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.

Honourable Mention
"춤 (Dance) (First Aid Remix)" Yozoh
from: Yozoh x First Aid Remix

The honourable mention goes to Yozoh and First Aid for their remix of "Dance," a song that was originally part of her 2013-release 나의 쓸모. Partly because First Aid is awesome, and partly because they took a nearly-forgettable song and made something truly unforgettable out of it. But mainly because I'm a sucker for this breed of synthpop.

30 "Bivo" Boys in the Kitchen
from: Boys in the Kitchen

Boys in the Kitchen literally came out of nowhere for me, and they're probably one of my greatest finds of 2014. The entire EP is pretty excellent but it's "Bivo" that really stays with you with its addicting rhythm and feel-good guitar riffs. Bravo!

29 "위잉위잉 (Wi Ing Wi Ing)" Hyukoh
from: 20

Undeniably the hottest band around at the moment is Hyukoh, who made my list with their ear-worm of a song, "Wi Ing Wi Ing." The song initially starts out as another typical low-energy indie rock tune, but it eventually turns into something utterly fascinating as the frontman Oh Hyuk's wonderful voice kicks in.

28 "Mamma Mia" Kara
from: Day & Night 

I don't think anyone expected Kara to release anything substantial after two of its members, Nicole and Jiyoung, left the group. Nonetheless, everybody who thought so was proven wrong, as the group (now a four-piece) returned triumphant with the classy, highly polished "Mamma Mia." The great instrumentals successfully cover the vocal void left even bigger with Nicole and Jiyoung's departure, while the phenomenal choreo (definitely my favourite of the year) was a reminder of how Kara was able to climb to the top tier in the first place.

27 "100" Black Nut (feat. Genius Nochang)
from: 100 

My guilty pleasure of the year. Seriously, Black Nut is so gross, but I jammed to this song for days. Despite his filthy persona, he has a fantastic flow, and it's this flow that turns this song into something that's more than just a string of funny punchlines. Pair that with Genius Nochang's catchy-as-fuck beats, and you've got a real fun track on your hands.

26 "가시내들 (Little Gals)" The Barberettes
from: 바버렛츠 소곡집 #1

The feel-good track of the year! The Barberettes brought the perfect mixture of retro and on-point harmonization to the table this year with their debut effort Barberettes Vol.1 and the title track "Little Gals." Indie girl groups are a rarity (remember Playgirl?), and The Barberettes' arrival was definitely a much-welcomed one.

25 "Poly Evil" Juuno (feat. Zitten)
from: Shift

This song (and the entire Shift album, really) is so meticulously crafted, I am wowed every time I listen to it. The way the sounds disintegrate and pull right back up after the bridge is just perfect, exactly the kind of stuff I would expect from this talented producer behind Casker.

24 "빨개요 (Red)" HyunA
from: A Talk

"Red is HyunA, HyunA is?" was hands down the boldest question thrown at us by a female artist in 2014. I'm glad she came back with this glowing gem of a track after the severely disappointing "Ice Cream." Also, looking past the Katy Perry-inspired Egyptian (???) imagery, how fun is the music video? How great does she look?! Almost everything about this comeback was perfect, and reinstated my faith in HyunA.

23 "날 위로하려거든 (If You Want to Console Me)" Yoonsang
from: 날 위로하려거든

There was a slew of strong electronic releases in 2014 from seasoned electronica artists and bands, but one of the most noteworthy tracks came from none other than Yoonsang. As a Yoonsang fan I tend to think that everything he touches turns to gold, but even looking past that, this is such a solid electro track, simple but beautiful.

22 "변신 (Transformation)" Guckkasten
from: Frame

And they've done it. I feared that Guckkasten would never be able to overcome the bar they sat for themselves with their legendary song "Mirror" and the debut album, but they completely bypassed the sophomore jinx with this deliciously experimental release. The added kids vocals are a nice touch to the already fantastic song.

21 "1015 (with Okdal)" K.AFKA
from: 내가 너의 작곡가

My favourite track from one of my favourite compilation albums of the year, K.AFKA's chillingly beautiful collaboration with Okdal was a longtime heavy rotation when I first came across it. I think more than anything, I was pleasantly surprised that Okdal was capable of writing something this eerie. A great experiment from Okdal, and a perfect fit into K.AFKA's discography.

20 "Movements" The Solutions
from: Movements

The sophomore release from synth pop group (now a quartet) The Solutions was a real jam, with their title track "Movements" being especially memorable. Park Sol's vocals are fantastic in this song!

19 "너의 의미 (Your Meaning)" IU (feat. Kim Chang Wan)
from: 꽃 갈피 

Oh, IU. She is truly something else. Reaching uber-stardom with "Good Day," she has remained on her throne ever since. But what sets IU apart from the other "top-selling artists" is her distinct musical sentimentality, which shines in this remake of "Your Meaning" by Kim Chang Wan's band Sanulrim. So pretty and so likable.

18 "Back" Infinite
from: Be Back

Infinite is probably one of the very few boy groups that constantly manages to impress me with their music. (Their 2013-release “Destiny” also made the list that year.) They do it again in “Back,” an extremely well-produced, catchy track.

17 "Teddy Bear Rises" Oohyo
from: 소녀 감성

Oohyo’s simple acoustic song, curiously titled “Teddy Bear Rises,” is so gloomy but adorable at the same time. Perfect for a slow, sentimental evening.

