Posted in music

Cherry Bullet – Cherry Rush (1st Mini Album)

Alas! It feels like it’s been forever since Cherry Bullet came back and good that they did, they came back with a title track which I can only describe as an earworm, but more on that later, they released their first EP called Cherry Rush. Let’s jump right into the discussion.

Love So Sweet being the title track, sounds very wistful or something, the chorus is fun but melancholy. I love the whistles and the “shh”. Haeyoon sounds amazing as always. The last “da da da” goes on for a long time. That’s my only complaint along with the production or mixing sound a little bit off. However I see it being an earworm among listeners. I also liked the music video, the outdoors set with the Cherry Bullet van is adorable. The rooms concept reminds me of one of the Life Goes On performances which I loved so no complaints at all there. The M/V does feel a little bit low-budget but that’s expected from FNC.

Next is Follow Me. Another interesting intro. More weird vocal mixing but it doesn’t bother me as much as it did with Love So Sweet. Another fun chorus, ba da da dum! Feels very summery so I’m sure people will be listening to a lot when it gets warmer. I liked how the bridge gradually had a build-up and then had the girls all singing in the background. Another long outro but I don’t really mind. Very cheery and poppy.

Keep Your Head Up is next in queue. This one brought a complete vibe change. Sounds less cute and more girl crush. The chorus has an addictive beat. Who’s this rapping in the second verse! Jiwon maybe? She sounds so good. A very beat intense music, I can almost picture a performance for this. Another good bridge by the end of the song followed by those high notes.

Whatever starts off with more laidback beat in the first verse. That pre-chorus sounds very good, it has a nice build-up towards the chorus and then nicely transitions! So spacey. Very much liked Bora’s vocals! Another super catchy chorus, that seems to be the theme of the album at this point, it seems to me, and given the title of the EP, it sounds fair. Second verse, still no idea who’s rapping but so good! Still obsessed with the pre-chorus. Interesting how the ending chorus has modulation/key change. This makes a decent b-side.

Closing the album is Ting-a-ring-a-ring. A nice closing ballad with a slightly more upbeat side to it. I like this laidback vibe going on with the song. I don’t think I like it quite as much as Violet but I live for these vocal-heavy CheBul tracks. Vocally, they all sound very good. I appreciate slow rap verses too so I enjoyed those in this song. The “ba ba ba” instrumental break-ish sounded good, this addition was nice. No real bridge which is a shame (just because I love a good bridge) but I like how the song ends with all the vocals. Decent song to end the EP.

Overall: A very cohesive album, lots of catchy choruses and gorgeous vocals. The mixing sounds sort of “stuffy” to me or something (I don’t know music production terms). I liked how they kept their album theme consistent and worked with the tracks accordingly, I always like it when that happens. Love So Sweet was like a poppy Bad Guy with an absolutely killer hook I can’t get out of my head (I still hear it). Good to have them back, looking forward to their music stages and choreography.

ALBUM SCORE — 7/10

Posted in music

ONEUS – DEVIL (1st Full Album)

Exactly a month ago, ONEUS gave us Bbuseyo, a fun upbeat track which I enjoyed especially watching the music video, in addition to that I always enjoyed Mamamoo reacting to them. I’m also fond of their choreographies in particular, they’re very pleasant to look at. the RBW group is back with their first studio album and without further ado, let’s dive.

Intro: Devil is in the details: Knew it already, loved every second of it from the teaser. The vocals are incredible, short as they may be, Ravn finally joins the skrrt club and I have no idea why that word alone exists and specifically why are so many people using it, no idea and cn’t say I’m a fan of it, god forbid if this becomes a thing in 2021 (sorry skrrt lovers). I enjoyed the rap verses. The distorted voice chanting “devil’s in the details” reminded me of Agust D’s Honsool a lot.

No Diggity is the title track. It seems to be that the joker/clown aesthetic mixed with conventional lighting and rapid cuts is very evident in the music video. I liked the references if this is what they were going with. Sonically, the song sounds like it could be played in the clubs, very high energy. I liked the rap verse in the end of the first verse.  I’ll be honest, this isn’t exactly my favourite title track by them (takes a lot to top A Song Written Easily for me) but the energy and hype in this song is definitely going to be enhanced by performances. But I’m still in awe of the composition. The arrangement might not be expected from RBW, but the composition is very obviously by experienced composers and producers. It’s good to see new faces (including new idols) composing and producing this kind of songs, but look at those credits. Even if the song is from a sort of overdone and popular “genre”, it has many moments that prevent it from becoming generic.

Leftover is the next song, and oh god for a few good seconds there the beats reminded me of Moonbyul’s ILJIDO. Honestly this track would make a good title track as well. I liked the modulation after the first chorus.  I like how the intense raps are broken up with the slightly slower vocals coming after. That instrumental pause in the bridge caught me off guard a bit but I really like it. Those ad-libs at the end sound good.

Next in queue is Incomplete. I was not prepared for the raps here, even more so than in Leftover. This chorus is my favourite so far. I really like the instrumental here, not sure how to explain what I like about it but it’s a vibe. Those ‘ooohs’ were smooth. How do they manage to make rap verses come out very differently even in a song with medium level of beat going on. For example, the music here suddenly switches up and we hear the raps and then just like that we fade to the general pace of the song. This is a very interesting song.

Youth is the next song. Highlight medley made me most excited for this (along with Rewind) and this lives up to everything I wanted from this. When that chorus melody swells it’s beautiful. That little drum/instrumental thing at the start of the second verse is such fun. This feels uplifting and nice (I kind of want a sentimental MV with this song now). This is definitely a pretty good feel-good song with modulation in all the right places. I liked the choruses as well as the bridge a lot.

Bbuseyo was the song I heard back in December. Undoubtedly very fun sounding, I liked the music video as well, enjoyed the visuals and pop of color. Also a nice change of pace to have it be included at this point in the album, so a good arrangement for the tracks in the album. The added pop of funny adlibs also fit well.

