A Year In Music: Isabelle’s Favourite Fourteen 2014 Releases

I can’t believe that it’s that time of the year again. It’s unbelievable because it certainly feels like as if it was just yesterday that I just did a list on my favourite 2013 releases and yet here I am again compiling yet another list of my favourites for this year. I didn’t listen to a lot of Korean indie music this year so you’ll notice that I’ve included a couple of Korean pop releases. Most of the releases that I’m about to talk about are relatively less well-known so I hope that this post will prompt you to check them out if you haven’t already. Here are my picks for the for my favourite fourteen music releases for year 2014.

14. Space Cowboy – Falling

Now I don’t listen to a lot of electro-pop and I usually don’t really dig excessive use of auto tunes but I’ll make an exception for Space Cowboy‘s Falling ’cause it’s just so well done. There are two versions of this song but I prefer this version more as it’s mellow (and it makes me feel as if I’m floating). I love the Extremely EP as a whole because it does a really good job of portraying the feelings of loneliness and sorrow at the end of a relationship. Seoulbeats did a really good review on the album HERE.

13.Romantico – Autumn Already Started (feat.Eunsun Yang)

로만티코 (Romantico) – Trippin` Part 3

로만티코 (Romantico) – Trippin` Part 3

I stumbled upon this release on a Korean indie music channel very recently. I’ve no idea who the female vocalist is and I’ve never heard of Romantico before but the melody of this song is stuck in my head. Whatever it is, I am digging this song a lot.

Acoustic Version:

12. Jungkey – Mirror (feat. Sunwoo Jung-Ah)
Jungkey (정키) 1집 – Emotion

Jungkey (정키) 1집 – Emotion

Sungwoo Jung-ah is the famous singer-songwriter who has produced music for the likes of 2NE1/GD&TOP/Lee Ha-yi but let me tell you she’s got heck of a voice. This song is soooooo gorgeous I can’t even…she sounds effortlessly amazing here.

11. Buzz – Train
Buzz (버즈) - 4집 Memorize

Buzz (버즈) – 4집 Memorize

Buzz‘s Memorize is an album that no one ever talks about (I couldn’t find any reviews in English for the album), which is strange because I found Train to be a decent listen, even though the rest of the album wasn’t what I usually go for. The constant repetition of the chorus with the same English phrase with a tinge of melancholy works for me.

10. Human Race – Habits in Reminiscence

Human Race (휴먼레이스) : 추억의 습관

Human Race (휴먼레이스) – Habits in Reminiscence (추억의 습관)

Human Race is a band that I’ve known for quite sometime (long before vocalist Yoon Seung-ki‘s participation in Voice Korea 2) but never really gave much thought about…until now. It’s a shame that they barely get much coverage since their stuff is actually pretty legit. Title track “Habits in Reminiscence” gives me the chills; it’s one of those songs that gets even more better with each listen. With Human Race, their music shines through the vocals which permeates through our hearts and leave a deep impression that stays on for a very very long time. Yoon Seung-ki‘s voice tells us a story, and I especially love how I can feel all sort of different underlying human emotions in this one song, notwithstanding the language barrier. It’s beautifully impactful and unassumingly honest in an understated way.

You can read this interview to find out more about the band. Alternatively, you can also find them on Youtube, Twitter and Facebook.

9. Nell – History of Silence

Nell (넬) - 6집 Newton's Apple

Nell (넬) – 6집 Newton’s Apple

I guess the best word to describe this song would be bittersweet. My favourite part of the entire song:

“I’m just a little tired

Everyone goes through this

Can’t you just comfort me?

That’s what I hoped you would say”

(lyrics translation credit: pop!gasa)

It’s freaking Nell and Kim Jong-wan can do no wrong in my eyes. Enough said.

8. Sundance – Little Dreamer

Sundance (선댄스) - Little Dreamer

Sundance (선댄스) – Little Dreamer

This release totally snuck up on me. I literally only found out about this song a couple of days ago and haven’t been able to stop replaying it ever since.

7. Lee Sun Hee – Neighbourhood (feat. Kanto of TROY) & 6. Meet Him Among Them

Lee Sun Hee (이선희) - 15th [SERENDIPITY] 30th Anniversary Album

Lee Sun Hee (이선희) – 15th [SERENDIPITY] 30th Anniversary Album

I first got to know about Lee Sun Hee through her song “Fox Rain” from the My Girlfriend is a Gumiho OST. I later found out that she was the one who discovered Lee Seung-gi (one of my very first k-pop biases!). This is the voice behind the much celebrated hit 인연 (Fate), which happens to be one of my personal all-time favourites. Just to give you an idea of how much of a legend she is, she’s got a special named after her on Immortal Song 2, and another one on Hidden Singer 3 (go watch!) and she’s also made an appearance Healing Camp (Seung-gi puppy appeared to give support to his mentor too!). It was really hard for me to pick one favourite from her album because all of them are pretty good standalone tracks (imo anyways). I struggled between this song and her title track Meet Him Among Them for a really long time but I’ve finally decided that choices be damned, I’ll just post both of them up. Her voice has a sort of timeless quality to it so it’s no wonder how she’s managed to stay relevant for the past 20 years or so. Now one thing to mention is that her album Serendipity is not for everyone, especially if you’re looking for mainstream k-pop material. You have to be in the right mood to appreciate her album. It may not be the most trendy album you’ll find on the market but it’ll be one that’ll linger on in your heart for a very long time.

