Thursday, December 27, 2012

late purchases!

I'm still alive! I'll be posting my annual music lists again (a bit different from last year's though, since I listened to a lot more stuff this year and paid attention to more things!), hopefully in a couple of days, when I finish listening to the remaining albums I haven't had the chance to. In the meanwhile, I finally got to unpack the albums I bought a couple of months ago and had shipped home, since I just got home a couple of days ago! Crappy picture since I'm too lazy to open photoshop, but yup, very happy with this batch, I'm slowly crossing out more albums on my to-buy list. 

From top to bottom, left to right - 
First row: 구텐버즈 (Guten Birds) - 팔랑귀 | GOGO STAR - Black Comedy | GOGO STAR - Highlight | Lucid Fall - Lucid Fall |  Mongoose - Cosmic Dancer
Second row: 자우림 (Jaurim) - Ashes To Ashes | 夜夜 (YaYa) - 曲藝 | 잠비나이 (Jambinai) - 차연 | No Respect For Beauty - Why Perish | 한강의 기적 (Miracle On Han River) - 한강의 기적 
Third row: Loro's - Pax | Eastern Sidekick - The First | Telepathy - Human Evolution | Nell - Let's Take A Walk | Huckleberry Finn | 까만 타이거 
Fourth Row: 온달 (Ondahl) - 달의 뒷편 | The Solutions - The Solutions | Pia - Pentagram | Nell - Walk Through Me | 검정치마 (The Black Skirts) - 201

The GOGO STAR ep, Ondahl album, Eastern Sidekick album and Guten Birds album I have yet to listen to. The rest are albums I've been meaning to buy for ages. Literally. I can't believe it took me this long to complete my Nell discography (excluding Reflection Of, of course, which is almost impossible to get now) and my Lucid Fall discography. 

Anyway, all in all, I think I bought around 42 albums this year, which is probably around half of my entire CD collection, haha. Hopefully I'll be able to get even more quality albums in 2013! 

Friday, November 30, 2012

I love CDs.

I got the three albums I ordered on YesAsia yesterday! First time ordering from there, and only 3 this time (as opposed to the 14 I ordered over the summer on Gmarket, and the 20 I ordered on Gmarket this semester that I had shipped home instead of my school address), but I was beyond ecstatic, because all three are very special albums. Let me show you with pictures!

The packaging! It was all very nicely done. A lot of bubble wrap, all that good stuff.

voila! From left to right:
9와 숫자들 (9 And The Numbers) - 9와 숫자들 
Various Artsts - 이야기해주세요 compilation
Ironic Hue - Into The Mirror 

The 9 And The Numbers album is a personal favourite of mine, and I've been meaning to buy it for a long time. Finally got the chance to! It's such a solid pop rock album, a must for anyone, really. And the album art is so pretty. And the booklet feels really nice, it's such a lovely material! They also released an EP recently. I haven't had the chance to check it out yet, but I definitely will.

So Ironic Hue's Into the Mirror isn't something that I really gave much attention to... until around two weeks ago. See: the day before I ordered this album. I don't know why I never properly listened to this album because I've had the audio files sitting in my library for ages. I'm serious, they're one of the first Korean bands I checked out when I was just getting into Korean rock/alternative music. I occasionally listened to "불" from time to time, but listening to the whole album for the first time in years, I realized that there were such fantastic songs on this album. The second half of the album is just phenomenal. I was so glad when the album was still in stock because I thought it could've been out of print, seeing that the album was released 5 years ago. And also very, very lovely packaging. Although the CD was difficult to take out of its flap. But I just adore digipaks, I would have digipak over jewel cases any day. ANY DAY. 
Anyway, really brilliant album, probably one of my top rediscoveries of the year. 

And... 이야기해주세요. Please Talk.
This has got to be the most meaningful and gratifying purchase this year. A compilation dedicated to comfort women, the 2-disc features 17 female singer-songwriters. A diverse range of genres and sounds, but all unifying with the overarching theme of the album. Extremely beautiful. Sad, but beautiful. I will definitely be writing more about this album in a separate post, so I won't say too much here.
But really, worth every penny.

to our grandmothers. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

[album review] Block B - BLOCKBUSTER

October 17, 2012

1. 11:30
2. Interlude
3. 닐리리맘보*
4. Mental Breaker*
5. 장난없다 (No Joke)*
6. Movie's Over
7. 넌 어디에
8. 로맨틱하게*
9. 했어 안했어
10. Halo
11. 닐리리 맘보 (inst.)
12. Mental Breaker (inst.)

*recommended tracks


Yes, I normally don't listen to idol albums. With idol groups, I tend to just check out their singles and don't bother with their albums. But based on my limited familiarity with such albums, Block B's latest album BLOCKBUSTER is probably one of the best idol albums I've heard in recent times. Even when I just consider singles, the title track "Nillili Mambo" takes the cake. It's seriously one of the best idol songs to come out this year, and definitely tops when I narrow it down to male groups. But more on that later. There's lots to dig through in this album.

Friday, November 2, 2012

[album review] 꿈에 카메라를 가져올걸 (kumca) - 소실

꿈에 카메라를 가져올걸 (kumca) - 소실
released: april 18, 2012

1. 비상구 *
2. 오후 세 시 *
3. 476-20
4. 테러 *
5. 소실 (bonus track)
6. 냄새 (bonus track)

* recommended tracks


"꿈을 꿨다. 꿈속에서도 이 꿈은 기록해야겠다는 생각이 들었다. 그래서 카메라를 찾기 시작했고, 그 동안 꿈은 조금씩 지워지고 있었다. 거실을 기어다니면서 카메라를 찾다가 꿈이 끝나버렸다. 결국 카메라도 찾지 못했고, 꿈도 꾸지 못했다."
"I dreamed. Even in my dream I knew I had to record this dream. So I started looking for my camera, while that dream was slowly fading away. The dream ended when I was on my knees in the living room, looking for the camera. In the end, I couldn't find my camera, and I couldn't dream." -- EBS Space introduction. 

꿈에 카메라를 가져올걸 literally translates to "I Should've Brought a Camera to My Dream". 꿈카 (Kumca) for short. In their debut EP 소실, they show us a glimpse of their dream world, a place where things are faded, lost, and all a bit strange.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

[interview] Apollo 18 Talks Canadian Tour, Music and Poutine.

Apollo 18 is a post rock band that's been causing quite a scene both in Korea and internationally since their breakthrough in the Korean indie scene. They're quite the decorated band; they won the "Rookie of the Year" award at the 2010 Korean Music Awards and the Grand Prize at the "Hello Rookie Award" the same year. And their Blue album is seriously one of the best harder rock stuff I listen to, if that means anything. They've also made quite the progress abroad as well, performing at SXSW Music Festival last year, and finishing their very first Canadian tour just a couple of weeks ago. I had the chance to ask them some questions about their Canadian tour and music.