Rewind is a song which is very atmospherically dreamy mixed with fun bright beats, and needless to say, this album is delivering on both. This pre-chorus sounded interesting (and those background vocals the second time around as well). I’m not a huge fan of consistent bright and poppy music but it’s great for people who do and in that case it’s definitely in it for a treat. However, track listing-wise this time, it feels like the cut-off between this and the next song is a little abrupt.

Lion Heart is next in queue, you best believe it’s a surprise reading this title especially the last Lion Heart I listened to was from SNSD. It had an interesting beginning as well as the bridge had a decent build-up too but unfortunately this song doesn’t do much for me. I liked the high notes, ofcourse but maybe it’s the instrumental that didn’t click right with me — maybe because the constant intensity tires me out.

What You Doing? was shaping up to be something I’d like hearing but unfortunately that initial “what you doing baby” in the chorus with that drop isn’t really standing out to me as much, though the way they sing it fits somehow and the fact that it is groovy.  It reminds of a EXO or SM song, not sure which one — and songs like that are not my cup of tea to be very honest.

IPU is a sentimental and a slow paced track it seems. I liked the addition of electric guitar in second chorus, it made the song more dynamic. Fantastic bridge as well with a little bit of modulation. This is a decent closing ballad from ONEUS.

All in all – Xion improved, a LOT. Leedo is getting comfortable in his role as honorary main vocal, the actual main vocals continue to wow me everytime, Ravn’s voice is versatile, Hwanwoong outright said ‘screw positions’ and did everything in this album – rapping, singing, a mix, all of it with precision and punch. To be honest they all did everything, every member has adlibs, chorus or verse parts, they really don’t confine themselves to their given position. However, I couldn’t keep up with the upbeat unusually sounding EDM based instrumental tracks one after the another. Maybe this isn’t for me since I’m more of a slow-jam R&B and alternative ballads kind of a person.

ALBUM SCORE — 6/10

Posted in music

CRAVITY – HIDEOUT: BE OUR VOICE – SEASON 3

We’re back with the Starship rookies Cravity and their third mini album, opening the title track with very automobile-centric visuals for the music video which very much gave me SM/NCT-esque vibe, they also have 6 more songs in store for this mini album, so without further ado let’s get right into it.

My Turn being the first in tracklist, it’s not an instant favourite but I’ve already warmed up to it after a couple listens. It’s full of high energy, if I ever go through with my resolution of finally working out, this will probably be one of the songs I’d listen to. And whether you love or hate it, the ‘Vroom’ (x9) Skrrt’ part is gonna be stuck in your head for days. As for someone who is always very lyric centric, I’m not sure if this is something I’d often listen to — but I see the point of it being a title track. Build-up from pre-chorus is interesting. Addition of percussion in the chorus was a good choice. Members who did the bridge sounded good, their vocals had flown together well.

Next is Call My Name, coming up right after the hype energy of the previous track somehow flowed perfectly despite how different the vibe was. It was dark, mystical, ethereal and a little more melancholic almost? It’s really magnetic and draws you in for more. That chorus is extremely addictive and the rap in the second half sounded almost like a desperate yet angry plea that urged me to search up the lyrics — and I did not regret doing that, lyrics talked about the feeling of longing. Both rap verses were very well arranged to flow with pre-choruses. I can definitely find myself listening to this track again.

Next in queue is Mammoth; I didn’t think you can sync up someone’s breathing-almost-panting breath with the beats, it’s odd yet an interesting addition. Another high energy song. To be honest, this song definitely has the potential of being a title track. When Seongmin sang his pre-chorus, I felt like it’d be perfect for an anime. Preceding this song, next track is Bad Habit. I feel like it continues the energy in Mammoth but more breathy and a lot of vocals are in low register. The instrumental is an acid trip that got saved by the vocals and the rap. Serim-Allen rap verses in the chorus was interesting. I’m confused by this whole song lol really a rebel song.

Moonlight is the next track. Hyeongjun definitely has more parts than usual in the album, which is nice. The chorus had a very EDM-like situation going on the background of the vocals. Rap verse after 2nd chorus built up more energy and transitioned to the final chorus and I liked the high note added to it so it doesn’t sound monotonous. All in all, didn’t stand out in comparison to the other songs, but I still enjoyed their vocals on this one.

Next is Dangerous. I’m really starting to see a pattern here, as of Cravity’s music, despite having listen their discography before but this EP definitely solidified their music style for sure. But Dangerous is a song style which they’ve probably done for the first time. I intro feels funky. It really feels like an e.one song though it’s not by him (reminds me of IZ°ONE Mise-en-scene?). Sounds like a song a girl group would sing which is cool, it’s interesting how the melody goes for the chorus.

Closing the EP is Give Me Your Love. This is a sweet and soothing song to finish on. Woobin’s voice sounds beautiful. Would it be too much to ask Cravity to do tracks like these more often? I think it shows off potential of members especially the vocal line. I liked the slow and flowy — almost sing-song like rap verses too. This is definitely my fav in this EP. Loved the smooth drums after the end of first chorus. Bridge and post-bridge build up sounded amazing. Come on Cravity! you gotta do more songs like these, definitely up my alley. The instrumental break sounds very good, a nice way to fade the song out.

I feel like this album was a little bit darker than their previous releases and I feel I notice the rapline a lot more for this album? The vocals are also fantastic and though I can’t recognize each individual member’s voice, I can hear that they all have their own distinct vocal qualities that set them apart from each but still sound so beautiful when singing in unison. However, I must be in the minority cause this was definitely their weakest release yet, I don’t think any of them stood out for me which is a shame cause their previous releases were quite good. I don’t mind this change of tracks but if they improve on it, I think they might get a lot better. Again, I think they sound really good in medium upbeat feel-good tracks. Hoping to see more of it in future.