16 "안아줘 (Hug Me)" Crush (feat. Gaeko)
from: Crush On You

Crush is a vocal powerhouse and he definitely shows it in his intense song “Hug Me.” The build-up in this song is so well-done, and the last verse is purely orgasmic, for lack of better words.

15 "비밀 (Secret)" Kim Sawol x Kim Haewon
from: {Secret}

The Kim x Kim duo was definitely one of my greatest finds in 2014, with their seductive, almost dangerous songs. In “Secret” they whisper sweet, sweet words of temptation to you. As soon as Kim Haewon whispers “I will tell you a secret that no one else knows,” you can’t help but lean in a little closer, to hear what this mysterious duo has to say.

14 "Touch My Body" Sistar
from: Touch N Move 

Summer jam of 2014! I loved how summery “Touch My Body” was. The booty-shaking, sun-soaked MV was also a delight.

13 "Up All Night" Beenzino (feat. Mayson the Soul)
from: Up All Night 

I’m mostly indifferent when it comes to Beenzino but he definitely has talent, that one. This is probably one of my favorite songs by him ever. And despite his pettiness (“Let’s fuck a bitch and let’s get over with it”? haha fuck off), his flow is seriously so good in this song, and Mayson the Soul’s featuring is oh-so charming.

12 "Monster" Gonne Choi
from: I Was, I Am, I Will

Gonne Choi’s first full-length studio album I Was, I Am, I Will was one of my top favourites in 2014, and this song is a definite highlight on that album. Probably my favorite vocal performance of the year. Gonne Choi’s voice - with the tinge of pansori, which she sang as a child - is so captivating in this song.

11 "Catallena" Orange Caramel
from: Catallena 

How can I not?! Hands down the top earworm of 2014, I can shamelessly admit that I’ve spent at least a few hours hunting down and watching almost all live performances of “Catallena.” The wack, the lesbian (?) undertones, and the absolute adorableness - Orange Caramel at their finest yet!

10 "V*$*V" Qim Isle
from: Boylife in 1 2 

Qim Isle spends the entire length of this song listing out names of girls. That’s it, but the song really sticks. Qim Isle brings a lot to the table with “V*$*V” but it’s rising underground star Xin Seha’s beats and production that really transform this song something else.

9 "썸 (Some)" Soyou x Junggigo (feat. Lil Boi
from: Some

Undeniably the chart-topper of the year, Soyu and Junggigo’s “Some” was such a delight and well-deserved of all the plays it got through the year. 

8 "눈, 코, 입 (Eyes, Nose, Lips)" Taeyang
from: Rise 

Although I did not give a single shit about Taeyang's other release, “Ringa Linga,” I was immediately drawn to “Eyes, Nose, Lips” from the get-go. I’m a sucker for YG’s signature R&B ballads and “Eyes, Nose, Lips” was no exception. Lovely instrumentations, and even lovelier covers that eventually followed.  

7 "여기 우리가 만나는 곳 (Here Where We Meet)" Loro's
from: W.A.N.D.Y. 

This song (and the entire album, really), hit home really hard, especially after all the tragedy that took place in 2014. This song acknowledges your sadness, but it doesn’t give up on you either.

6 "호랑이 (Tiger)" Life and Time
from: The Great Deep

Life and Time quite literally exploded onto the scene in 2014 with their wonderful debut release and title track “Tiger.” Strongly recommend watching a live video of the power trio performing this song - their energy is so, so attractive. 

5 "Fxxk U" Gain (feat. Bumkey
from: Truth or Dare

One of the many reasons why Gain is my favorite female soloist in the mainstream scene at the moment is the way she approaches sexuality in multi-faceted ways with each release. In “Fxxk U,” she treads dangerous territories of abuse and sex, quite literally arguing back-and-forth with Bumkey, who portrays the other side of this wrought, abusive relationship. 

4 "양화대교 (Yanghwa BRDG)" Zion.T
from: 양화대교 

The best song Zion.T has done to-date (and yes, that also includes his songs in 2015). The song isn’t complex and there’s only Zion.T’s voice over some neatly-produced beats, but it works so damn well, with its simplicity and genuity. 

3 "연결고리 (YGGR)" Illionaire Gang (Dok2, The Quiett, Beenzino) feat. MC Meta
from: 11:11

The ultimate jam of the year! Honestly it is a given that this song deserves a place on the list, considering the it blew up in 2014. Even if you doubt Illionaire’s talents, you can’t deny that this song is catchy as hell, and that every other Korean rapper was too busy copying its mannerism for the rest of the year. 

2 "Raindrop, Cloud, Typhoon and the Sun" saram12saram
from: Raindrop, Cloud, Typhoon and the Sun

saram12saram immediately captured my attention with their debut effort Raindrop, Cloud, Typhoon and the Sun. This song is dreadful in its imagery and sound, but undeniably attractive at the same time. 

1 "너여야 (It's You)" Neon Bunny
from: 너여야 

She’s done it. Neon Bunny’s truly done it. This song is so extremely catchy, so dreamy, so good, there’s no place for this song except at number one on my list. Neon Bunny’s voice is so precious in this song, just the right amount of certainty mixed with precariousness. A truly timeless track.

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