Click the cut to read what they had to say about their Canadian tour, possibility of a Jellyboy album, some Korean bands they think are worth checking out, and what they thought about real Canadian poutine. Oh, and some hilarious pictures from their tour included.

[album review] Epik High - 99

Epik High | 99
October 19, 2012

1. UP (feat. Park Bom)
2. Don't Hate Me
3. 사랑한다면 해서 안될 말
4. 춥다 (feat. 이하이)
5. 아까워 (feat. 개코 of Dynamic Duo)
6. 비켜 (CD Only)
7. 악당
8. Ghost (CD Only)
9. Kill This Love
10. New Beautiful

note: This review will not cover the CD only tracks "비켜" and "Ghost" as I would never ever shell out $10+ for a physical copy of this album, no matter how much I like Epik High. I just don't have room for that on my shelf.

After the initial listen of Epik High's 99 I tweeted, half-jokingly, "I would rather listen to Block B's new album than Epik High's omg" and although Block B's latest album is nowhere close to being perfect or amazing (more on this in another post), I still stand by my statement. For real. Because this album made me want to hurl something against the wall.

When you've liked an artist for a while, it's really hard to accept the fact that their music is bound to change over time. Sometimes you may like their new sound, and sometimes it's just unbearable to accept the fact that your favourite band went from hypnotizing godly rock to making boring dupstep-fused dance music (Muse, I'm looking at you). It's something that's going to happen at one point or another during a musician's career, and something that you just have to deal with. And I know it sounds awfully elitist/snobby when you say "oh, they used to be way better than this. It's just not the same anymore", but I just. I just gotta.

"what happened" - me, after the initial listen of Epik High's latest  

Usually with follow-up albums I decide how much I like the album by looking at two general categories: 1) how does it fare compare to its predecessor(s)? and 2) how is the album by itself, out of the context of the discography? Usually most follow-up albums don't do too well in the first category (see: The Black Skirts, Broccoli You Too... the list is endless) but do quite well in the second category. It's impossible for albums to ever be free of their predecessors, but I always take their standalone quality into consideration, and most of the time, I end up really liking the follow-up albums too (again, The Black Skirts and Broccoli You Too being the biggest examples). But Epik High's new album 99... I just don't see myself ever liking it.

"no" - a friend of mine, on Epik High's new song "It's Cold (feat. Lee Hi)"

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

[music talk] currently listening to...

I promised to be around more often in my last post but clearly that was a lie! Still busy, but still hanging on. I've been listening to (but mostly just hoarding) new music like crazy, thanks to my position at the campus radio station and also to my swell friends who are so nice to share their library with me. I still have a stack of obscure albums I need to sort through. I'll give them all a listen eventually. Since I'm so overwhelmed with so much though, here's a brief overview of what I have been listening to lately. Not a proper review or anything, since I've only listened to these albums one or two times (except the first three)! This is just going to be my rambling on some albums I've been listening to. I might write a review on them later, I might not, we shall see.

Holy Weather Civil Twilight (2012) 
Let's start with this lovely band I had the honour of seeing live a couple of weeks ago! Civil Twilight's Letters from the Sky is seriously one of my favourite songs ever, so naturally I was really excited to see them. They were glorious live, and I checked out this album only after seeing them. And it's such a solid album! Lovely tracks all around, and such pretty album art. Some tracks stand out more than others, but probably one of the best releases I've heard so far this year.

Armistice Mutemath (2009)
I also saw Mutemath live (Civil Twilight opened for them, actually) a couple of weeks ago and god, what a show it was. I've only listened to their first album (and loved it) so I wasn't familiar with their repertory at all, but I still had a hell of a time. I decided to check out their second after seeing them live, and although it isn't quite as brilliant as their first album, it's still a very solid album. Now I only need to give their third album a listen...

Coexist The xx (2012)
I really, really really liked The xx's first album (and this is when I wasn't listening to any western music. Their debut album was probably the only non-Korean album I was listening at the time) so consequently I was really looking forward to their sophomore effort. Although lacking immediate-faves like Islands or VCR, this album is still pretty awesome.

Four Bloc Party (2012)
Possibly the most puzzling new release I've heard so far this year. There was a period in my life that I really enjoyed Bloc Party's music, circa A Weekend in the City and Silent Alarm, but I haven't heard anything from them after those two albums. I'm still not sure what happened, maybe it was the third album, maybe it's this album, but wow - is this dramatic or what? The whole album, from the beginning 'til the end, is a hell of a ride and I wasn't expecting that at all. Maybe it's because I remember the softer songs from their earlier albums, but this was a huge surprise for me. Not quite sure how I feel about it yet.

Bitte Orca Dirty Projectors (2009)
My friends who went to see Dirty Projectors last weekend (or the weekend before? I can't remember) would not stop raving about this band, so I decided to give them a listen. Started with this album since it was the most accessible at the radio station (the album was literally sitting right there), and I heard that this was their most critically acclaimed release to date, but I'm not really sure yet how I feel about them. I've only listened to this album once though. But the album just breezed by, nothing really stood out to me. I've also listened to some of their newest songs and they were totally up my ally though.

Talk Burntout House (2011)
Onto the Korean releases, I guess! I've been listening to this EP for quite a while now but I just can't get enough of it for some reason. They sound like a somewhat-lacking copy of Cold Play and Damien Rice but I just really dig it. Maybe all the Clocks/Yellow-esque Coldplay-inspired songs are making me nostalgic. The vocal has a lovely voice. Looking forward to their next release.

Overcome Achime (2012)
I'm still trying to recover from Achime's earlier releases, so this album is a bit too much for me at the moment. I don't know, they're just something, like I really need to sit down and listen to their music, and I haven't had the proper chance to do that yet. I gave this album one listen, and I feel like it's a lot weaker than their first album, but there were a couple of songs that I liked in particular, I think. Just give me some time to really dig through this band and their music...

Yon Yonson Lee Lang (2012)
Oh god, let me come back to this. One listen was definitely not enough to form any sort of coherent opinion, so let me come back to it...

The 2nd Law Muse (2012)
Okay, so I just finished listening to this album for the first time few minutes ago and I want to laugh but cry at the same time. I mean, Matthew Bellamy's falsetto is still great and all that, but those chants! Those lyrics! And is that... dubstep? And overall, this sounds more like an electro dance album than... what is Muse, anyway? Oh, I give up.

And not an album, but Adele's Skyfall is totally my jam right now, this song is so great. Adele sounds fantastic, love the lyrics and the string arrangements, and just really really great.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I'll be back soon.

1) bloom in bloomington.
2) pretty darn good pad thai.
3) united states of les americas 
4) record store in which I spent 55 dollars buying 4 albums on a whim. yikes. (fyi: Malajube's first two albums, Sigur Ros' Inni, and some obscure indie musician for my friend) 

I'll be back soon. Here are some pictures to fill the void that has become too big over the last one month or so. Things have been wild, crazy, hectic - all those words that mean the same thing. Everything is good though, except school, which might be a problem because I'm a student (oh, right) but who really cares?! College is for having fun! 