ALBUM SCORE — 6/10

Posted in music

TVXQ! Yunho (U-KNOW) – NOIR (The 2nd Mini Album)

This is my first time listening to Yunho and TVXQ in general, I’ve listened to a lot of their songs when I first got Noir’s album announcement, I figured I should get a feel of their especially Yunho general music style so be able to under this one — so you can say it’s his first comeback I am getting familiar with. Now that I write about music, I have discovered many artists starting last few years. I remember looking back when streaming services where close to none and I’d exchange songs with my friends in school, intrigued to know what kind of songs they listened to. As we’re talking about it, I am aware of a lot of singles and MV releases, but my aim here is to review mini and full albums only. WordPress told me today that I finished about 50 posts in total and with that, I appreciate if you’ve been reading them, it feels like me writing down all my thoughts here is getting paid off. So without further ado, let’s get into the songs of this EP.

Time Machine – This was the one I was most intrigued by in the teasers because of the cyberpunk thing and I like that the song really incorporates that futuristic instrumental vibe. This reminds me of Follow in some ways and that can only be a good thing. Addition of unusual autotuned lines and dubstep sounds was interesting. Wish it didn’t end as abruptly though, but it’s something indeed different and I didn’t expect it. Although, I think for an album that’s called Noir, a futuristic song was unnecessary.

Thank U – The title track took me multiple listens to actually process the song and not just watch the MV movie again. It isn’t what I expected but I like it, Yoo Youngjin-produced songs always end up being nice anyway. He really sells that effortlessly cool image, the dramatics and those ‘I hate this’ ad-libs make this better. The bridge is also good. He has a very mature voice. They added the instruments of something we’d hear in Noir movies but given the opening song which was very contradictory to the album theme, I dont think Thank U exactly makes up for it, especially for someone listening to the entire EP in a row. I have to admit it’s not exactly my favourite song though.

Loco (House Party) – I vibed with this from the start, just like I expected, and love it given Loco is one of the artists I appreciate. But will I listen to this song again? probably not. I don’t know why the verses feel a bit creepy, but then the chorus kicks in and those ‘ooohs’ ad-libs make this so much lighter. This is a vibe, and the bridge gave it as very party-like anthem, I can picture it being performed in a concert very much.

Need You Right Now – I like his voice here in this track. This is such a classic song, emotional in all the right places, start slow then switch-up, and Yunho’s experience and talent knows exactly how to make this absolutely perfect, that chorus switch-up and the simple repetition of ‘need you right now’ works so well. This song might be my favourite off this album. I liked the subtle beats after second chorus coming in a bit more clear then slightly fading in pre-chorus. The contrast between his very restrained soft-spoken main vocals and the louder harmonies at the end is satisfying.

La Rosa ft. Yeeun – This comes off as a soft romantic song. I liked the addition of acoustic guitar starting in the pre-chorus and then continuing on throughout the song, sounds very latin styled. Chorus is also pretty decent. When Yeeun comes on in the second verse is when this track actually lights up very well. Her vocals suit this song a lot. Their back-and-forth and then their harmonising was a very nice addition. Their voice compliment each other and that’s actually very nice to hear.

To conclude, It’s interesting that Time Machine reminds me of Blue Jeans instead of Follow! In retrospect it’s more like a hybrid of elements from both songs. I also conclude that Thank U somehow isn’t as enjoyable as the bsides but I totally see it as title track worthy still (but not in an album titled Noir, I stand my point on that since the whole structure of the song contradicts the album theme, however, if he has something coming out in the theme of ‘futuristic’ then it’ll be befitting). Very classic SMP, in my honest opinion. All in all, it has been a pretty good experience listening to Yunho.

Album Score — 7/10

Posted in music

Epik High – Epik High is Here 上 (Part 1)

Hello k-hiphop, we’re back! My favourite music genre that ever existed. I’ve been waiting for this release since it’s my first comeback with Epik High, probably my most favourite hip hop artists out there. Going into their discography, I began understanding how they influenced so many other artists — and the way they collaborated with some of the very talented artists made everything just way better, speaking of which, this new album is also full of amazing artist collaboration and I couldn’t wait to dive in and listen to it all.

First track is Lesson 0. I wonder if this actually concludes the Lesson series. “No more lessons, please take me back to zero.” I can’t tell who does the intro. Hayley Gene Penner is credited according to Melon; I wonder if she’s the one singing the beginning and is just pitch-shifted or if she just helped with composition? Great pace and a pretty decent message. Lesson-Tablo has always been pretty disillusioned but this one feels thematically more like something off Remapping the Human Soul, which I love. Great start.

Next is Rosario feat. Zico and CL. I’m going to be honest here, I’m not into CL’s music, I have never really vibed with her. However, her feature in this song is not bad, in fact flowed decently well with the track.  I love Tablo’s first verse. The energy of the pumping bass that drops in halfway gives it a lot of momentum. I like the like vinyl-texture on the brass in the chorus. Nice seeing Zico collab with them! I liked his verse! Damn after Any Song, I really miss his music. It was good to see him get featured in this song.

Based On A True Story feat. Heize is next in line. Let me start by appreciating Heize as an artist, I love her music and to have her work with Epik The light instrumental with her softer vocals on top is just an amazing pairing. The more breathy vocals in the chorus contrasted with the sharp, aggressive raps in the verse is an amazing contrast. Beat-wise, this being on top of just a bass, strings, and piano is awesome. I love the more minimalistic stuff that Epik High pulls off just with sheer musicality. They do much with a little. The surprise accordion in the final post-chorus before the outro keeps it interesting, too. Her voice is magical and so appropriate and fit for this flow, let me repeat — it’s as if this track was made for her vocals.

Next is 수상소감 (Acceptance Speech) feat. B.I. Good first verse by Minthra. It’s been so long since hearing B.I, last time I listened to him was when he was in iKON. I really liked the sampling bleed! That was pretty cool. I really like the chorus and the instrumental is nice. I am such a Tablo stan. His flow is ear candy. There’s something really heart-warming about hearing epik high double behind B.I.

