Day tracks on this one, which are a treat – one of them is their original version of “Falling” from the first half of the OST, which was sung by Lee TschzeI can see why they went for a female voice for the first OST bundle, but I find myself liking this version just a teeny bit more – the vocalist has more character. Their other song is a sweet, fun track, "마음". We also get great tracks from 옥상달빛 (Dalmoon or Moon Roof according to Google Translate) and Yohan. Then we get our mandatory idol tracks – this time 4minute’s Jiyoon with a cute track (?!), and a ballad from B2ST’s Yoseob, which isn’t amazing on its own, but sound good because he sings it.
|SO. CUTE. (Source)|
Everyone's favorite vocalist, Alex of Clazziquai puts down a gorgeous jazz-tinged ballad, 되돌릴 수 있다면 (If I Could Turn Back) for the soundtrack of Hyun Bin's movie, Late Autumn, currently playing the film festival circuit. The film is about a man on the run who falls in love with a woman who’s on a ten-day break from jail, and the melancholy vibe of the song is perfect for a romance with a timeline. Alex is joined by a singer named Jane whose light voice complements his very well, and both manage to convey the strength of the emotion without overwhelming the mellow instrumental. Alex has a voice that blends into almost any genre, but I think he really shines here. I don't know if I have to say it, but I love this track :)
Hwayobi and Taeha released a collabo track, 같이 있어줘 (Stay With Me)" which I also love. These two are a great vocal pair, and I love how the drama in the song is built solely by violin and piano until the drums kick in at the middle eight - which is really nice, by the way, and brings the song to a great climax without doing your typical key change. Overall, I think the song is very well done, and I think I'm officially a Hwayobi fan now :)
Jang Hye Jin, Monday Kiz, and Simon also released a collaborative track, as Voice One, 눈물을 움켜쥐고". Despite featuring talented singers, who sound amazing, this is one of those ballads that just comes off as stock to me. Basic chord progression and song structure, essentially your typical OST ballad with nothing to set it a part. A shame really, considering the people involved.
On to less familiar names: I have no idea who Bae Da Hae is but I love her voice! It's not particularly unique, but I find it very emotive, such that every song I’ve heard from her so far captures my attention in ways that most ballads don’t. Her most recent track, "어떻게 니가" is no different. She had a song “My All” for the Doctor Champ soundtrack which was also really nice. Hope she releases an album soon.
Brave Brothers released another collabo track, "Beautiful Girl", this time with T-ara's Hyomin. I had been wondering why everyone - most obviously, After School and U-Kiss - had jumped off the Brave Brothers bandwagon recently, and now I know why: when it comes to electro, he's really stuck in last year’s sounds, and is still heavy handed with the autotune. The song comes off as trite, even slightly indulgent, as if now that he has his own entertainment company he's just doing whatever he wants without paying attention to the direction k-pop is heading in music-wise. I was hoping Hyomin would have a better feature because I think she could pull off whatever you throw at her, but no luck. Brave Brothers may have lost his electro touch, but his hip-hop/R&B production skills are still there. He should just stick with that, in my opinion.
Finally, we have the Co.ed School subunit, 5dolls debuting with their track "Lip Stain". Despite not liking Co.ed School at ALL, I was surprised to find myself actually enjoying this song. It reminds a lot of Sistar’s “How Dare You” in it’s instrumental style, only it has a slightly different beat progression, which makes it more of a dancey song than an anthem song. Chanmi sounds great, and you can tell she’s the vocal anchor of both the sub-unit and Co.Ed. The video was cute, bonus points for many Jay Park dancing shots. But I was most intrigued by the songs or (songs?) featured at the end of the video – they sound really good! Hoping for a release of those sometime soon.
Phew! And we’re done. Now that I’m all caught up, I’m looking forward to listening to (and possibly reviewing) this week’s releases – Dalmatian, who’ve thankfully ditched the barking and are attempting to break into the human market with some tracks that sound super-appealing; After School’s Kahi and Lee Hyun. So until then, enjoy your week!