I've been listening to a lot of music lately... I also kept a list of all the stuff I've been listening to, so I'll get on reviewing them pretty soon enough.

Oh, all the images above were taken in Bloomington, Indiana. A nice little town I had the pleasure of visiting this past weekend. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

[album review] Fantastic Drugstore - This is Nothing

Fantastic Drugstore (판타스틱 드럭스토어) - This is Nothing
released: june 12, 2012

1. This is Nothing
2. 만나줄래
3. 똥개
4. 아저씨
5. Bad Girl


Fantastic Drugstore's debut EP This Is Nothing is something I've been wanting to check out for a long time and I just got around to listening to it last week when my copy arrived. Fantastic Drugstore is a fascinating band - they have this edgy, hip atmosphere to them which I find so very attractive. I was instantly drawn in when I first watched their performance of 아저씨 (ahjusshi) on Top Band 2 (thank god for this show, really, despite the poor quality and the constant letdowns...) and they really didn't disappoint me with their other songs. Kicking it off with the grand opening This is Nothing, the band presents one energetic rock tune after another. 만나줄래 is an awesome garage rock song with kick-ass guitar riffs. The third track, 똥개, is more melodic, still incorporating the fast and intricate guitar riffs. The vocal Im Won Hyuk's performance is noteworthy in the title track 아저씨 which is by far their best song on the EP, with its deadly catchy tunes and pretty hilarious lyrics ("ahjusshi! listen to me. you have gum stuck on your nicely set hair"). By the last track on the EP, Bad Girl, you have a good sense of what their sound is like. I quite enjoy the song Bad Girl as well, it has a slightly different mood from the other songs, although it still maintains the fast-paced garage rock sounds.

Fantastic Drugstore, as a band,  is a fantastic band (wow, did I just say that). The only problem with this EP is the sound quality. Whoever engineered this EP did a terrible job. You can tell that under the demo-like quality and the overall flatness of the recording that the songs have every element necessary to make them good tunes. It's just that the poor quality of the recordings really, really get in the way of thoroughly enjoying them through this EP. I do understand that a lot of bands suffer from horrible recording environments in the Korean indie scene, but I've heard a lot better than this come from almost unknown bands. And although the music at the core is what really matters, the technical aspect of an album is really important when it comes to determining the quality of a release, and unfortunately, This Is Nothing fails miserably in that category.

Trust me, Fantastic Drugstore is worth keeping an eye out for in the future. Let's just hope that their next official release will truly capture their sound and do the band justice.

ssamziesoundfestival @ youtube.

Monday, July 16, 2012

[concert] the weeknd and metric

I took a day off work yesterday to go and check out the local music festival with some friends from high school. Although I've lived in this city for 8+ years, I've never been to it before! And it was my very first outdoor music festival experience. I gotta say, I much prefer indoor concerts or club gigs... Maybe it was because I wasn't the biggest fan of the musicians I saw yesterday, but I found the experience just okay. As I'm really into Korean music I'm really looking forward to going to the Jisan Valley Rock Festival next summer (crossing my fingers), I'm hoping that that will be better...

There was a lot of issue with going in, too, because at first the bag-check guy told me that I couldn't bring in my camera (utter nonsense... you can take pictures with your phone these days, I can't see how a dslr wouldn't be allowed. pictures are pictures.), so we ended up wandering around for a bit to find a coin locker, but instead found the side entrance. When we tried to go in through the side entrance, they let us in right away! Ridiculous. Also, there was a problem with my ticket (apparently the guy at the music store that sold it to me gave me a ticket for a wrong day), so we had to go back out and to the ticket office to get that fixed. Thank god I had my ticket because everything was fixed pretty quickly and we could go back in again. Anyway, maybe it was how badly it started, but I didn't have as much fun as I could've.

We ended up seeing The Weeknd and Metric. The Weeknd was pretty good, he was amazing live but the crowd was awful. I think he'd be better to see in a club or a smaller venue. I've only heard one album by him and I've only gave it a couple of listen so I only recognized High For This. He didn't perform my favourite song, Wicked Games either.

Metric was fantastic! Although I only knew 5-6 songs by them, it was still a really good show. The crowd was better than for The Weeknd but they were nothing compared to the audience for some other concerts I've been to... I mean, I didn't know majority of the songs they performed (I only recognized Help I'm Alive, Gimme Sympathy, and Monster Hospital, out of an hour and a half setlist. oops.) but I tried to have fun. They didn't play my favourite song (Combat Baby) either. But Emily Haines was amazing live! I'll definitely be checking out more stuff from Metric.

We missed K'naan because of the whole camera+ticket fiasco.
The Weeknd:


It was really difficult trying to take pictures with the crowd and all. I realized that all my previous experiences taking photos at concerts, I was at the very front so it wasn't as hard to get decent shots. I took a lot of pictures last night and these are the only ones that were barely salvageable. And still they are pretty awful...

Friday, July 13, 2012

[album review] eastern side kick - eastern side kick

Eastern Side Kick - Eastern Side Kick Second EP Album
released: July 21, 2011

1. 무스탕
2. 다소 낮음
3. 백열램프


Eastern Side Kick is a band that took a while for me to get used to. They're a traditional garage rock band, reminiscent of The Strokes (actually, they sound a lot like The Strokes), and I have never really listened to much garage rock to  appreciate them on the first listen. But slowly but surely, I fell for their charms and after listening to this EP for at least a dozen times, I can confidently say that I like this album, and that I like Eastern Side Kick.

After the initial listen Eastern Side Kick might not sound all that special. And I will admit, they are not extraordinary (yet). But there's this odd atmosphere to their songs that is so extremely attractive and fascinating. It's a chilly kind of feeling. Their songs aren't warm, they're actually pretty cold and at times the songs sound distant, but strangely enough, they're comforting. Perhaps because they don't sing of love? Their songs don't outright comfort you, but they empathize with you and it's like having someone walking with you on a cold winter day - you're still cold, but just having someone there with you makes it less so.

Putting my odd imagery aside, Eastern Side Kick is definitely a band to look out for. The three songs on the album rely heavily on guitar, and having two guitarists definitely help with the fullness of the sound. I actually really enjoy the layered guitars on this album, they're nicely done, maintaining the simple garage rock sound but also adding some complexity to it. It also helps that the guitarists Go Han Gyul and Ryuta are both very talented guitarists. The guitars in 무스탕 (Mustang) is a great example of their abilities. Also, the vocal Oh Joo Hwan isn't a good singer, but his rough voice really suits the band's sound, as can be heard in the title track, 다소 낮음.  The last track of the album, 백열램프, also has an interesting beat and a bassline which I like quite a bit (it's probably my favourite track at the moment). Like I said, there's nothing mind-blowing about their sound, but the band still seems to be really confident in their delivery of the sound.