Leica feat. Kim Sawol is next in queue. I loved the beginning with piano, a chill lo-fi beginning and Tablo starting his flow as he hummed to the piano tune, that was really interesting how he adjoined the hums with his verse. I really liked the addition of brass instruments towards the end of the song, it’s like listening to something straight out of a Noir film. I think this is my favourite song off the already-so-beautiful album so far. The brass instrument also complimented Kim Sawol’s voice perfectly.

Next track is 정당방위 (In Self-Defence) feat. Woo, Nucksal and Changmo. Again, Tablo’s rap verse really came through, there are one such line that reminded me of something that Eminem would write about “Classic after classic, this is number ten, name a fuckin’ rapper we ain’t influenced”. The track gets creepy during Woo’s part. Nucksal’s laugh was too good! Changmo really ended the track with great flow.

True Crime feat. Miso is next song in the album. It feels so nostalgic. Miso’s voice makes you feel like your floating, then that synth comes in and takes you out of this world. All the drops hit me hard the two times around. If you know me, you know that I don’t do EDM. But this kind of chorus break EDM sound is something I’d listen to everyday. It’s technique they don’t normally do, and so that’s why it sounds very refreshing coming from them. I also liked how they used it so creatively, not messing up it’s initial calm and chill vibe. Now that’s something I highly appreciate.

Social Distancing 16 is a one minute track with a great effortless flow describing the pandemic. I freaking love this instrumental. Pretty short which is expected given they don’t need to say much more about it. This is the song that’s been on the background of my life as I go to get groceries during this pandemic — and you’d probably say the same thing once you’ve read the translations (find them here).

End of The World feat. GSoul is next in queue. At this point I’ve pretty much put this entire album in my regular playlist, no lie. Mithra’s part had similar vibes to Rosario as if we bout to go back on this journey, then Golden comes back and effortlessly mixes with the flow of the song. Instrumental is cool. I like the guitar. Thematically this looks to be about injustice which is also super topical this year on top of the pandemic stuff.

Wish You Were is basically just a spoken poem recording. I, of course know that’s what rap is but I mean given the shortness of the prose here and the relative lack of vocal musicality, feels a bit more earnest. Haru’s additional feature was really cool. “For the last few years, It’s been pourin’ rain, my daughter saw the pain”. Knowing Tablo was depressed for a very long time it’s unfortunate those feelings have been coming back. “All my peers are drowning in their past, so I’d rather be right here” Pretty great line there. It’s always nice to hear him talk about how much he loves his family and emphasizing that his now is so much better than his past is relieving. This track is highly personal and it gave another dimension to this album, also an exceptional track to close this album. You can feel the melancholy in it.

To conclude, wow, it’s been such a ride listening to Epik High’s discography. I personally believe that the rest of the world needs to listen to them. They resemble the true artistry who greatly contributed to k-hip hop and largely the whole music scene in South Korea. If you haven’t listened to them, I can assure you how much their music will put you into perspective.

Album Score — 9.5/10

Posted in music

I burn with (G)I-DLE

Hello readers, we’re 11 days into 2021 hope you’re having a good time trying to adjust to all the changes last year has given us. I have began mine with promises of self-improvement and finding/doing new things, these 11 days have worked well so far — and as we speak, there’s also new music coming our way, (G)I-DLE have released their 4th mini album today and a banger semi-traditional title track. Let’s get into reviewing the first album of 2021.

First track is Hann (Alone In Winter). It’s a successor to a track they did in one of their previous albums called Hann (Alone), and as the member Soyeon said herself, you must listen to Hann (Alone) before listening to Hann (Alone In Winter) and so I did. Safe to say it’s a pretty unique addition to their discography. It reminded me a lot of Enhypen’s music style especially their concept and the way they do their intros and outros. I would like it if they included the instrumental version of it because the production in it was impressive — especially the use of Guzheng. I feel like this is the intro to a great mystical space pirate princess opera or something. From the highlight medley I thought this sounded like an Evanescence song, but it’s not quite as heavy. It’s more melodic and K-pop like.

We move onto the title track HWAA. Visually, I see a lot of traditional Korean elements incorporated into the music video, especially the use of fans, ancient umbrellas, even the hairdos of members like Miyeon and Yuqi. The art direction was also semi-traditional mixed with modern elements which I found pretty interesting. Sonically, I really like Minnie’s vocals, ever since she opened their previous title track Oh My God, there is depth to her voice that makes it instantly stand out. In addition to that, I also find Yuqi’s voice quite unique. Hwaa will definitely take more listens for me to finally settle in my head, but the concept they did was very idle-like, if you know what I mean. I liked the combination of some traditional Asian instrumentation with the dark hip hop/moombahton beat. This is really kinda emotional and melancholic for a title track, but it’s a refreshing change. It’s haunting and somber.

All the songs in this EP are written and produced by Soyeon as always, I liked that Minnie and Yuqi also participated in the making, it’s always good to see artists participate in the creation process of their music especially female idols.

Next is MOON. This is groovy, it’s kind of walking the border of quirky and playful with dark and mysterious. Soojin’s voice in the second verse is interesting, and I like the heavily distorted guitar in the background. I like it when b-sides where K-pop can show off more unusual styles, and this is a big step up from Blow Your Mind from Minnie in terms of composition. I liked Blow Your Mind but this sounds like she’s really coming into her own as a composer, there are a lot of interesting elements here that she’s putting together nicely. As obscure as the reference is they remind me of Björk’s Thunderbolt.

Next track is Where Is Love. I’ll be honest, I don’t truly care for this one too much, it’s a little generic in my eyes, but I liked the Soyeon’s rap verse. I’m kind of glad they didn’t turn it into a title track, I’ve heard this music style in 2020 quite a lot. I just wish they emphasized the retro elements more and threw out the EDM/trap stuff. Where everything else is so unique and interesting, this just doesn’t hook me as much as the other tracks. Outro vocal break was interesting but could’ve done better to be honest.

