Welcome to the penultimate edition of the Self-Isolation Grab Bag. This week, after being thrust into a heatwave without prior warning, we thought best to dial down the pop bangers, and settle for understated relaxing tracks. Well, for the most part anyway. We hope you enjoy, and we’ll see you next week for the final edition.

Dvwn – Dawn Defibrillation, Vol. 3 

Dvwn has proven to be a smart acquisition for Zico’s KOZ record label; his scenic, melodious songs bringing a breath of fresh air to an industry dominated with generic hip-hop and a hefty over-reliance on EDM-incorporated chorus drops. That’s not to say he’s saving the top 40 on his own, it’ll take a bit more than one person venturing into warmer, more reserved sonics for that, but Dvwn does show that you don’t need bucket loads of swagger or jolting electronics to produce good music.

Dawn Defibrillation, Vol. 3 continues this fine form, particularly with lead-single “Concrete.” Beginning with a slightly condensed trumpet riff, the song smoothly comes to life with a consistently pleasant acoustic guitar melody, flanked with catchy vocals, numerous samples (whistles, phone buzzes and the like) as well as the occasional burst of brass and mellotron goodness. Punctuated nicely with a bridge from CHEEZE, which leads into a punchier, percussive outro, it’s a light, smile-inducing offering which inoffensively floats along.

B-side “Forever,” although not quite as emphatic, is still a quality track full of personality. Driven by elongated, bouncy synth leads and bubbling rhythm guitar, Dvwn sings skilfully about a love he wishes could last forever. Complete with a choppy, slightly distorted chorus section, this is a reasonably good dabbling in experimentation for the young artist, showing a bit of mature versatility.

Cleverly written and produced, Dvwn’s latest release is perfect for a relaxing evening.

ELO, Punchnello – ‘Cupcake’

Sensually produced, with its sleek rhythm guitar licks and elastic, buoyant synths, ELO shines on his latest single, “Cupcake.” Lyrically cute, most of the track rides a subtle groove, both ELO and punchnello doing a consummate job teaming up to keep the flow firmly intact throughout.

A Mid-tempo R&B masterclass, “Cupcake” is a must-have on your summer playlists.

Kang Seungyoon, Lee Hi – ‘Golden Slumbers’

Taken from the Golden Slumbers soundtrack, both Kang Seungyoon of WINNER and Lee Hi tried their respective hands at covering the Beatles classic, “Golden Slumbers.”

In Seungyoon’s attempt, the track takes on a more mature, emboldened style. Driven by the forcefulness of the 26-year-old’s baritone vocals and the sombre piano melody in the verses, the song soon erupts in the chorus with crashing percussion, a chestier vocal delivery and lighter, more subsidised keys. It’s a dynamic piece of music which serves as an ode to the original, but also a worthy adaptation unique in its own right.

Lee Hi, on the other hand, opts to sincerely draw out the raw lyrical emotion, with astutely supplied steady vocals, and a staccato piano melody which reverberates into a chorus section which refuses to erupt, but rather remains consistently calm. Aided superbly by a glockenspiel melody introduced around the midpoint, this is a stunning cover, one the Liverpool band themselves would be proud of.

DAY6 – Remember Us: Youth Part 2

DAY6 have long been one of the more intriguing outfits in Kpop. Containing both the approachable personalities of a radio-friendly pop group yet allowed the creative freedom of a grassroots band, their output often reaches a credible equilibrium between mainstream accessibility and honest musical resonance.

Remember Us: Youth Part 2 was a shining example of this. “Days Gone By,” a stormer of a single, especially showed their quality, gliding along with gloss-infused ‘80s synths, colourful rhythm guitars and hooky vocals. It’s poly-chromatic and sleekly refined, but most importantly, intrinsically inviting to a wide audience spectrum.

Elsewhere, there’s the dry ballad “Hurt Road,” which serves more as a vocal display than anything else, in addition to more traditional rock sounding cuts like “121U” and “Headache,” and faster, power-chord driven efforts like “So Cool.” All have the quintessential DAY6 sound to them despite their subtle differences, and highlight Young-K’s lyrical knack for penning arena-made anthems packed with underlying substance.

A succinctly fluid release, Remember Us: Youth Part 2 is DAY6 at their best.