But definitely the band's best trait is their lyrics. Their lyrics are also hard to explain, they're simple but have a sense of loneliness which is quite appealing. Their lyrics are extremely realistic but they're also very poetic.

I guess the only weakness of the band would be that although they may sound unique and hold their own ground as a band in the Korean music scene, when you look at them globally they're really nothing special - some may even call them a bad copy version of The Strokes or other American/British garage rock bands. Even I thought that they were too similar to some of the American garage rock bands to really hold my attention at first. But they do grow on you, and I'm hoping that they will eventually find a sound that's uniquely theirs.

Eastern Side Kick recently signed with Fluxus Music (which houses artists like Yi Seung Yeol, Winterplay and Bye Bye Sea) and they have been promising a full-length album for a while now so hopefully we will be able to hear more from them in the near future. I'm extremely excited for their next album.

Monday, July 9, 2012

[let me talk about kpop for a minute] recent releases.

Let me take a moment to just spill my thoughts on some of the recent releases (and developments) in k-pop.

First; 2NE1 - I Love You. I guess I'll start with 2NE1's new single, I Love You because I'm assuming they'll be the big thing for the next little while. I have always had mixed feelings for 2NE1. I really like their music (I still jam to In The Club and Let's Go Party), but I've never liked them thematically or lyrically. I like this song, its melody is refreshing and the lack of rap really helps (I've always liked CL as a vocalist... as a rapper, oh no). Their first live performance was mediocre, and the birds were really unnecessary and done in poor taste, but it was as expected. I've always appreciated them recorded but their lives I always found subpar, considering the "talent" in the group. I probably won't be keeping up with their live performances, and considering that this song is good but nothing too extraordinary, I'll soon forget about it.

Second; T-Ara - Day by Day. Sometimes I'm amazed at how far this group has gotten considering the lack of musical talent in the group. Sure, Soyeon is a capable singer and Hyomin and Eunjung can hold their ground somewhat but they were never, ever a musically strong group, nor did they ever have any spectacular concepts. If we are talking about lives I'd say T-Ara is one of the worst. But in recent times they did manage to be consistent musically, which I do appreciate. Like Lovey Dovey was clearly a follow-up to Roly Poly, while Day by Day is a follow-up to Cry Cry. This song, however, isn't as memorable as Cry Cry, although that song wasn't all that good to begin with. And although the new member Dani (Areum? which one? Do I care?) seems to be able to carry a tune better than majority of the members, I still don't see why she's needed in the group and it's really, really distracting. I was briefly really into T-Ara back in the day but with each song they put out I find myself liking them less and less.

Third; Younha - Run. I'm going to admit that I've never really cared much for Younha. I know she's a fantastic vocalist and there were some songs on her previous album Someday that I really enjoyed, but I don't know, her voice colour isn't something that attracts me. (I tend to like low, textured voices for female voices) I really like her new single, Run, though, it's amazing. I love the beats in this song and she sounds phenomenal. It's just really sad because she's not charting too well with it at the moment.

Fourth; Busker Busker - 정말로 사랑한다면. And finally, the wonderful faces of the image above! To be honest I've never been really interested in Busker Busker or their music (although 벚꽃 엔딩 and 여수 밤바다 were catchy as hell) but their instant rise to fame is something worth talking about. As I make it known, I'm kinda crazy about the Korean indie scene and if you could call Busker Busker 'indie', they are definitely the biggest star to come out of it in the last few years. Yes, there was Jang Kiha and the Faces who most people know by now, and 10cm, whose coffee CF with Ha Ji Won still airs from time to time, but neither of them have topped the chart for such a long period of time like Busker Busker, nor did they win on music shows. And now with two CFs under their belt and half of the stores in Seoul blasting their music 24/7, Busker Busker has truly made it. And I am somehow... proud of them? It's a weird feeling, because personally I wouldn't call myself a Busker Busker fan. But them being a 'band' and becoming so popular, and how they started off from humble beginnings as a busking band, I'm hoping that it will lead to more people being interested in band music / the indie scene.
Musically, Busker Busker is so, so fascinating. They are still somewhat amateur; their performances and their abilities with the instruments prove that. But I feel like this amateurism is what draws people to them. They don't seem fabricated, nor do they seem hard to approach. And Jang Bum Joon is definitely a musician to look out for. His attitude towards music and his lyrics are just so fantastic, and for someone who has never had proper training in music he writes phenomenal songs. Personally I found their latest hit 정말로 사랑한다면 just okay, but I'm sure a time will come when I'm truly impressed by their music.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

[album review] the koxx - bon voyage

The Koxx - Bon Voyage
released: June 26, 2012

1. 사랑춤
2. Take Me Far From Home
3. 소음 속에 사라진
4. Truth or Dare


It took five full listens for me to realize exactly what was bothering me so much about this EP. It wasn't because it was bad (it's not). It wasn't because of the wrong English (should be used to that by now). It was because I realized that The Koxx has grown. The band that I always thought would make danceable, electronic garage rock party tunes that were never too serious has matured and released an EP that seemed to say "we're done fooling around now, this is for real". You pay more attention to it and it's almost scary, as if the band has been planning this all along.

there are sunny days ahead, don't worry about it  - 사랑춤 (love dance)

The Koxx has been enjoying immense popularity for a band that's only been around for two years. They've developed a huge following in the Korean indie scene in no time, with extremely dedicated fans. Their popularity abroad has been incredible too, with many k-pop fans becoming interested in their music. So as someone who has listened to them since their first EP Enter and was used to their head-bopping, guitar-heavy electronic rock songs with sometimes questionable English lyrics, this release came as a surprise. There was a sense of calm to it; the title track sounded nothing like their previous hits Trouble Maker and 12:00. The whole album, with the exception of the last track Truth or Dare, was actually really... quiet. It was nice to listen to, but it was not something I was expecting from them. So I was sort of disappointed after the initial listen. I decided that Truth or Dare was my favourite track, because it was the only track that showed the side of The Koxx that I've been looking for...

Many people agreed with me as well. People over at Naver Music and on DC indie gallery seemed to be disappointed with the album. Certain after seeing other people's reactions, I was going to write a negative review of the album, although there was still something there that irked me.

And then here's what happened. I wasn't too confident in my opinion on this album. So I listened to it again. And again. And after the fourth listen, I decided that I needed to revisit their previous albums, to find out exactly what was bothering me so much. It was only after I listened to their whole discography, watched all their music videos in order, that I realized that this album wasn't bad or "unlike" The Koxx I was used to... They've just matured. I was witnessing The Koxx grow into a greater band. 

It all makes sense when you go back to the very, very beginning. The Koxx's first album, Enter was almost too bold in its execution, with songs that sounded unpolished and sort of experimental. It was still a good release though, because the album was still hip in a rough, untouched way, and the sound was something that we haven't heard much in the Korean music scene. Then came Access OK. It was a fantastic album; it cemented their image and made clear what kind of sound the band was pursuing at the time. It was filled with fun songs with crazy guitar riffs that got me me on my feet.