Coming up, we have LOST. Nice addition of vocals in chorus before the rap break, I liked the addition of piano mixed with acoustic guitar. This is actually something I’d be interested in listening to — something as R&B with a touch of melancholic chords added to this song. Like I mentioned before, I like Yuqi’s voice a lot, so I was waiting to listen to this track quite eagerly ever since I heard it in the highlight medley. Getting the other members to do the lower verses and then Yuqi herself taking the chorus? Loved that! This is an unapologetic Yuqi showcase and I love it. I also liked how she let Miyeon take the second chorus and it sounds great too. What a team player. I need a live performance of this song, and more stripped back with just guitar perhaps. Because this is a really nice vocal track.

Closing this EP is DAHLIA. A contemporary and expansive electropop track with some trap elements. Mmm actually this is quite good, it’s chill but also ominous at parts. Sounds like a late summer track, it’s nice. I think they could promote this as a b-side, it’s good, it reminds me of Maze a bit but more tender and emotional. Minnie did a great job with it, a few tweaks and a bit more polish and this could definitely be a title-track, instead it serves as a outro for what is a really impressive. The flower theme and instrumentation almost makes it feels like winter is ending if that makes sense? I think this one is more of a lyrical track so I think I’ll have to come up with conclusive thoughts after I read the translation, but this is generally a solid pop closer.

Overall this was a strong and really cohesive mini-album. My favorite thing about it is definitely how much it showcases the varied and wonderful vocals and each of producer-lines styles and strengths. But there are things that could be improved and I’m hopeful that a full I-DLE album might be able to match this level of cohesion with some better music cuts. Don’t get me wrong — I am critical of them because I see so much potential to be even better. As for Where Is Love, I can understand if they put it there as an oddball to provide balance but I believe it would’ve been much better without it, other than that, they proved their versatility yet again. I will listen to Hann, maybe HWAA and definitely LOST again and again.

ALBUM SCORE — 8/10

Posted in music

2020 REWIND: songs that stayed with me

Hello readers, happy holidays! This year hasn’t been the best for all of us, however, it’s good to see people around me get festive and happy about the new year coming. Sonically, this year has been good too, we’ve gotten a lot of good music — and I’ll take a lot of them with me to the following year that stuck with me and were played regularly in my playlist. Here are some of them, in no particular order:

I’m Bad Too (Feat. DPR LIVE)

Maknae of Mamamoo, Hwasa released a banger EP earlier this year full of beautiful songs, one produced by Zico as well (called Kidding, check it out if you haven’t yet). Lyrics talk about satirical pov of how she’s seen among pupil who have criticized her (I know! imagine coming after her, I would never). The song is sort of dark, and I liked the way it’s produced, loved the guitar variations and DPR’s lilt rap break too. All in all, it’s something I vibed with a lot this year. The EP itself has a strong and beautiful theme.

UGH!

2020 started with BTS’ full album release, Map Of The Soul 7. And though, I loved so many songs in the LP (ugh, louder than bombs and zero o’clock being my holy trinity from it), UGH! stayed with me throughout the year — or at least what my spotify rewind says. It’s a hip hop track from BTS rap line, and while it may sound like a diss track, in reality it isn’t. Lyrics talk about how we channel anger in the worst way possible and imagine the world if we channeled it in the right path. I think that’s very contemplative and thought provoking. The production was top notch, I liked the old school hip hop way of gunshot sounds. Verses of all three rappers hit very nicely, I like how producer Suga always uses autotune in a creative and stylistic way. You can watch the explained video here (it’s pretty interesting).

Fairy Of Shampoo

A lot of people think that this song is by TXT, but it isn’t. Fairy Of Shampoo is from a poem by 장정일(Jang Jung-il) 샴푸의 요정(Fairy of shampoo). It describes human beings in capitalist society by telling the story that a man falls in love with a woman who appears in the TV shampoo commercial. So TXT covered the song, originally it’s created by a band called 빛과 소금(Light and Salt) — you can listen to the original song here. They wrote it for soundtrack of a k-drama called 샴푸의 요정 (Fairy of Shampoo) (1988). Since then, many artists have been covering this song. Reason why I liked TXT’s version the most is because of its jazz fusion, use of saxophones, certain instruments – it sounds really good, I loved how they put their own signature to it. Listen to the original version too though, it has amazing retro and vintage feel to it, a lot of disco elements because it’s 80s music. Hwasa has also covered it, it’s a ukulele version which you can listen here.

Daechwita

I can only describe this song as what popular internet slang says a ‘cultural reset’. I remember when this dropped and fans went absolutely bonkers. The entire D-2 album is full of contemplative tracks and good collaborations. I think along with Maria, D-2 was my favorite album in terms of solo artists from idol groups releasing this year. Daechwita’s production incorporated traditional Korean instruments fused with hip hop and it was such an interesting listen. Daechwita is basically a role-call of sorts which was sang by one of the kingsmen whenever the king entered the main hall. Researching about this song really gave me a lot of information pertaining to South Korean history. It’s always good to learn something new. The flow switches were good, verse during last pre-chorus was heavenly.

Be In Love

Truthfully, Itzy’s music style isn’t my cup of tea but this song from their last album’s b-side really stuck with me because this is very different from what Itzy usually perform. I would really like it if they performed songs like this more, this really showed their potential as singers. So Be In Love is definitely my favorite song among all Itzy songs this year.

Make Me Go

Definitely my favorite b-side from More & More EP of Twice. I don’t vibe with Twice’s style often but I like the mature concepts they’ve been doing lately. I think Make Me Go has potential to be a title track too and it would’ve been an instant hit if this was made into a title track. Nevertheless, I liked the repetitive background beats and chimey chorus. Honorary mention from me is HELL IN HEAVEN from their new album, Eyes Wide Open. That’s one of my favorite Twice b-sides as well.

