Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Half-way Check Point: 2014 in Korean Music So Far.

I wasn't planning on writing this post, but since a commentor asked for it in my previous update post and I was in a blogging mood lately, I thought I would give it a go. But first! I've been posting a lot over at my new film blog Cinematriarchy, so if you are into movies at all, please do check it out, and if you've seen the movies I've talked about, please do let me know what you thought about them, I'd love to hear.

This is going to be a simple, but messy post because I usually don't keep a good track of all the music I check out during the first half of the year. But I do keep a general annual 'liked tracks' playlist on iTunes. And although I really slacked off on it in 2013, I've been better with it so far in 2014. I'll base this post off of that playlist, and just kind of freestyle my way through some notable songs and albums that caught my attention, along with debuts, comebacks, etc.

Then, just some music and musicians of January - May 2014 I want to talk about!


Girls' Day. I'll be honest, I definitely paid more attention to idol and mainstream releases so far this year than I did to the usual 'indie' releases. Girls' Day hit off the year with the sensual hit "Something", which I thoroughly enjoyed. God, Sojin is so hot. So is Hyeri. Dance version of the MV above because Sojin. Sojin.

AOA's latest hit, "Miniskirt", was a bigger jam than "Something" though, as I found myself coming back to it over and over again, despite my general dislike of the composer Brave Brothers (Brave Sound? Whatever.) Jimin's voice which underlays the entire song is so addicting, I love it. It's a shame that they are more successful as a dancing girl group than their initial concept of a girl 'band', but to be honest, I like this side of them a lot more. Jimin!

Puer Kim. Puer Kim, a singer songwriter who graduated from Berklee in the big ol' USA, had her 'mainstream' debut under songwriter Yoon Jong Shin's label Mystic89. She has previously released independent records in the form of EP Mom & Sex and LP 이응(O). Under Mystic89 she's released only a single so far, called "마녀마쉬 (Manyo Maash)", which is a surprising - but not very surprising - change from her previous styles seen on her earlier releases. The song screams Yoon Jong Shin (he wrote the song), but her voice is still lovely as ever, and the release of the single turned me to her older releases again, which were also as lovely as ever. Hopefully she will be able to write her own songs under Mystic89 for her future releases, because it's still too early to let that go, yet.

Gain. Gain does it again. Although her official title track "Truth Or Dare" wasn't my favourite from her, the pre-released track "Fxxx U" featuring the wonderful Bumkey was fantastic, everything I ever wanted. And the music video. The goddamn music video. It's so beautifully shot (sans the weird, Human Centipede-like sequences, I could do without them), and reminded me so much of film director Im Sang Soo's latest movie The Taste of Money, in terms of its cinematography. And then when I saw Im Sang Soo's The Housemaid it clicked even more. I'm not sure who directed the music video, but the resemblances, both stylistically and thematically, are definitely there, which just makes this music video so much more interesting.


In February the Korean Music Awards happened. Since I really slacked off on keeping up with music in 2013 I didn't really bother with trying to guess who would win or not, but I was glad to see Rock'n'Roll Radio be nominated for Best New Artist and win the title. Also it was nice to see Yi Sung Yeol be recognized for his amazing album V, and Asian Chairshot for their phenomenal EP Mask.

Soyou x Junggigo. God, how can we forget. Soyou x Junggigo really hit it off in February with their utterly sweet track "Some" featuring Lil Boy. I adore Soyou's voice. I know Hyorin is the powerhouse vocal of Sistar, but I have a bias for soft, pretty voices like Soyou's and I'm so glad they are giving her more projects. Her voice is especially amazing when accompanied by a male voice as well, and I'm so glad her company's aware of this and giving her so many duets.

Ladies' Code! My favourite newbie girl group from 2013. I'm so glad they're continuously putting out good releases. "So Wonderful" was decent, and it was good to see them paying some sort of homage (?) to the late girl-group Wonder Girls. I really do hope Ladies' Code becomes as big as Wonder Girls was, because these girls are full of talent and charm.

Brown Eyed Soul official kicked it off this year with the album, but this music video and this song! So adorable, so nice.

From The Airport released their single "Chemical Love" in February as well, with a very pretty music video.

Juuno from Casker's solo EP Shift happened in February and everything else became secondary to me. This EP is amazing, and for a while it was all I could listen to. And I absolutely adored the aesthetics of the EP, as each song teaser is just perfect, and gah, I love love love.

Nell's album also happened in February, but I'd rather not talk about it.


Neon Bunny. March was a busy month for Korean music but out of all the releases, Neon Bunny's single "It's You" was hands down my favourite. Could easily be my favourite song of 2014 so far, in fact. "It's You" is just the perfect amount of synth fused with Neon Bunny's distinct voice. This song is still on heavy rotation.