But now that's done and done. And The Koxx's new ep, Bon Voyage, is a great way to say goodbye to the old, childish Koxx and say hello to the new, much more mature Koxx. In their previous albums, it was definitely Sooryun's guitar that shined and carried the songs. Sooryun is a phenomenal guitarist. The guitars in Access OK were so incredibly complex (and loud), at times it seemed even disharmonious with the rest of the instruments. I didn't realize that until I went back to Access OK after listening to Bon Voyage. I even found it difficult to listen to some songs on Access OK because the guitar was so overbearing. In Bon Voyage though, the band is more in tune with each other. Sooryun still plays a huge role, there's still the catchy guitar riffs, but here he's toned it down when necessary, as can be heard in 사랑춤. Even in the more upbeat song, Truth or Dare, it's not too in-your-face. And especially in the song that Sooryun wrote, 소음 속에 사라진, it's only prominent when it needs be, and the result is a full, pleasant electro rock sound that really shows the band's maturity. The second track, Take Me Far From Home has impressive beats and takes great advantage of the percussions (you go Saron, you go!). Different from their previous albums, which sounded like something I'd play during a party, this album is more of an album I'd play in the car after the party, driving home.

Their sound in general is more developed in this EP. And a lot of it is thanks to the vocal Hyunsong's improvement. He sounds a lot better on this album, somehow. He sounds absolutely fantastic in 사랑춤 and 소음 속에 사라진. He still retains his energy in songs like Truth or Dare as well. He still has that twisted annunciation thing going on, but it isn't as annoying as it was in Access OK. ("열둥시강됭명응 문을 당능당" never forget.)

Another thing that really shows improvement is the lyrics. There's definitely more Korean on this album. Something that really turned me off from The Koxx sometimes was their English lyrics. Too often there were grammar mistakes, and compared to the impressive Korean lyrics of songs like 술래잡기, Fire Fox, and 얼음땡, the English lyrics seemed too superficial, just there to sound 'cool'. When's the last time they a full song in Korean?! 소음 속에 사라진 is sung entirely in Korean and its lyrics are beautiful. It's quickly becoming my favourite. (Not just because I have a Sooryun bias and Sooryun wrote the song) Even more, their English has really improved. There are still the occasional mistakes but not as frequent as in Access OK.

Now, with Bon Voyage, it almost feels like the band is telling a story of sorts with their whole discography. I've been trying to express that in this overly long post, but it might not make any sense with my incoherent writing. If you watch their music videos though, it might make more sense. Let's take a look at three main singles (excluding Oriental Girl, as it was the 2nd single of their 1st album after the first single) from them and look at their overarching themes. Trouble Maker from Enter show the band getting ready and heading out to a gig / a night of drinking. It boldly shouts "we are the trouble makers". Then, 12:00 from Access OK shows them at the pinnacle of the night (which I assume is midnight, from the song title), enjoying themselves at a bar, picking up girls - "the door closes at 12:00". Then there's 사랑춤 from Bon Voyage which depicts the band returning home from a crazy night, ending with the band catching a breath beside a river (Han River, I think)... "there are sunny days ahead, don't worry about it". 

Bon Voyage is a significant turning point for The Koxx. I almost feel as if I shouldn't take it as a standalone album; it's a conclusion to its predecessors, and the introduction to the music that is to come. If Enter was the band's loud entrance to the party, Access OK was their way of enjoying the party and having some fun. And now the party's over, and the band is saying Bon Voyage as they take on a new "journey". We don't know what that "journey" will be; it might be another party, somewhere else, not too different from the one we were just at. Or it might be a whole different thing. Nobody knows yet. We will though, with the next release from The Koxx. We will know then what kind of journey it will be from there.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

[album review] bye bye badman - light beside you

Bye Bye Badman - Light Beside You
Released: November 3, 2011

1. Purify My Love
2. 테칼코마니
3. 노랑불빛
4. W.O.S
5. 인공눈물
6. Golden Nightmare
7. Bee
8. Low
9. About You Now
10. 5500-2


Bye Bye Badman is a rising starlet in the Korean indie scene at the moment, winning Hello Rookie of the Year last year and appearing at various music festivals. I only came around to checking out their 1st album this week, and I am thoroughly impressed by this album. With a Brit-pop inspired sound that's polished and rough at the same time, Bye Bye Badman is a band that shows maturity and professionalism that's surprising for their age. (The band consists of high school friends who are 21-22 years old) A lot of their lyrics are in English, and the lyrics in English are quite lovely as well.

There are some songs on the album that are upbeat and fun, like Purify My Love, 데칼코마니, 인공눈물 and Golden Nightmare that sound a lot like Brit pop, reminiscent of bands like Oasis and maybe even Blur. And there are some songs that are just plain light rock-n-roll, like 노랑불빛, and Low, that are quite fun. These songs are good and I'm sure they're fantastic live, but I found them a bit too generic. The Brit-pop songs, especially, come off as trite at times with obvious patterns in their development.

What really got me were the band's calmer songs. The ballad track W.O.S. is impressive with its string arrangement, while the last track 5500-2 is fascinating and not boring at all despite the length. However, the definite highlight of the album for me were Bee and About You Now. These songs are long. Bee is almost at 7 minutes while About You Now is six minutes long. But I found these two songs especially noteworthy: these songs have a sense of maturity that sets them apart from the rest of the album. Bee develops beautifully during the 7 minutes, with dreamlike sounds and great lyrics ("should have seen all the stars in your garden / I'm out of time"). All the layers of sound in this song, paired with the vocal Jung Bong Gil's singing, are beautiful, and when the song ends it's almost sad to see it go. It definitely left a strong impression on me.
About You Now is the other song that I really liked. The song is sung completely in English, and its lyrics are wonderful. "About you now, I was wrong, I'll let you in my hole", "I tried to be your star", "there's nowhere to go / it's all about you now". Simple but lovely lyrics. I really appreciate the lack of breaks between the verses, It was nice to hear something different after the generic patterns of the more upbeat songs. My bias for the slower songs is obviously because of personal tastes, though - I guess I'm in the mood for more emotional, grand songs at the moment.  