Stairs In The North

If you’ve read my posts so far, you’ll know that I’m a sucker for ballads and discovering Gfriend during the time of Song Of The Sirens gave me life. Stairs In The North lyrics possess question of climbing a set of infinite staircases and not knowing what’s ahead and where are they reaching — or if they’re reaching anywhere at all. It’s very much a personal monologue from Gfriend and their lives as a team. (The question is then answered in their next album, Walpurgis Night by the way). I liked the buildup of the song, chorus gave me butterflies. I liked key change in the second verse after first chorus. Key changes fit so right with Gfriend and they pull each one off effortlessly. Instrument break before bridge felt so right, it reminded me of the ones Taylor Swift used to do with her country albums like Speak Now. Maybe this is also one of the reasons why I resonated with Gfriend’s music so much. By the end when you’re reaching the final instrumental break of strings, it’ll give you goosebumps. I’m sorry to tell you, if you haven’t listened to it yet, I don’t know what you’re doing. This is THE ballad of 2020.

Where The Sea Sleeps

Ah! Even Of Day! Day6’s first subunit and my first comeback with them. I did a review in this EP. This title track stayed with me and I listened to it quite a lot mainly because of it’s soothing nature. I enjoyed their performance stage as well. I liked the opening of the song with slow drums transitioning into vocals. Pre-chorus vocals sounded magical. I liked their falsettos during chorus. Very nice hitting, mellow song, I would listen to it during any road trip.

Butterfly

Oh hey, G-dragon has a sonic doppelganger. If you listen to him, you’ll probably think the same. I liked this song a lot, this is the track I took back with me from his debut album, as a soloist with P Nation this year. Even though I put the GD label, his music style is undoubtedly very different, and I like that very much. Looking forward to his future work but Butterfly definitely one of my favorite from 2020.

Ghosting

I’m back with TXT. This song this from their recent album, Minisode. This is very laid back and relaxing. Fells super soothing and nostalgic. TXT’s music and concepts are very artistic, they’ve made their style very known ever since they debuted, as 4th generation idol group, they stand out with all their concepts. Ghosting had amazing stable vocals especially from Soobin and Taehyun. Kai in 2nd chorus also sounded very good, he absolutely ended the bridge. Beomgyu has a very unique voice and Yeonjun’s vocals have good flair. Ghosting is definitely my jam in Minisode EP, including Wishlist.

Better Me & Night Drive

Yes, your girl is back with Gfriend songs. I can’t help it because they make such good music. These two songs are from their first set of sub-units from their new full album Walpurgis Night (zero skips by the way, a banger album), and both of them have different genres. Better Me is latin pop, while Night Drive is alternative R&B ballad, I really liked Eunha and Yuju harmonizing with each other. I cannot describe how much I love these songs and members have also participated in writing composing the music. Just wonderful.

Alone

This was my first comeback with BTOB and their sub-unit BTOB 4U. I liked the EP very much especially Mirage, Bull’s Eye and Alone. I gave me Linkin Park vibe especially when Peniel’s rap verse chimed in, gave me chills. I liked Changsub’s opening vocals blending well with Minhyuk’s. Eunkwang’s voice sounded so good in chorus, and his back vocals while Peniel rapped. Thank god to Peniel’s podcast, I came across this EP. Just a very fell good track, this one. BTOB is a very fun group, members have bright personality. I enjoyed the EP well and this song ofcourse. Alone was a really feel-good song, will definitely listen to it over and over again.

Blue & Grey

A song produced and written by V. This was my favorite track in BE. Lyrics have a lot of depth — and most of all talk about a very important subject, which is state of mind. Blue and Grey colors have been personified to talk about distressed state of mind. The rap verses fit very nicely of every member. Suga’s was very conversational and talkative, J-hope’s was very lilting and RM’s was hard hitting. BTS vocal line also gave their own signature dimensions to the song through their unique voice. I am so in love with this song. You should be too.

Moon Movie

I consider Moonbyul as one of the best female rappers of our generation. Her rap style actually gives me life and I also love the fact that she’s a very ambitious artist. Her EP Dark Side Of The Moon was released earlier this year and it’s full of songs that have very good messages. Moon Movie’s flow was very nice and unique, I haven’t heard anything as such from idol female rappers. Moonbyul always stands out with her music.

Red Lipstick

I’ve been following BOL4’s quite sometime and they’ve been very nice indie artists. This year they split up and one of the members released a solo album under the same name. Red Lipstick stuck with me. I always like songs that are jazz fused. Her conveyance of verses for the pre-melody was very interesting, what I liked about the song was how she hauled and exaggerated a few words. It was actually a unique and an additional cool touch. The instrumental loop reminded me heavily of Robin Shultz’s beats — MV production was very BOL4 signature.

10 Months

Enhypen, a super fresh just-debuted rookies. Their EP’s theme was very nicely achieved since the concept is pretty spooky. I was taken aback because the album didn’t even sound like it was made by a rookie group, it’s good very good songs including the title track Given-Taken and iland’s famous Flicker. They got a lot of international as well as domestic following. They’ve been doing well. I liked 10 Months specifically for it’s beats. Melody of this song greatly reminded me of Troye Sivan. I loved the verses especially, the vocals combined with the instrumental blended extremely well.

Idea

I never thought Taemin will ever sing a song like this. So I’m overwhelmed, in a good way of course. This is really different in terms of sound and structure from literally anything he’s ever done. I definitely had to give the album a few listens, because I couldn’t get over how intense this was. Love the horror movie vibe with the instrumental. The female vocals work great too. I been listening to Idea a lot and enjoying his performance in year end award shows.

Any Song

I like Zico’s songs a lot. He’s a producer and a songwriter as well, he gave us an album this year and enlisted in the military, not shortly after, his company was acquired by Bighit. I see it as a well for K-R&B and K-Hip Hop scene in South Korean music industry since it seems to be fading, and artists like Zico, Jay Park, MFBTY and pH1 have kept it afloat thus far even though they’re very underrated. I vibes with Any Song a lot. It’s music video’s production was also very good, loved the camera movements very much. I liked the addition of piano and drums, especially in post-chorus verses, they helped the song stay fresh throughout the song. I related to the lyrics a lot as well. This song never left my playlist and never will.

