Procrastination is that friend you know is toxic, but despite better judgment you’ll hang around with because you’re too terrified to face reality. I’ve been attached to procrastination’s hip for many years, and I’ve slowly, but surely, been trying to break from it. Overcoming procrastinating is hard–the means of my avoidance of work increases its sophistication the more I try to fight. Trust me, your brain will find creative ways to convince yourself that you’re being productive. Procrastination disguises itself as well as Carmen Sandiego, and it isn’t too far fetched to assume that this post is a form of procrastination, even though I’ve been “conservative” (read: lazy as heck) about posting. Part of my blogging hiatus was due to my hectic life, and the rest was due to frustration with blogging. I’ve been underwhelmed with my work as of late (more than usual, anyway) and I thought it would behoove me to take up a legitimate break from this site. Now that fall has come around and I have even more academic obligations than ever, of course my first reaction is, “Hey, I don’t want to study for X, Y, Z…so let’s go blog something!” And so here I am…procrastinating real studying by blogging something about stopping my procrastination. Oh the irony. (You are all welcome to laugh at the state of my affairs, by the way. I would.)
Anyway, here is my selection of albums and songs that have kept me going this summer when I’ve had difficulty jumping into my 2 1/2 inch workbook. (Yes, it is HUGE and I’m sick of reading passages.) Admittedly, most of these are not songs I studied with, but were those I felt like talking about. At least I tried to pull these tracks together somewhat logically? Somewhat?
Tete (테테), Eclipse (2012)
This album is not just gold, it’s also right up my musical alley. Relaxed alternative music/K-indie is always a winner, and Eclipse conveys such a rustic elegance that functions wonderfully as background and intensive listening experiences. Which of those two states the album takes on at any time is dependent on what the listener wants to make of the experience, though I prefer to experience the work more subconsciously. Yim Tae-hyuk‘s voice tends to come off processed and slightly pitchy, but there’s enough ambience and energy in Eclipse that the vocals mostly complement the music. I much prefer the folky tracks to the mellow electronic/modern rock, especially “Eclipse (Feat. 한희정).”
Recommended Tracks: “Blind (feat. Fromm),” “Sunshine,” and “Eclipse (Feat. 한희정)”
Ha:tfelt, Me? (2014)
Ye-eun‘s first solo EP came out of nowhere, and yet this is the first album in a long time that I’ve felt a sense of satisfaction listening to. Me? not only stands out among its peers as an album that is undoubtedly pop, it also manages to stay heartfelt and raw. I’m not trying to be some “music purist” or hate on pop (most of those arguments are hogwash apart from a purely compositional POV) but I found that despite the fail hipster concept (sorry Ye-eun, you never really sold me on that) Ha:tfelt lives up to its namesake = hot + heartfelt in a way that a lot of K-pop tends not to. I have no clue whether Ye-eun intended to have Me? work out this way, though I think a lot of the shortcomings (such as some awkwardly spare production) in Ye-eun’s songs serve to reinforce the album’s soul. Every song feels intimately tied to Ye-eun/Ha:tfelt independent of whether the song was of lower or higher quality. Even if you find yourself ambivalent about a song, Ye-eun’s sincerity and passion is undeniable. That’s something easily appreciated in music, just ask GD and Seung-ri.
(Although, YG can easily cross the line into artificial and pretentious. Case in point: Winner‘s bleh, and bleu, debut.)
Recommended Tracks: “Nothing Lasts Forever,” “Iron Girl,” “Wherever Together” “Truth”
Monoral, Turbulence (2008)
This album is less of a discovery and more a re-discovery, as I’ve talked intensively about Monoral in a Time Machine post ages ago. I admit that this is a harder rock album than I usually feature, but considering that I’ve been on a Muse and Radiohead streak recently, coming back to Turbulence feels appropriate. I usually only listen to “Sparta” and one of the best songs ever, “Kiri,” so hearing those songs in context of the rest album was a refreshing experience. It’s funny how listening to a song as a single for a long time can disorient album cohesion; “Kiri” is as amazing as ever, but amongst the rest of Turbulence, it sticks out like sore thumb. On the other hand, I found myself really enjoying tracks I had ignored when initially listened to the album, such as “Tuesday” and “Vimana.”
Recommended Tracks: “Kiri” (obviously), “Tuesday,” “Visions in my Head,” “Vimana”
Noh Hee-jung, “Everybody Here Wants You Back” from Everybody Here Wants You Back (2014)
I found this song forever ago and I’ve been meaning to add it to a proper MoTW, but I haven’t for some inexplicable reason. I really like how her songs air on the side of trippy but hold themselves together with a really catchy melody. Oh’s choice in instrumental elements are quite unique–rather than the tried and true aggressive EDM that pervades electronica, we have a very understated, acoustic mimicry. Of course everything has an ambient touch, but I like how her tracks hold back on overusing those effects, such that the instrumental maintains body and roundedness. While I only have one track directly linked here, definitely listen to the whole EP on Ms.Oh’s soundcloud channel.