The album has an underlying theme of "light" (hence the album title, Light Beside You), which I found very interesting. In certain instances, the voice of the songs yearns to be "your light", and at times, it is your light. And in other moments, you are the light that he sings to. I think that's why Bee and About You Now are my favourite tracks. Because he "tried to be your star", but he's "out of time" with "nowhere to go" - and now "it's all about you". These songs aren't even consecutive, but they work so well together! (Although I might be pushing it too far, haha)

I see a great future ahead for Bye Bye Badman. Obviously there's room for improvement, but this is a solid start-up for the rookie group and I'm excited to see what they do next. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

[album review] romantic punch - it's yummy

Romantic Punch - It's Yummy
released: august 16, 2011

1. RP Addiction
2. 야미볼
3. 커튼을 닫아요, 에이미
4. 치명적 치료
5. Appointment
6. 야미볼 (inst.)


Romantic Punch, like Black Bag whose EP I reviewed few posts ago, is another band I discovered through watching Top Band 2. And boy, I was so wrong to not check them out sooner! I knew they existed, I just never really bothered - and they're really great. They have a pop rock sound that's fun, fun, fun. Their songs seem to bounce, and coupled with the vocal Bae In Hyuk's voice, they are a hell of a ride to listen to.

I've only checked out their latest EP, It's Yummy so far, but I could really get a clear sense of their style with the 5 original songs. RP Addiction is a great opening song. It's upbeat, and its anthem-like lyrics ("Romantic Punch! Romantic Punch! We will rock them all!") get you really pumped up for the rest of the album. And the rest of the album doesn't disappoint at all. The second track, 야미볼 (Yummy Ball), is a kickass song that's just a lot of fun. Bae In Hyuk is an amazing vocalist; the song is good, but his vocals make the song so, so, so much better. His ad-libbing is simply fantastic, and even from just listening to this track alone you can feel his high energy oozing through. The next track, 커튼을 닫아요, 에이미 (Close the Curtains Amie), is a mellow song that's slower than most songs on the EP, and seems to be heavily inspired by gospel music. Bae In Hyuk's voice shines again in this song, as he shows off his amazing range while sounding very confident with each note he sings. 치명적인 치료 is a song that just emits sexiness. It's very jazzy in its execution, and the vocals are low and at times whispery, which adds to the attraction of the song. Appointment is a more traditional pop rock song. The melodies are actually quite generic and this is probably my least favourite song on this EP, but it sounds like a song that'd be much better live.

Bae In Hyuk really makes this band what it is. His singing mixes different styles like gospel, rock and even jazz, and it works extremely well with the rest of the band. And oh god, he is just so charismatic on stage. And he has such a personality, and a crazy fashion sense. Basically he's already up there high on my bias list.

Romantic Punch is the band I am rooting for the most on Top Band 2 at the moment. They're not too popular like The Koxx, Pia, Super Kidd, Transfixion or Daybreak (seriously, if one of them ends up winning, I won't be too pleased...), and I really feel like Romantic Punch have what it takes to become huge, as their sound is quite easy on the ears. And because Bae In Hyuk is such a cutie, haha.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

[album review] mongoose - girlfriend

Mongoose - Girlfriend
released: june 8, 2012

1. 그대여
2. 일곱 시간차 연애
3. 보헤미안 걸프렌드
4. 그래 넌 하지만 난
5. 비밀 키스
6. Together Forever

(how lovely is Bae Donna on the cover by the way? Mongoose really knows how to win me over, damn.)

우주는 사랑! Universe is love! And Mongoose is love. Mongoose is a band that I've grown to... love over time, and I even included their 4th album, Cosmic Dancer, on my top 10 korean indie albums of 2012 list, at number 6. So when I heard that they will be releasing an EP last week (it was so sudden too!) I was beyond myself. And this EP delivers. It's everything you'd expect from a Mongoose album. The cute, danceable beats with the oh-so-adorable voice of Mongu... and lyrics that seem to just stick. More on the melancholy side than Cosmic Dancer, this album is perfect for dancing by yourself in your bedroom, late at night. I loved all six tracks, but especially 일곱 시간차 연애 (because I really dig when Mongu just talks in their songs, it's so cute), Together Forever (it sounds like a perfect song for a crazy summer night with friends!), and the title track, Bohemian Girlfriend.

There's something about Mongoose that I really like. Their youthful enthusiasm, perhaps. Or it could be their boyish naivety. Or maybe because whenever I listen to Mongoose's music, I feel as though I don't need romance right at this moment... Because I got my friends, and because Mongoose is here. And because yes, the universe is love.

[album review] epitone project - 낯선 도시에서의 하루

Epitone Project - 낯선 도시에서의 하루
released: june 7, 2012

1. 5122
2. 이제, 여기에서
3. 시차
4. 다음날 아침 (duet with 한희정)
5. 새벽녘
6. 초보비행
7. 국경을 넘는 기차
8. 떠나자
9. 우리의 음악
10. 믿을게
11. 터미널
12. 미뉴에트


Cha Se Jung, more commonly known as Epitone Project, released his 2nd full-length studio album 낯선 도시에서의 하루 (One Day in a Foreign City) last week, and I think I have listened to it enough to say a bit about how I feel about it. I really enjoyed the album he released with Lucia, 자기만의 방, and there were a couple of songs that I really liked from his previous albums as well. However, this album was a bit of a disappointment for me. What I liked a lot about his sound was his usage of piano and there wasn't much of that on this album. Perhaps he's going through a guitar phase, because there was definitely more acoustic guitar than in the previous albums. I will still agree that this is a 'well-made pop album'; he is a decent enough producer and the songs are produced quite well. However, I never got that "feeling of walking in a foreign city far away", as the album title alludes to and Cha Se Jung himself expressed. I did get that the album tried to express feelings of nostalgia, longing and sadness, but most of the songs failed to fully convey those emotions to me. And I'm speaking as someone who was deeply touched by the album with Lucia and his 1st album. There were two songs in particular that really got me though - 우리의 음악 and 믿을게. These two songs were the most effective in their emotional delivery. The lyrics of these two songs are gorgeous, and I almost shed a tear during 우리의 음악. But the rest of the album failed to impress me, other than 5122 and 다음날 아침 (duet with Han Hee Jung) which were memorable enough. And I can't stop thinking about how great 믿을게 could have been if it was sung with someone who could emote better with his voice.

I think the main reason that this album didn't impress me as much as I expected it to was because of the lack of instrumentals and unfortunately, Cha Se Jung's singing. I'm not saying that he is a terrible singer; his songs just work infinitely better with different vocals, preferably female voices. I looked back to some of my favourite songs with him and majority of them were either instrumentals (mainly piano) and duets or songs that featured female artists. This album was mostly sung by Cha Se Jung and I think his voice hindered the experience a bit... which is an awful thing to say, I know.

Another thing that really disappointed me is how similar his music is to Toy (Yoo Hee Yeol)'s. I know that Cha Se Jung has often expressed how much he likes Toy and perhaps... he needs to stop listening to him for a while? Because I see too much of Yoo Hee Yeol in these songs. I've gotten that feeling from his previous albums, but this album just confirmed that Cha Se Jung's music is a bit too similar to Yoo Hee Yeol's music for me to fully appreciate it. It's not a bad thing, I love Yoo Hee Yeol/Toy with a burning passion, but at this rate, Epitone Project will always be the Toy-wannabe in my mind. And I feel like he is capable of more than that.