Posted in music

Taeyeon (SNSD) – What Do I Call You (4th EP)

When I think of SNSD, I think of late 2000s, ‘uh huh, listen boy, my first love story’ (yes BTS Suga we’re looking at you), I think of colored jeans, chunky belts and colorful hats. They’ve come a long way from best South Korean’s signature gg to eventually saying goodbye and some of the members starting their own solo career. I have gotten around Taeyeon’s last 3 albums but this one specifically was my first comeback with her. Let’s get right to it.

What Do I Call You (title track): I love the way the chorus shifts into the post-chorus, it feels like she’s really raising the stakes. The floaty chorus into the semi-intense hook is just amazing. Her vocals really compliment the track, and the guitar really has that vibe of “I told you so”. Only real flaw is its but length. The most experimental title track from Taeyeon since Something New, probably. It’s really interesting how the sound doesn’t really ‘explode’ at the chorus, but instead pushes forward in a very consistent manner that’s really satisfying — it stands out from monotonous pattern of most songs these days. I think this might take a couple listens for non-Taeyeon fans to enjoy, but for people who religiously listen to her music this is everything and more! I especially love the last minute of it where there’s multiple layers and things kind of grow in magnitude.

Playlist: Is it R&B? Is it acoustic? Whatever it is, it’s a certified groove. Places me at an evening looking out on the night cityscape while sitting with a loved one and a bottle of wine. Kind of strange, but it’s nice. Really feels like floating when she goes off with the Da Da Da Da Ri. Even though its short, it probably benefits from it a little more. I just love smooth slow songs that you can really just fall asleep/vibe to — right up my alley. Even from the highlight clip of just the chorus, I knew that I would vibe with this track. This is Do You Love Me? and City Love‘s love child. I can see this playing at any coffee shop.

To The Moon: Spacey, really vibey, and I liked the way this song progressed. The chorus and driving to the moon is groovy, just the way she enunciates it sounds very soothing. That subtle shift in the pre chorus also bangs, I really like it. But what is with these short songs? It’s becoming more apparent the further along I move through the EP. I was expecting something ballady from the title, then got bamboozled by the highlight teaser. I can’t really think of a similar song from the rest of Taeyeon’s discography. Maybe a more playful Happy. This is a song I’ll keep on the background for hours, just jamming to it peacefully. Also the fact that this song is for her dog, Zero (tears incoming).

Wildfire: Nostalgic opening, This soft timbre is so comforting. Feels like I’m running through the forest in a Disney movie. And Taeyeon’s heavenly vocals elevate this absolute experience. Then her little belts in the pre-chorus builds this sort of anticipation. Not gonna lie, completely missed the chorus on the first listen but I actually liked it. Would probably have been something I listened to when I was younger. And proper length too! Wasn’t feeling this song from the highlight, but it grew on me on multiple listens.

Galaxy: So many space titles. (Alien Taeyeon confirmed?) Nice “end” to the album with a ballad. Taeyeon’s soft vocals were added bonus. Here’s the thing — you give me music that’s fused with jazz, I will most certainly like it. Really vibey chorus, the emotion she packs into songs throughout their duration is mesmerizing honestly. Another collection to my sleep playlist, this song is so relaxing. Reminds me of Fire, for people who really liked that song and are looking for something sonically similar. It’s really atmospheric and sounds very hopeful. This also sounds the most vocally difficult, and she pulled it off effortlessly.

Happy: Although it released in May, it’s literally my go to release for dopamine. Super impressed that it fits with the rest of the album seamlessly.

This entire album has a vibe. I’m not sure what to describe it as. It’s like light and poppy, almost like this album would be better suited for spring. There’s almost indie energy to how this album sounds. Like does anyone remember early-mid 2010’s-ish Imagine Dragons Night Visions era? Kinda sorta almost similar indie “I’d find these songs playing in a car/insurance commercial” vibes. I’m not sure whether this album has a lot of strong stand out songs like her other albums that I would pick out individually to listen to like some of her other albums, but as an album in its entirety, I’d totally think to myself “what a nice morning, lemme pop on Taeyeon’s What Do I Call You mini album and listen as I’m getting up and going about my day” and listen through the entire album flowing that way. I liked the way that this EP has a continuous theme of it’s own.

ALBUM SCORE — 8/10

Posted in music

IZ*ONE are back – One-reeler / Act IV

From the title of the EP to title track ‘Panorama’ to even the b-side ‘Mise-en-scene’, all of it screams cinema and if you don’t know already, it’s my favorite theme. The teasers looked pretty promising, and so when the album came out I wanted to take time in gathering my thoughts (also not to mention Taylor surprisingly dropped evermore so there has been a lot of self listening parties, noting down what I thought about the songs and so much more).

Mise-en-Scene: fantastical and magical, but with some intense and hard hitting synths, plus those glitchy samples to give it that IZONE twist. Quite April/Lovelyz like, e.one does it again. It’s a bit of a sequel to some of the songs on BLOOMIZ, it’s like a darker Dreamlike at parts. it has the classic building we expect in the pre-chorus but the register is a little lower than some of their saccharine songs. The bridge and final chorus are the clincher where the girls show off their vocals, that signing off Mise-en-Scene is good.

Panorama is the title track and it seems to me like they took some parts of the previous title tracks and distilled it into what makes them special. Elegant strings, mysterious synths, very catchy electronic melody in the post chorus. Also it features the classic IZONE style outro, where they increase the musical tension to really make a lasting impression. All in all, A classic, electronic, well paced song that we’ve come to know from I*Zone. I definitely appreciate the sung chorus, it helps the song flow well and the vocalists get to really show off. The different versions and building of the choruses keep the song really fresh.