Girls' Generation. Although the mini and the title track were released in late February, since most of the promotions were during March, I'll stick this under here instead. Girls' Generation (SNSD) finally had a decent title track in the form of "Mr.Mr.", which was unfortunately met with more mixed reviews. But what more could you want, after the mess that was "I Got A Boy"? I was happy. I love the outfits, love the choreo, love Hyoyeon. My favourite performance is definitely the March 14 performance on Music Bank but unfortunately I couldn't find a legitimate version of it on KBS's youtube page. But do look it up, I love the camerawork for that performance. The performance above is equally kick-ass. Also, probably my favourite song on the new SNSD mini, "Goodbye", got an awesome performance out of it on Yoo Hee Yeol's Sketchbook. I live for Hyoyeon's one line at 1:00.

2NE1 also released a solid album at the end of February but I'm gonna stick them under March too. Didn't really care much for the title track "Come Back Home" although it was pretty damn catchy, I enjoyed "If I Were You" and "Good To You" more. Still can't help but feel that 2NE1's better with the slower, sadder songs.

Tete released an EP called Love & Relax and it was really good! Always love Tete's releases, he writes such beautiful songs.

Zitten released his EP Diaspora: 흩어진 사람들 in March as well, and I was especially touched by the title track "Try".

Yozoh's remix EP with First Aid was lovely, and I particularly loved the remix of "춤", which I daresay is better than the original. The music video is fantastic as well, see above.

Ironic Hue released their second album For Melting Steel in March. I loved their first album Into the Mirror, and although I didn't love For Melting Steel as much as I loved the first album, it's still a terrific release.

And of course, don't forget about the ever-so-adorable Orange Caramel's "Catallena", the ultimate jam of 2014 so far, hands down.

Music I missed in March but definitely planning on checking out: I've only listened to Lee Seung Hwan's single from his latest album Fall To Fly前 but I'm still going to check out the full album. Lee Kyu Ho aka Kyo also released his much-anticipated 2nd album Spade One in March and I still have yet to give it a listen, but I'll definitely get to it. Same applies to Monni's Follow My Voice - I've been a very bad fan, and haven't listened to that album at all yet.


Crush released a single called "Sometimes" in the beginning of April and it was a total jam. He will be releasing a full-length album in June which I am very excited for. Very attractive voice, and he knows how to work it.

Lee Sora's album 8. I haven't listened through it yet though, but I loved the pre-released track "운 듯"... also saving this album for later. Lee Sora's music is oddly heavy and you gotta be in the right mood for it.

Band Fine released their first official album 서로의 도시 which really wasn't all that great, but "Seoul" was pretty and I enjoyed that song quite a bit. Unfortunately that was the only song on the entire album that was salvageable. Same goes for Hologram Film and their album Into The Wild. Didn't particularly liked the album, but "Wolf" was damn catchy and enjoyable.

Phonebooth's latest Wonder is a solid album with some solid songs on it.

A Pink also released their single "Mr. Chu" in late March but sticking them under April for promos. Such a catchy song, and they all look so good. They've found themselves a great niche market among all the sexy concepts in k-pop at the moment, which may be why they did so well with this single this time around again.

IU and HIGH4's "Not Spring, Love, or Cherry Blossom" was good for what it offered - IU. Never enough of IU's music. Didn't much care for HIGH4's vocals or rappers, but IU is awesome, and the song was pretty catchy.

Eddy Kim took me by surprise because I initially didn't recognize him. I've seen most of Super Star K4 to know him as his Korean name Kim Jung Hwan, but since completing his military duties he has joined MYSTIC89 and got himself a great hairstyle. A decent haircut can do wonders. Anyway, perfect for the season. It was nice music to have in the background while doing other things.

Ninano Nanda is perhaps the most interesting debut of 2014 so far, as they fuse "post electronic dub" with traditional Korean singing. They call it "future pansori." Interesting stuff. If folk music has Coreyah and post-rock has Jambinai, electronica now has Ninano Nanda. Jambinai and Coreyah definitely have staying power though, but I'm not sure if the same applies to Ninano Nanda's music. We'll see about that, I guess.


May was another busy month with tons of good music being released!

IU's remake album 꽃갈피 was excellent in every way possible. She's really something else. I would even say that her remake of "My Old Story" is better than the original recording by Jo Deok Bae. She sounds simply stunning on that song. The other songs on the album, with the exception of Clon remake, is all so really, really good.

The Lads released their first full-length album Lads On The Street, and it's a great lot of fun in one album. I would've liked to see maybe more original songs than the songs from their previous EP 청춘, but I was still happy to listen to new songs from them. They might not go down in the history of Korean music, but I definitely think they have their own merits for what they are, at this very point in Korean music.