I know that he experimented a lot with this album because it certainly shows with the variety of instruments and the (slight variation in the) sound. I just hope that he continues experimenting and finds a sound that is uniquely his.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

[album review] black bag - beyond the sky

Black Bag - Beyond the Sky
release date: january 11, 2012 

1. White One
2. Free
3. Beyond the Sky
4. Beautiful Morning
5. Blue Sky
6. Bright Light 


So I finally gave up and starting watching Top Band 2. There were a lot of bands that I was familiar with, but a lot of bands I didn't know as well. Black Bag was a band that I have never heard of before, but their performance of White One definitely caught my attention. It was heavily edited out and was probably a minute long, but I had a feeling that this might be good (I just get those feels, you know? It's like a sixth sense). It's been ages since I tried out new bands, and I was craving something new, so this was a perfect place to start.

After the first listen of Black Bag's EP Beyond the Sky, I was hooked. I really like this album. There's something really refreshing about their sound. It's nothing new, it's your run-of-the-hill alternative rock but I really liked their emphasis on guitar riffs, and how they experimented with their sounds a lot.
First track of the album, White One is an amazing song; it's the song that got me to check them out, and it's probably their catchiest track. Love the vocals in this one, how it's layered and how he almost seems to shout the words. 
Free, the second track that is also sung completely in English, is a notable song. It's highly experimental, and there's a side that's reminiscent of some of the classic rock songs, but it doesn't sound outdated or old. The instrumental part of the song is  fascinating to say the least; it's heavily layered with different guitar tracks, and although at times they seem to be doing their own thing, at other times they come together and sound really nice. 
Beyond the Sky is a beautifully extensive song that starts off quite slow, but progressively come together quite well. Again, I loved the guitars in this track. The vocals really stand out in this track. It's gorgeous, in a comforting, almost soothing way. Beyond the Sky is long though, not just in length but also in its development - it seems to build up and up and up, and there are multiple moments where it explodes into beautiful sounds and it's quite lovely, but also a bit tiring (in a nice way, though). 
Beautiful Morning is more upbeat, and probably the least experimental track on the EP. It's a typical rock song. It sounds like a fun song to hear live and rock to, though.
Blue Sky is the track that made me realize that I really, really like the vocal Jang Min Woo's voice. His voice has variety, which I find very refreshing. One thing I realized with the album - and and few live performances I have watched - is that he really knows his voice well, and knows how to work it. 
Bright Light is a pretty song. The guitar at the beginning is pretty (have I talked about Black Bag's guitar enough already or?), and I really enjoyed the lyrics! Pretty lyrics. And weird thing to say perhaps, but I really like how the vocal enunciates. 

With Beyond the Sky, it's difficult to pinpoint what Black Bag actually sounds like. All the songs are quite different from each other - experimental in their own little ways. Perhaps a bit too much variety for some? I like it though, it's nice to see a band that's willing to try out different things, and the songs are all fairly good separately. I would be fine if Black Bag decided to stick with one sound for their next release, or perhaps for their performances in the future on Top Band 2 (really hoping that they last long!), because I see potential in all the different shades of their music. 

edit: wow so I'm listening to the album again and I think a word I would use to describe this EP would be unexpected. Listening to White One, I had no idea that the song was going to develop melodies like that. Other songs are similar too.... What the! 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

[translation] Interview with Nell for Paper magazine June 2012

Decided to post it here because there's a lot of text and it'd be easier to read it here (and easier to format for me, too). This interview was so long! 6 page spread, but when I was typing it out on Word it was 10 pages. Yikes. It took me almost three hours to translate and edit, but it was worthwhile because this interview needs to get out there. There are so many memorable moments in this interview, and you really see their personalities behind each word they say. Highly, highly recommended read for all Nell fans.
I fixed the formatting mistakes that were present in the interview (such as wrong line breaks, typos on names), and the bracketed question mark that might appear is not mine but the interviewer's. Anything in brackets are from the original article, any awkward "haha"s and "bahahahaha"s were originally in the interview as well. Please do let me know if there's any mistakes or parts that are vague.
Credits and rules or whatnot are at the very end! :) Enjoy.

It's been 4 years since we last saw Nell on stage. The absence after the members enrolled for their military service in 2008 was unexpectedly long; even the die-hard fans were forced to wait for a long period of time. And this April, just the way we remembered them, Nell came back with sad but heartwarming, lonely but beautiful music. Now their ages starts with a 3 and not a 2, and faced with such a change, Nell seems to see "the things that slip away and disappear with time". Their fifth album "Slip Away" still walks in memories like their previous songs. But the Nell we met in person was not a band that dwelled in the past. Members Kim Jongwan (vocal), Lee Jaekyung (guitar), Jung Jaewon (drum) and Lee Junghoon (bass), all born in 1980, had a great sense of humour and the whole interview was fun and even a bit racy (?). Although they dominate the stage with their seriousness, in person they were willing to sacrifice their integrity for a joke, and from the get-go we could see that they led a very fascinating lifestyle.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

be an artist, right now.

"The moment children start to lie is the beginning of storytelling. They're making stories about things unseen. It's an amazing moment. You should celebrate."

"Unfortunately the little artists inside us get suffocated to death even before we have a chance to fight against the oppressors of art."

"But art is not about getting something. Art is the ultimate goal." 

edit: Really enjoyed this TEDxSeoul talk. Everything I believe in, except I would never be able to word it so well like him. Kim Young Ha is a writer I've been trying to take up recently (he's the voice behind the narration track on eAeon's solo album, if you recognized his voice here) and I do have some short stories by him in my house so I'll get to that soon! My mom is a huge fan of the 이상문학상 (Yi Sang Literary Award) and she always gets the books with all the winners. This year he won the grand prize, so there are three of his short stories in the book. Some of his works are also translated in English, so I put a request in for one of them at the local library.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

[let me talk about kpop for a minute] exo.

I usually go through phases, where I'll just be really obsessed with k-pop, and then I wouldn't listen to any of it for a bit, and then I'll be manically refreshing omona, and the cycle continues.... currently I'm in the k-pop phase again, and this time it's pretty bad. I've been getting very analytical of it in recent times, which makes it worse because it's so much fun. It's actually really interesting to dig through kpop a bit more seriously. It could be because I've been really into analyzing things lately, but the fact that kpop is so flawed, and there are some obvious shortcomings but there are also such hidden gems, and always room for improvement... all those things make it so much fun to ramble on endlessly about kpop. So let me talk about kpop for a couple of posts. share my irrelevant two cents about silly boy bands and girl groups.

And since I headlined this entry with the wonderful face of D.O, (from hereon, Kyungsoo since I prefer that), why don't I start with EXO. Oh. Exo. To be honest I was extremely skeptic of them before the debut. Why the 24058 teasers? And this Kai dude, he's not attractive at all! What's the big deal? And what is this crazy idea of having two groups under the same name promote same songs in Chinese and in Korean in two different countries - that's so confusing! It's not gonna work!