Island: Very chirpy synth melodies in the beginning. A lot of bright and sparkly samples in the background, plus a fast tempo, feels like a cute concept based song. The I-I-Island refrain is very catchy. I liked the post-chorus breakdown. I also liked the piano in it too. Wonyoung ending the song smoothly. The beginning music box was interesting. Safe to say that this is more of a saccharine track. Lots of little sound effects from whistles to chiptune to that background, reminded me a lot of AOA. A drop in the second verse where you might expect a rap managed to subvert expectations.

Sequence: Kicks off with this sort of fat bassline. I liked Yujin’s lower voice register, it suited this track. I liked the contrast between the lower verses and the high pitched chorus. It has a bit of that WJSN feel like You Got or Luckitty-cat. This song has a bit more boogie and groove than you might expect from I*Zone. Definitely a fun track, — will pick up your mood instantly. I might like this the most of all b-sides in this album.

O Sole Mio: This is interesting, it’s a moombahton trap track. Though I am the kind of person who likes the more melancholic and emotional feeling songs. This beat works well with their vocals especially Yujin. When they do this genre right, it just has that perfect combination of party and chill vibes. I like the addition of guitar in the second verse. It’s like an even more mature and atmospheric Rumor. The guitar just adds that additional depth that makes this even better than your usual moombahton song. I see it’s potential of being a title track, sounds a lot like something that would release during summertime. All in all, it’s a good fusion track, mixing electronic/reggae/Spanish guitar in parts, definitely unique in their discography.

Slow Journey: A sweet acoustic midtempo song to cap this album off. Nice addition and diverse array of songs on this mini. If you’ve been reading my posts, you’d know I am a sucker for songs that are in slower tempo. In here, I liked the random record scratch samples they injected in there. Also more acoustic guitar is right up my alley. The falsettos here are good as well. It has a gentle pace, that slowly builds. Not quite sure about that disc scratch at the end- whether it’s supposed to represent coming to the end of the ‘reel’ it doesn’t quite fit the song, but let’s hope it’s suppose to be that. I liked the slow rap verse paired with guitar, it was a unique addition.

ALBUM SCORE — 7/10

Posted in music

GOT7 is back! – Breath of Love : Last Piece

I’m that person who will never stop gushing about Jackson Wang. He gave us Pretty Please later this year which was an ode to all the old Hong Kong films and I was the biggest nerd watching it because I could see to the references that were made. This time around he’s back but not with Team Wang but Team GOT7 and I am here for it.

Breath is the title track. The whistling hook at the chorus, the simplicity but the beauty of the whole melody, it’s so good. A well constructed track and I’m glad it got an MV of its own. The instrumental is a great backing to support the whole album, but the song just isn’t too strong on its own. it’s able to build up to the rest of the album really well though.

Last Piece – I might think Breath was amazing but Last Piece by itself is such a standout song. That extended chorus breakdown is pretty unexpected and it’ll take me a few listens to get used to it more, but seeing it with choreography will probably make me like it a lot more. “Double B” starts the verses off great, and the second drop in the chorus really catches you off-guard. I just wish that the last part of the chorus weren’t “the most important last piece” as that’s just a bit awkward. Still a good title.

Born Ready – Youngjae sounds good here, the way this picks up at the pre-chorus to lead to the chorus is great though the actual chorus isn’t really an immediate standout part of the song for me. Those ad-libs at the end (Jinyoung?) were pretty good. All in all,  it’s a bit jarring when the build-up to the chorus is slow, and the chorus suddenly shifts to something so quick. there’s also a lot of empty parts of the song with no audio at all. feels like a very disjointed song.

Special – Wow this really gets straight into it, Jackson’s first verse sounds a lot like it could be from his solo songs. This song is fun to listen to, nice and vibey without being too energetic and puts a smile on my face. Jackson’s whole English rap to start sets the song off well. song doesn’t go too hard, doesn’t go too soft, but it’s very strong overall.

Wave – This is so sweet, and JB’s voice hits in such a good way. I really like this change of pace, this chorus melody is so lovely. Might be one of my favorites. Pretty sentimental and their voices really make this beautiful. Would probably make lots of people cry live at a concert. definitely the stand-out song and attacks the listener’s heart. Jackson’s singing was a great surprise.

Waiting For You – This is such a perfect continuation (and so different from Party!) This sounds really good, the chorus is memorable and sounds great. Reverb mixing the voice echoes into the bass-filled audio is super chill and just makes the whole song flow so well.

Thank You, Sorry – I love this so much! This R&B feel is wistful but also so groovy, it feels very much like a Jus2 song and I love it. That fade-out at the end really fits the whole mood. Total late-night cafe vibes. Falsettos in the second verse are great. I just wish the song didn’t just fade out like that and ended off strong instead.

1+1 – Kind of wish the song was a little more — memorable? But it’s so lovely and laid-back but still so nice. Their vocals really stand out, and it leads well into the next song. This feels like an in-between of Thursday and Now or Never.

I Mean It – This upbeat happy energy is everything I want. This chorus is so strong and groovy, and in general this makes me smile. But also at the same time it feels like a super Disney-esque song with all the harmonizing in the beginning and behind the verses and happy chorus. Like a cheesy love song that’s only fueled by joy.

We Are Young – An uplifting song to round this off, I absolutely love this. This makes me feel a bit nostalgic but it’s such a good song, and those ad-libs at the bridge are everything. It’s a shame because the verses are really deep, but the chorus is very parrot-like and ruins the song for me.

To conclude, I was worried it wouldn’t feel very cohesive but it has surprisingly great flow, and the members really know how to make the songs work. I can’t pick a favorite track from this album yet, but I know this album is probably my favorite of theirs (aside from maybe Love Loop). I hope they get more creative control in the future, can’t wait to see the performances in future concerts thereafter, especially the tracks that I thought would sound great live.

ALBUM SCORE – 7/10