One of my favourite acts The Solutions returned with their second album MOVEMENTS and it is brilliant. I personally found it even better than their first album. It sounds a lot sharper and more polished than the first album, and I really love it. It's so good.

Folk band Small O returned with their first full-length album Temper Of Water which added onto the charm of their debut EP That Will Fall. I really dig their style.

Life And Time, a new band consisting of the bassist from The Koxx and the guitarist from Loro's, released their debut EP The Great Deep in May. It's a very strong album, despite the short length they managed to pack a lot in there. They sound like a band that would be a hell of a time to see live, as their music on the album sounds like it will be even better live.

Yoo Hee Yol (Toy) released a song in tribute to the recent Sewol Ferry tragedy. The piece isn't anything exceptional but it's the thought that counts, and when Kim Yoon Ah's voice comes in, I did shed a tear. May all the souls rest in peace.

Did I miss anything? Let me know if you have something to recommend from 2014 so far in the comments below.


  1. This Neon Bunny track is certainly one of the best this year, and Yozoh did a good job indeed. Checking out the rest, thanks a lot, you're great!

  2. I don't listen to all of these groups/artists but the ones I do listen to I share the exact same opinions on. Girl's Day and AOA's songs were both great and I did slightly favor "Miniskirt" and /still/ can't stop listening to it which was unexpected because at first I just brushed it off as something Kara could've released. "Goodbye" is also my favorite song off of SNSD's mini and Hyoyeon's line is what gets me excited every time I play it. "Slow Dance" is my favorite from Eddy Kim's debut record, "Some" was absolutely fantastic and even after the third MV rewatch I still laughed at Baro on the bus, and I've really liked what I've heard so far from Life and Time.

    I'm surprised there isn't a mention of AKMU here. I haven't listened to their album enough yet to have many opinions but I really loved "200%".

    In all, so far this year I feel like almost every group/artist I listen to has put out at least one or two tracks to keep me happy. Not to sure about albums as a whole, though.

    1. I'm not the biggest fan of Akdong Musician. They're cute but I find their music extremely forgettable, unfortunately. (I hesitate to say this but they're so vanilla to me, if you know what i mean...)
      I'm so glad Hyoyeon's line is getting the love it deserves!

  3. Neon Bunny is good! And I find The Barberettes' album quite refreshing too

    1. I haven't actually had the chance to check out The Barberettes album, although I've heard nothing but good things about it! I'll definitely be giving that a listen :)

  4. Wow, surprised to see Life and Time got a mention. While the EP is only 5 tracks, the length of each track definitely makes up to it. In fact, I wish the tracks were shorter personally. Great EP and I hope its not a one off. About The Solutions' second album, I have to disagree with you there, I personally think its weaker than the first one as they have added heavy electronics which threw away all the Brit-pop-like simplicity they were going on with their Début. While some track are definitely great, their overall change of style leaves a lot to be desired.

  5. hm, maybe you're not really into ballad, but there're two songs i'd recommend. younha "home" and lee juck "lie lie lie". they're good songs with great vocals to boot.

    1. I have my ballad moments but I don't tend to keep up with them too much. I've actually listened to Lee Juck's "Lie Lie Lie" and liked it well enough, but probably not as much as his older hits. I haven't actually checked out Younha's "Home", I definitely will! :) thanks!

  6. I'll have to check out the music on this post! There are tons of people that I've never heard of, so thank you! For me, I really enjoyed Akdong Musician's album. Quite frankly, I'm glad that YG isn't getting in the way and that they're keeping their own sound. The album has quite a few gems. Right now "Melted" is my favorite. The music video is great as well. Loved "Something" by Girl's Day. Such a jam. Also, 2NE1's album made the beginning of my year. I've been waiting for that album, lol. Really love the unplugged version of "Come Back Home" and I especially love "Good To You" & "Baby I Miss You". Ah! CNU's solo on B1A4's "Who Am I" album is a jam as well as "Overdose" by EXO and "Slow Dance" by Eddy Kim.

    Yeah...I think that's all for me. Enjoyed you post! :D

  7. Hmm, I'm a Blackjack so I'm usually - undoubtedly - immersed by their music (especially non-titled) and I think they're better off with the cool/aggressive style they usually display since that's what makes them outshine other girl groups. However, I do agree with them being really good with sad ballady tracks. The sadder, the better they sound. "Good To You" it's definitely a favorite.

  8. oh certainly, image-wise I do prefer the powerful visual concepts they have for their upbeat tunes. it's just that I prefer their vocals/sounds more in their slower songs.

  9. i am sooooooooo late but my favorite release of 2014 was jung joonyoung's 2nd mini, teenager. he finally got more freedom to compose and write and the result was beautiful. i especially love 돛단배 and of course, the title track as well.