Thursday, December 31, 2015

Overdue Best of 2014: 30 Best Korean Songs

Top 30 Korean Songs of 2014

Ok, as I've promised earlier in the top albums of 2014 post - here's the extremely overdue best of 2014 list (day before 2016! Or for some of you ahead, it's already 2016). Some of you may have already heard the list on 8tracks because I posted it as a playlist on 8tracks months back - this is more to have it down in writing, and I will keep things brief.

Hopefully I'll be more on time with the 2015 lists?

As always, subjective list, musical and extra-musical elements both considered, etc. List covers December 2013 - November 2014.

Check under the cut for the list.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Overdue Best of 2014: Top 20 Korean Albums

It's been a while! So, this is extremely late, obviously... 2015 is almost over as I write this, and people are busy posting their best of 2015 lists. But before diving into my best of 2015 posts, I wanted to get 2014 out of the way. I've had these lists sitting in my drafts for almost a year now, and I'm one of those people who have to do things in order - in other words, I needed to get this out before I can finally move onto (hopefully) posting my best of 2015 lists, which I've been finessing quite a bit for the past few weeks.

Anyway, the only reason why I never got around to publishing these lists for 2014 was because I was simply too lazy (tired?) to write them - I spent almost all of 2015 writing myself to death for a different site and my personal writing naturally took a backseat. I've had these lists for ages (since December of 2014), but I just didn't have the energy to write anything. And now, a year later, I don't even know what I was thinking when I ranked or picked these albums. So I'm going to post this list without any write-up's. Terrible, I know. But I just have to get this out of my system to move the fuck on.

If you have any questions about why I picked any of the albums on the list, let me know in a comment and I'll probably explain there! I did actually get through half of my top 30 song of 2014 list few months back, so I will publish that list with the write-up's. (In the meanwhile, you can check out the playlist here.)

As usual, this list is ranked and consists of albums released any time between December 2013 and November 2014.

Check under the cut for the full list.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

[mixtape liner notes] 기억하는 봄. Remembering Spring.

Remembering Spring. Second Sewol Tribute Mixtape.
Listen to it here.
The first tribute mix is here.

Click the song title for the full lyrics in English.

01) "LOST" - 국카스텐 (Guckkasten)
Something we could not grasp in our dreams
Something even dreams did not show us
Not ever again in a dream
Our voyage, that will never begin…

02) "잔인한 사월 (Cruel April)" - 브로콜리 너마저 (Broccoli You Too)
The cruel season only gets deeper

03) "남서풍 (Southwestern Wind)" - 피아 (PIA)
Wishing the warm air finds home in you / So the fog on the tightly closed windowsill can disappear / Hoping that the southwestern wind comes and comforts you / So you can unfold your wings and fly through those tiny cracks
The unforgettable day, and at the center of it all / We all lost our way  

04) "Time" - Loro's feat. 이승열 (Yi Sung Yol)
On the quiet night ocean
The long moonlight that silently shakes
The lone path in this darkness
The tears I scatter on that path
Between the seasons that fall
A flower in bloom for eternity
The depth of time in this cold
And… life. And… life.

05) "Giant" - Yozoh
I can’t find you anywhere in my desperate dreams
When I open my eyes I am already inside your universe
fly away, fly away

06) "We Are Not Dead Yet" - 로로스 (Loro's)
High up, you were there / See the end is far, far away

07) "다시, 봄 (Again, Spring)" - Various Artists (Kang Seung Won, Kim Mokin, Malo, Park Hye Ri, Sai, Yozoh, Oh Jong Dae, Jung Min Ah, Cha Hyun, Hi Mister Memory)
Will spring be forgotten when fall and winter come / Will spring be the same next year / By then it should’ve been changed / There are people who remember

08) "There Must Be" - Joo Hyo & HA:TFELT
I hope people who are in love won’t lose each other anymore and smile / I pray that this song will be a small light for the hurting hearts / There must be something I can do


Disclaimer - the only songs on this playlist that are explicitly about Sewol are "다시, 봄" (part of a one year anniversary project by a group of indie artists) and the track by Pia. Track by Joo Hyo and HA:TFELT and the song by Loro's feat. Yi Sung Yol were undoubtedly influenced by the tragedy. The other songs are simply what I've found fitting to how I personally feel - grief, but still hoping for justice.

Here's a quick read regarding the developments since the incident.

My last published playlist seems to be the first tribute mix, almost a year ago... It's been a difficult year.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Interview with Total Art Performance Group, EE

I had the chance to ask a few questions to a personal favourite group of mine, EE, who recently released an EP titled Dear Door and performed at this year's SXSW Festival. Mixing elements often found in modern fine art with music, EE calls themselves a "total art" performance group, not limiting themselves to just music. Lil E (Yunjoung Lee), the one-half of the husband-wife duo, answered the questions. Be sure to check out their EP "Dear Door," and their crazy music video for "Wiggy Dawn" below!