Recommended Tracks: “Coffee Machine,” “Everybody Here Wants You Back,” 우리둘이”
J-Min, Shine (2014)
SM decided out of the blue this summer to resurrect Zhang Li-yin and J-Min, and surprisingly gave the latter an entire mini album. (Why ZLY ended up with a mere single is a question of the universe neither worth asking to companies like SM, nor will ever be answered.) Anyway, I found Shine to be a respectable restart in Korea for J-Min albeit it’s a bit bland. The album wastes time with a mediocre ballad or two, but the rest is fun pop-rock. “Shine” is cliche as a feminine pop-rock title gets so I went straight to loving the equally cliche original Japanese version of “If You Want,” whose Korean version is the third track. The second track, “Hoo,” (from Miss Korea) is a winner as well, and as for the “original” tracks on Shine, I find myself partial to “Secret Letter.”
Recommended Tracks: “Hoo,” “If You Want,” “Secret Letter”
Peppertones, High Five (2014)
My exposure to Peppertones is mostly from the various drama OSTs they’ve participated on, which I’ve liked a lot. As for High Five the vibe I get is that they have a quirky, acoustic sound that tends to be hit or miss. Their OST tracks felt much more together than their personal music, which is probably a result of targeting the mainstream audience. I guess “New Chance” (was that an OST? I feel like it was) is the exception to the rule, but why spoil nice trends with reality? In any case, from my standpoint, High Five is a poor representation of the Peppertones’s potential. I would suggest skimming some tracks to get a flavor profile of the album. It might be to your taste even if it wasn’t to mine.
Recommended Tracks: I better not manipulate your random selections.
JYJ, “Dear J” from Just Us (2014)
Given how badly I ripped apart In Heaven about a year ago, I’m very happy that JYJ pulled through with a more or less decent album the second time around. While the songs themselves have improved all things JYJ tend to come with a double edged sword, and I am slightly unhappy that compositional strength had to come at the expense of the JYJ identity. Songs like “Half Past Two in the Morning” and “Creation” have very compelling elements (addictive verses and pre-chorus), but when pulled together, they feel empty. To be honest, a huge part of the letdown comes via mediocre production, whose quality far more closely resembles In Heaven than Incredible and WWW. The very fact that I found myself enjoying a song better tacked on the end of WWW as a sub-par bonus track more than most of the album should be disconcerting, and it is. On the bright side, at least Yoochun sounds better than he has in years?
f(x), “Butterfly” (2014)
This is less commentary and more of a hopeful promise to get a Red Light review out there. I think a month or two of stewing has influenced my opinion or the album, and more importantly, has made me re-think my commentary on Pink Tape. I won’t divulge much now, and look out for it in the next month or so. I hope. (This is all conditional on whether what is arguably the hardest course at my University will not kill me this semester.) As for “Butterfly,” it’s my guilty pleasure favorite off the album. As for an “objective favorite,” its existence is in limbo…ok, I’ll stop there.
Justin Oh, “Stay With Me (feat. Younha)” (2014)
Three words: Obligatory. Younha. Track.
In all seriousness, “Stay With Me” is a fun song, but when things are all said and done I actually have to say that I’m partial to the original Jennifer Yun version from The Time Traveler album under Silk Music. Younha has a crystalline voice that suits EDM/Hip-hop features, and “Stay With Me” is no different in that regard; however, I kind of wish that Oh didn’t take the flashy electronica route in the Korean reboot. The verses are quite good and make the most of Younha’s presence, but the repetition in the chorus is obvious and very, very close to becoming grating. The following description is going to be bizarre, but it’s the best way I can describe my issues with the “Younha ver.”: “Stay With Me (feat. Younha)” sounds haphazardly thrown together even though it clearly remains within “Stay With Me”‘s overarching framework. When compared against the Time Traveler’s remix, the latter has a more robust instrumental along with strong transitional phrasing that is consistent with the rest of the album. In fact, I think the progressive House genre was better executed in The Time Traveller than with “Stay With Me (Kor Ver.).” It’s a lot less clunky and worth a listen.
Spica, “I Did It” (2014)
Against my better judgment, I was totally into this song for about three days. There’s so many tacky elements in “I Did It,” but given that it’s Spica that’s performing it, a lot can forgiven. That being said, I do think that Spica dropped the ball performance-wise with their “American debut.” “I Did It” may fit the musical formula of today’s top hits, but for success, the song needs a lot more attitude than it has. By attitude, I mean essentially having 5 BoAs singing their hearts out on stage instead of 1. Bo-hyung may have a beautiful voice, but to have any semblance of triumph in a foreign environment, stage presence and charisma is key. Spica has to be both about the individual and the collective, and I currently think that as a group, the dynamics haven’t reached that point of comfort. Korean groups by virtue of being “foreign” to American ears have a uphill climb for any sort of genuine recognition, and I think the most important way to garner it is by controlling the stage. The funny thing about this though is that strength often originates from how the song is composed and divided amongst members. Currently, Bo-hyung and BoA is doing all the heavy lifting–I however, see more potential in having equal division and a developed ‘banter’ in the chorus sections. All the girls clearly sing, it’s just a matter of giving them the chance to. Destiny’s Child‘s vocal balance is not something to aspire to.
(Media belongs to people who are not me. Frankly, that’s the easiest way to put it.)