Ugly Duck, DeVita – ‘Sugar’ (Puff Daehee Mix)

Prolific AOMG producer Ugly Duck and rising star DeVita became shrewd collaborators on “Sugar,” a single which oozes with retro melodies and subtle qualities. Largely dependent on vocal synergy and a repeating funk-tinged guitar melody, the trap-infused, synth-laden offering is loaded with R&B sleekness, broadened further with hip-hop swagger.

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Positively danceable, “Sugar” is a brilliant little ditty.

Vincent Blue – Graffiti

Truthfully, BRANDNEWMUSIC is an interesting home for an artist like Vincent Blue. At his core, a folk-tinged pop singer who finds comfort in scratchy acoustics, signing to a hip-hop label owned by rap legend Verbal Jint doesn’t exactly scream match made in heaven. Yet, as the cliche will tell you, opposites do often attract. Since 2019’s ploddingly charming “It’s Raining,” the artist’s debut effort on the label, it has been a tale of upward trajectories.

Blue’s latest EP, titled Graffiti, fortunately continues this trend. From the easygoing, blissful “Dream,” which drifts along in its serenading qualities, to “J,” a pleasantly catchy number which breezes through its runtime with a tangibly affable melody, everything is succinctly brilliant. “J” particularly utilises some sharp vocals runs to give the track a freeform quality, which diversifies itself brilliantly from a lot of similar pop offerings.

Highlighted by the Latin-inspired, jazzy “LTNS,” a collaboration with Verbal Jint himself, Graffiti is a beautiful shortform release well worth a listen.

Supreme Team – Spin Off

Ah Supreme Team, how we miss you. Relentlessly charismatic, cheeky and all-round fun-loving, the duo of E-Sens and Simon Dominic are a classic case of not knowing what you had until it is gone. Sure, you can close your eyes, picturing the “good old days” as tears fall solemnly from your watering vision-givers, but it’s never quite the same. “Why didn’t I just tell them how I felt?” It’s a hard question to ask, one that requires an important moment of self-recognition and oftentimes comes after hours of soul-searching, but it’s one we all ask ourselves every night when it comes to DynamicDuo’s attempt to find the next, well, dynamic duo.

Joking aside, the Mnet voted Best New Male Group of 2009 were actually quite a formidable pairing. Taking advantage of seamless chemistry and natural artistry, the hip-hop stars moulded sonically varying, absorbing offerings which so often brimmed with flair. Chart-topping “Then Then Then,” geared around a pop-inspired melody, stringent bassline and undeniably sticky chorus, is as good as it gets, the two trading rap verses with urgency whilst Ko Yeong Jun delivers a soulful chorus. Slightly immature yet tightly produced, it’s a timeless effort which holds up as better than a lot of material heard across the board in 2020.

However, a lot of the jokes and juvenility were cast-aside for 2010’s Spin Off release, replaced instead with a renewed confidence and bolder approach. Opener “Respect My Money,” which blitzes with abrasive grunts, grittier, dirtier synths and thumping percussion, moves prudently across a smarmy melody as both artists rap self-assuringly about their fiscal assets.

Shinobi” follows with a similar bravado, using disc scratches and choppy brass loops to compliment the methodical verses with a palpable sense of conviction. There’s no chorus here, rather a cacophonous section of sonic stridency instead. It’s a decisive choice, but when you’ve been catapulted to the forefront of the industry so quickly, such risks reap manifold rewards.

If you are looking for some of the spirited enjoyment heard in earlier releases though, it certainly isn’t completely absent. “Dang Dang Dang,” a blistering floor-filler which instructs the listener to “throw your elbows up,” serves as a breakneck reminder of why the two were so popular in the first place. All about being loud, it’s a rapid offering which serves instrumental moments of joy throughout, namely the horn-tinged synths and pulsating kick drum constantly bolstering the background instrumentation.

Elsewhere, there’s the brassy “What!?” which languidly drifts along, only ever coming to life with sharp bursts of horn samples, the synth-led “Super Lady,” and a fairly basic remix of “Step Up,” which shuffles along with 8-bit electronics and the occasional bit of hyper-condensed percussion.

On the whole a solid piece of work, Spin Off may not be Supreme Team’s best effort, but it’s certainly an important chapter in both artist’s careers.

And that’s a wrap! Have a safe week.

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