Hello! Please introduce yourselves first. 
We are EE, also known as EETOTALART. You can consider us as an amalgamation of culture, hidden in the city, more than simply a music group. 

How would you describe your latest EP, Dear Door? What does the “door” in the title mean? 
“Door” is a symbolic word that creates curiosity. It’s also the biggest medium in traveling between spaces. What happens when you open a door further symbolizes the escape from reality, and the thirst for something new. 
“Wiggy Dawn” is about a mother’s door to temptation, while “Knock the Door” is about a door of fabrication. “No.417” is a story about the door that will never be opened again.

I feel like when you first encounter EE’s music, they become engrossed in the catchy sounds and the striking visuals. But once you start listening to the lyrics properly, you begin to think, ah, this isn’t just some silly music. Even on the latest EP, track titled “No.417” is about the Sewol Ferry incident, right? How did you come about writing this song? 
We were personally affected greatly by the incident, and wanted to find something we could do. We didn’t try to approach it politically, and instead chose to tell the story of that day from a 16 year-old girl's perspective. We are hoping that it won’t be ever forgotten. 

Are there any other particular issues or topics you want to talk about in your art in the future? 
We will continue to talk about the small and big issues of the contemporary society. We’ve done so since the beginning, and there aren't any positive or negative opinions on our end about that. So sometimes our messages are misunderstood by the listener. 

Electronica is at the basis of EE’s music but from your first album Curiosity Kills to the recently-released Dear Door, there’s been a significant change in sound. Do you actively try to change your sound with each of your releases? 
There’s nothing we are actively pursuing. Musician, genre, vocal abilities, things like these aren’t important to us. As most stages available to us are pop stages, those are the ones we go on. It may appear like pop, but if you look closely [at our art], there’s something very fun and complicated inside. You could consider it an artistic performance. 

I personally love EE’s music videos! The music video for “WIGGY DAWN” that just came out was really interesting too. How do you conceptualize the visual elements for your videos?
It hasn’t been the easiest for us financially and we were in a hurry. As we tried to take care of it ourselves, we came up with the photo booth idea, something we often played around with when we were living in UK. This is the first time we’ve gotten so many “WTF” comments. We love it. 

Hyeonjoon is active as a visual artist as well as EE. How do EE’s “total art performance” and his personal artworks differ? 
It seems very different but similar at the same time.
It’s just like his personality, the performances and videos are his complete EE side. But Lee Hyeonjoon as an artist is like an old man, who only focuses on his art without saying a word. Even when he’s working with the same topic, it’s completely different…

Yunjoung is also part of the legendary PiPi Band, and 2015 will be PiPi Band’s 20th anniversary since debut. I remember seeing an article last year that Yunjoung will be having a comeback as Pipi Band... Can we expect a Pipi Band album any time soon? 
I think it will be out before the summer. This is just a teaser, haha.
We’re progressing really quickly, as if we’re meeting everyday.

And how was your experience at SXSW?
We went, believing that we will open their mouths and make them jump. And it was proven. Not only that, performing in the streets was very memorable. It feels like we had an unforgettable party with numerous musicians. If we are offered another opportunity, we want to prepare an even crazier and fun stage.
We want to applaud everyone who enjoyed our stage!

What are your plans for EE? 
We’ve had so many exciting things happen without planning, and we continue to fall into the most interesting situations that come to us. Coachella was like that, and same with SXSW, performances at National Museum of Contemporary Art. We arrived at our desired destinations as we ran towards what we wanted. If anybody wants to have a strange but a fun experience, give us a shout.

EE's Dear Door EP can be purchased on iTunes US here.
EE on Facebook | Soundcloud 

All images in the post belong to the band. Interview translated from Korean by Sangha. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Interview with Korean Glam Metal Band, Victim Mentality

I recently had the opportunity to ask Kyung Ho Sohn, the guitarist of glam metal band Victim Mentality, a few questions about their career, their stint at SXSW this week, among other things. Heavily inspired by 80's glam metal, the quartet produces humorous and at times thought-provoking music while donning heavy makeup and a lot of leopard prints. They recently performed at SXSW, their first gig abroad. They have another show coming up tonight at The Majestic as part of the Korea Night Out series by Seoulsonic, so if you are in the area and still haven't seen them, you definitely should go check them out!

Can you introduce yourselves first? 
Hello! We are Victim Mentality. We are mostly active in Seoul. We formed in 2009 and we play glam metal with roots in heavy metal. Krocodile is on vocals, Kyung Ho Sohn is on guitar, Scorpion on bass, and Tarantula on drums.

I see a lot of 80’s glam metal in Victim Mentality. Are there any glam bands that you’re into? Any particular role models for the band?
Most of 80’s heavy metal bands were our idols. We first started Victim Mentality by copying bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Then we started to change our band’s direction into glam metal, and we were really inspired by music by artists like Motley Crue. When I (Kyung Ho) was young, I really enjoyed Poison, Cinderella, and Vixen, and I think I naturally was inspired by them. Of course, we took a lot of inspiration from traditional heavy metal bands like WASP and Stryper.