5. Big Phony – Bedford Stop

I love how Bobby was recorded at home in Big Phony’s (Bobby Choy) bedroom on a laptop with a mic and a $40 guitar. I love the fragility in his voice that is somewhat reminiscent of the likes of Elliott Smith. “Bedford Stop” is striped down, bare and unabashedly honest. If you look at the lyrics there’s nothing phenomenal about it and it’s evident that they are drawn from his real life experiences but when coupled with the restrained fragility in his voice against the simple instrumentals, one cannot help but to get sucked in.

To know more about Big Phony check out his interviews HERE, HERE and HERE. You can find Big Phony on his website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and Soundcloud.

4. Toy (Yoo Hee Yeol) – Reset (featuring Lee Juck)

Toy (토이) | Yoo Hee Yeol (유희열) - 7집 Da Capo

Toy (토이) | Yoo Hee Yeol (유희열) – 7집 Da Capo

Reset features Lee Juck‘s powerful vocals (that I ♡) but what’s more amazing about the song is how it allows Lee Juck‘s vocals to shine through but at the same time you get this sort of a ‘yeokshi, this can only be done by Yoo Hee Yeol‘ feeling. It’s a perfect example of how Yoo Hee Yeol is able to bring out the best in the other featuring artists whilst maintaining that sound that’s distinctively Toy.

3. Soum Band – Diotrephes & 2. Yeon

소음밴드 (Soum Band) – 연 (Yeon)

소음밴드 (Soum Band) – 연 (Yeon) EP

Believe or not, I actually stumbled upon this album by chance. I randomly found this teaser for Yeon on Mirror Music’s YT channel which was good enough to make me curious about the rest of the EP. I downloaded the rest of the album but then promptly forgot about it until this one day when I remembered that I have not listened to this one last 2014 album that I have downloaded. Five seconds after pressing play, I instantly knew that I have struck gold with this release. Each song is so distinctly different and yet there’s a somewhat similar recurring theme underneath. I know this sounds really odd (like…how it is possible for two extremes to co-exist in a single description?) but if you listen to their entire album you’ll get what I mean. The first track Diotrephes stole my heart right from beginning like it’s so mind-glowingly good I can’t even…BEST 6 MINUTES OF MY LIFE. This is one of those times when I wish that I actually knew enough Korean to be able to suss out the content of the lyrics T.T. I’m guessing that the title of the song is a reference to Diotrephes, a proud and ambitious man mentioned in the Third Epistle of John in the New Testament part of the Bible, since I am able to make out words like ‘greed’ from my limited knowledge of the language. Here’s a live version of Diotrephes just to give you an idea (but trust me the studio version is absolutely magical especially with headphones on!) of how the song sounds like.

And of course, I have to mention the title track from the EP of the same name, which I absolutely love. You have to listen to the studio version to truly feel the song because I swear, the live version doesn’t do the song justice. Yeon is just…magical. *starry-eyed*

It’s a shame that there’s barely any information on the band in English and that their EP can’t be found anywhere on Youtube but hey, all the more reason to properly support these artists through official channels, no? Soum Band‘s EP Yeon can be found on iTunes.

You can also find Soum Band on Youtube and Facebook and Twitter.

1. Han Hee Jung – Tomorrow

 미생 OST - Various Artists

미생 OST – Various Artists

This song has become synonymous to Misaeng (a precious drama that anyone and everyone should watch, imo), for valid reasons. I have now cultivated a habit of starting my day with Lee Sung Yeol‘s Fly (it’s very uplifting and I love how it gives me the motivation to move forward) and ending it with Han Hee Jung‘s Tomorrow, which is rather befitting if you look at the title. And the lyrics…they just speak out to me even more than any other song.

“Another day has gone

Tomorrow comes again

The world moves busily”

(lyrics translation credit: pop!gasa)

Granted,  I probably wouldn’t have felt so much for this song if I wasn’t already a huge fan of the drama, but I really do think that this song is capable of standing on its own feet because it truly is one that’ll grow on you with time. It just gets better with each listen. I mean…just look at the full lyrics…it’s very relatable, it could be about you, or it could be about me (or anyone else really), that’s how universal it is. I have always been a sucker for simplicity done right…so to see how Han Hee Jung has managed to make what could have been a pretty mundane song (if not done right) and elevate to something that’s wonderfully poignant, that just blows me away. This song, it makes my heart ache (in a good way), because I can truly relate to the underlying emotions beneath (and all of a sudden I am flooded with so many Misaeng flashbacks). I honestly can’t recommend this song (and of course the drama Misaeng) highly enough.

Notable mentions: The Barberettes (바버렛츠) – a very circa 1960s influenced female trio, Ha Dong Kyun (하동균), 40 (포티).

(Images, Video and Audio belong to respective owners.)

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