Putting my skepticism aside, and after I have laughed for a good 10 minutes after my initial viewing of the MAMA music video, I was won over. I can't really pinpoint what got me into them so much, but yup, I knew all their names by the first week after MAMA was released, I had my bias list figured out, I had a stupid grin on my face when EXO-K first performed MAMA live on a music show, and I was clawing at my face when I watched my first EXO-M interview. I was sold. Darn, SM. You win this around.

But now that I have watched enough of their performances and interviews, listened to their mini album a bit too much and have seen my share of their off stage antics, I'm beginning to form some coherent thoughts on them that isn't "omgbaconbaozidonutsDON'TLEAKANYMOREchanyolo". Exo is definitely an interesting venture on SM's part, and EXO has enough talent in them to keep them going for a while (hopefully). EXO as a 12-member group is extremely strong, I feel like that they have a really great group dynamic as a whole (and as K and M too), and the dance for both History and MAMA are stronger as 12-member pieces, from what I have seen from the music videos. I also love the relationships between the Chinese members and the Korean members - they seem to genuinely care for each other, which is great to see.

Now onto the subgroups. EXO-K has gotten significantly more exposure being the group for Korea, and we've seen them from more angles. Musically, it's clear that neither of EXO groups are particularly strong, but EXO-K has Baekhyun and Kyungsoo who show a lot of potential. But from their live performances it's obvious that EXO-K wasn't exactly ready to debut; Kyungsoo seems like he's peeing his pants every performance (although it's gotten better exponentially) and he can barely hit the right notes when he's belting out the long notes. Obviously he has a  lot of potential as a vocalist, but a big part of live performance depends on the stage presence and he somewhat lacks that. Baekhyun, on the other hand, is very stable, and has a great stage presence. He's also a very capable dancer; I feel as though his potential as a dancer is extremely underrated, because I'd even consider him one of the best in the group. Suho is also a very stable singer and like a breath of fresh air since his voice is a nice contrast to Kyungsoo's and Baekhyun's. I actually really like Suho's voice, and I can't wait until we get to hear more from him. The vocal black holes of EXO-K are Kai and Sehun, who obviously are not the singers of the groups, but not rappers either. They're sort of horrible as rappers, and musically they are both dead weight for the group. At least they're both capable dancers, Kai especially, which is a relief of sorts. Kai also has a phenomenal stage presence - he is so captivating to watch on stage. Sehun, on the other hand, I haven't seen much, but he's been pushed to the back most of the time so let's not be too harsh on him. Personally, the biggest surprise for me musically was Chanyeol, who proved to have the sexiest rapping voice I've heard in recent times (quasi-pros like Zico, Park Kyung and Bang Yong Guk excluded). And boy, this kid has swagger. His rap in Two Moons is some of the best I've heard in idol music, and definitely the best I've heard coming out of SM.
EXO-K also has extremely endearing personalities (see: Chanyeol, Baekhyun, Kyungsoo), and it's really great to see them get more comfortable with being idol groups, because they do have a lot to offer, I think. And they are so darn cute, damn.

EXO-M, although we haven't seen much of them, have surprised me greatly last week when we finally got to see them perform live (although they lip-synched, boo) in HD on MBC Show Champion. It was a pleasant surprise to see them so confident on stage, especially since they have significantly less experience performing than K. They really developed through their interviews as well, and seem more comfortable in the  recent ones. (On Show Champion when Xiumin introduced himself as Bao Zi and Tao was so excited to say that he was Kung Fu Panda - I died) I think EXO-M is far more interesting visually than K; EXO-K is exactly what you'd expect from SM - a polished looking bunch of pretty boys. EXO-M, on the other hand, has more variety - you got your strikingly good looking model dude (Kris), the unbelievably cute babyface (Lu Han), the vicious looking maknae (Tao), the guy with the face of a sculpture (Chen), the bao zi (Xiumin) and the fabulous unicorn (Lay). What remains a mystery about them though, is their musical ability, mostly because they haven't had the chance to show off their skills. Chen, the lead vocal, is a very strong singer recorded but I have yet to see him sing live and really determine how good he is. Lu Han also seems to have a strong voice. We haven't really heard from the rest of the members, although I feel like Lay and Xiumin seem to have really nice voices and have a lot of potential. It's not like they have strong rappers, either. M's version of Two Moons is almost embarrassing to listen to, and the resident rapper Kris has been just really nice to look at when he's just standing there looking like a model, and Xiumin being so bad at Chinese doesn't really help him as a rapper either.

Speaking of Chinese. I have something to say about EXO-M and their Korean members. Obviously it's not their fault that Chen and Xiumin ended up in EXO-M but I blame SM for so naturally assuming that it was going to be okay to put Korean members who didn't know Chinese at all in M. I'm actually so glad that they don't seem to have any issues among the group members because that would just have been heartbreaking to see, but it's still so unprofessional of SM. First of all, their names. I know it's just stage names but giving the two Korean members Chinese stage names, when they can't even speak Chinese... I was almost offended when I saw them resort to speaking Korean in interviews, because I naturally assume that they were Chinese. I don't think it's fair for anyone, especially the Chinese audience, to present these Korean members as Chinese (although SM has never said this directly, it's so obvious by their names) when they clearly are not. And I don't think it's fair for the Korean members as well. It's so obvious that they could be easily replaced, it wouldn't make a single difference if SM stuck in two different Korean kids in the group instead of Xiumin and Chen because it's not like they speak the language. It's just not fair for anybody. I almost dreaded seeing them in interviews and in Chinese media after I found out that they were Korean and didn't speak Chinese because I felt like it's so easy for them to slip up and show that they hate being there (as Korean trainees they were probably expecting to debut in Korea and instead they were put in a foreign country where they don't speak the language and the market is hugely under-developed) but they have been so, so endearing so far, showing a lot of enthusiasm. I just wish that they are as enthusiastic about learning Chinese because it's still cringe-worthy to see them speak Korean in Chinese interviews.

But I have a lot of hope for EXO. I really like all the members (I'm even warming up to Kai and Sehun... slowly but surely...), and I can't wait until we get to see them shine more on variety shows and such.

As for the mini-album, I was more than impressed. MAMA is still a dumb song, and What is Love is too Yoo Young Jin for my taste, but Angel and Two Moons are totally my jam. Angel is so beautiful, and a really great ballad - it's almost reminiscent of some of Beast's ballad tracks, which is a good thing. Two Moons really shows how great Chanyeol is as a rapper, and Key sounds awesome in it as well. Obviously I wasn't too impressed with Baekhyun doing the chorus tracks for a lot of the EXO-M songs since I believe Chen and/or Luhan are capable of doing them themselves, but well, I can't ask for too much, when it's SM controlled by YYJ. Speaking of YYJ, he really needs to get out, I'm really beginning to hate his style.

I'll probably return soon! I have lots and lots to say about recent k-pop.