Your lyrics are always so great! Really easy to relate to. “Don’t Spit on Me” is particularly great. Where do you get the inspirations for your lyrics? 
It’s all things that happen around us. We sing about normal things that happen around us, instead of fantasy fiction, sci-fi, or something philosophical like life and death. We usually sing about the hardships and love of youth, or the struggles of the working people.

Do you coordinate your own outfits? They’re always so outrageous.
We get the fabric from the market in DDM. We even have a wholesaler we often buy from as well. When we get the fabric, we go to a costume shop in Itaewon. We request the clothes to be made to fit our bodies there. They’re all custom-made, as we design on the spot or bring references.

Are any of the members active in bands outside of Victim Mentality? 
I’m part of a symphonic black metal band called Dark Mirror ov Tragedy. I’ve been originally interested in all aspects of metal music, and I’ve been active in a melodic death metal band since I was 20. I like what they usually call extreme metal, so I’ve been active in Dark Mirror ov Tragedy for 7 years. The other members are only part of Victim Mentality.

If you take a look at the members’ names… Krocodile, Scorpion, Tarantula… Kyungho, why don’t you use a stage name? If you had to choose one right now, what would it be? 
I actually use “Senyt” as my stage name for Dark Mirror ov Tragedy. I originally planned on using a stage name for Victim Mentality, but since I’ve been using a stage name since I was 20, I wanted to use my real name for once when Victim Mentality debuted. But I sometimes regret it, when I look at myself in makeup and leopard.

The upcoming SXSW shows are your first show abroad. Is there anything in particular you are preparing for these shows? Anything you’re worried about, or really excited about? 
Our goal is to show 100% of our charm. Glam metal is from the US. I think the audience will understand what we are doing, and what we are trying to express. So we’re really curious as to how they will react.

Are there any bands that you are looking forward to seeing at SXSW? 
We’ve liked a melodic death metal band called Allegaeon, and we heard that they will be at SXSW. We’ll be definitely checking them out.

What about any cities or festivals you want to perform at?
We want to perform at Sunset Street in LA, the home of glam metal. 

Your first full-length album “Heavy Metal Is Back” will be released soon. What kind of album will it be? How different is it going to be from “Magic Finger?” 
“Magic Finger” is an album consisting of the early songs we wrote after forming Victim Mentality. So the traditional heavy metal elements are strong. Because like I’ve said earlier, Victim Mentality was a straight-up heavy metal band inspired by bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. As time went by and we positioned ourselves as a glam metal band, we created “Heavy Metal Is Back.” Of course, there’s still the heavy metal element we pursued in “Magic Finger,” but we also tried to put in a more melodic and mellow element. If “Magic Finger” was about the primitive metal disposition, “Heavy Metal Is Back” tried to make various elements and emotions of heavy metal into a Victim Mentality style.

The upcoming SXSW shows, first album release, anything else you guys are planning at the moment? 
We will be continuing with performing. And we plan to release a single album near the end of the year. We want to get Victim Mentality known through live performances.

I found out that Krocodile is the leader (?!) of Free Meat Eaters’ Union, while researching for the interview… Do the other members also like meat? If you all had to choose your favorite kind of meat, what would it be? 
We all like meat. I’m particularly lazy with grilling them though, so I like beef or when someone else cooks it for me. I like cow intestines a lot too.

Thank you! I hope you enjoy some great BBQ in Austin.
Thanks! This was a fun interview.

Monday, February 2, 2015

[update] a quickie.

A quick update.

  • If you have the time, check out this interview Anna over at IndiefulROK did with the lovely duo Kim Sawol x Kim Haewon  that I translated. Their EP was one of my favourite releases of 2014. 
  • ....Speaking of 2014, the "best of 2014" lists are coming. I just need to sort some stuff out first...
  • Another thing that's going to happen (and I promise) - recaps of Unpretty Rapstar. And this time, we will try to make sure that we get through the entire thing. Shouldn't be as difficult, since there will be less episodes. We'll see though. 
  • I recently moved to Chicago. It's a big city and I don't have that many friends. If you are in the area, definitely hit me up and we can talk about silly things like Korean music and food together, maybe. 
Music-wise, recent rotations, among others:
  • The Quiett feat. Saetbyeol "Nothing". Download the track here
  • 18gram's self-titled first full-length album. Listen to "Secret Forest" here. This band is fronted by Ryu In Hyuk of Eastern Sidekick, one of my favourite bands! 
  • From the Airport's first full-length album You Could Imagine was surprisingly disappointing for me, personally. 
  • Purity Ring's latest songs "begin again" and "push pull" from their upcoming 2nd album. I'll be seeing them in June, so excited! 
  • I went to see the Cold War Kids last weekend. I'll also be going to the Pitchfork Festival in July, along with Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds show in May. 

Anyway, let me know if you've listened to anything interesting lately. I've been kind of behind on recent music. 

I'll be back soon!