“Who knows, if all goes wrong and we’re completely locked down again, it may return, like an unasked for Terminator.” – The Self-Isolation Grab Bag #12

As you can probably gather considering you are reading these words, it indeed did go wrong. Massively. Yet you find yourself wondering, when things were opened up too early, schools and universities were prematurely sent back, there was an entire month of being encouraged to pack into restaurants and eat around strangers, half-measures were introduced, failing local lockdowns were persisted with, “advice” was given rather than “law,” and the country seemed to momentarily become a breeding ground for conspiracies as to whether the virus exists or not, where did it all truly go amiss?

Joking and sarcastic barbs aside, it’s tough finding ourselves in a second lockdown. For many, their businesses, livelihoods, and mental health are going to suffer. For others, they’re now wary about their every move. But for all, we wish it was over. But it isn’t over, and it won’t be for a while, and that’s why we’re back. Hopefully, the Grab Bag can give you a bit of comfort when you need it, or perhaps just be a momentary distraction. At worst, you wasted a bit of time reading it, and that time gets us all a bit closer to when normality eventually does come back.

It’s a no lose situation. So with that in mind, we hope you enjoy the return edition.

Gray, DeVita – ‘Stay The Night’

It feels a bit ironic putting this selection in the piece, considering you won’t be staying the night anywhere unless you’re in a support bubble, but we shouldn’t let that take away from just how good this song is.

Led by guitar pads, trap beats and subtly atmospheric synths, it’s a three-minute romantic duet all about wishing to spend your everyday with your significant other. “Every step I take, it’s always for you” DeVita sings before the final chorus, a harmonised climax to a pacy, polished pop banger which skimps on romantic tropes in favour of a grounded sincerity. It’s a great offering, and something well worth checking out.

Paul Kim – ‘Quarantine’

Ok, yes, this one is a little ironic too. We promise this will be the last time.

Nevertheless, though, “Quarantine” is a stellar effort by singer-songwriter Paul Kim, and well warrants its inclusion on the Grab Bag. Initially released towards the tail-end of the first wave of the pandemic to bring comfort for those stuck at home, the message remains poignant, with its house beats and colourful rhythm guitars complementing Kim’s sleek, soothing tone. Complete with a mid-tempo, controlled chorus drop, it’s a relatively easy-going number, but one which will certainly raise plenty of smiles.

Jay Park – Everything You Wanted

Previously described as the “gravy to the Grab Bag’s Sunday roast,” it would feel a bit odd to not include everyone’s “favourite” hip-hop mogul in the return edition. And what better way to include the nation’s CEO than with an album of his which is, well, actually decent.

Sure, it may see Jay Park tackle his seemingly never-ending hormones in a sometimes unsettlingly glossy way, but 2016’s Everything You Wanted also finds Park at his most sonically developed, mixing his signature blend of pop and R&B in a much more defined, fluid manner.

Highlights include “All I Wanna Do,” a bombastic declaration of romantic interest led by bendy synths and punctuated by claps and snaps, “Limousine,” a stretchy R&B ditty which ditches the censorship for something a bit more flirtatiously raunchy, and “Stay With Me,” a guitar-guided ballad which shows a bit more substance behind the boyish sexual charisma heard elsewhere.

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The highlight, however, comes towards the tail-end with “Forever,” a collaboration with DJ Ale Mora and Cha Cha Malone. Heartwarming but speaker-bursting, it’s a club-inspired banger which balances the serenity of love with the unwavering, pulsating excitement that can come with it. The ending is particularly striking; a tempered closing stretch which strips the song to bare-bones as producer Cha Cha Malone states that he doesn’t ” need to see the world when it’s right here in front of me.” It’s a phenomenal effort, and one which ultimately propels an otherwise consistently good record, into something arguably great.

Eric Nam – ‘The Night’

On the topic of heart-warming releases, few capture that palpable calmness in self-declaring one’s love than Eric Nam on “The Night.”

Taken from the OST for K-Drama Encounter, Nam slowly drifts through the runtime with a marked authenticity, seamlessly drifting through the light, non-invasive guitar melody and hollow harmonies. Soft and comforting, it’s the type of track which feels like a warm blanket on a cold winter night, and captures the cosiness that can come with an established relationship.

Zico – Random Box

We all miss the summer, don’t we? Or at least that’s what we try and tell ourselves.

Not Zico, though, who on Random Box attempted to put an end to the hype around summer with the title-track “Summer Hate.” Brass-tinged and ever-colourful, it’s a track which remains reliably bubbly despite its witty lyricisms, proving an apt follow-up to the sarcastic, self-loathing “Any Song.”

Elsewhere on the EP there’s “Cartoon,” a Grease-like ditty which feels like a doo-wop away from growing its own quiff, the trap number “Love & hate,” the confidence-riddled, brazen “No you can’t,” and the slick, burnished “Roomate.” All serve a purpose, and show that in his last release before military enlistment, Zico was always going to go out with a sonically expansive bang.

So!YoOn!, Phum Viphurit – ‘Wings’

One of the finer recent releases, So!YoOn and Phum Viphurit combine excellently on “Wings,” a single all about doing whatever is necessary to be with their partner. Candid and charming, its a hazy release which shows-off two artist’s tremendous vocal prowess over rather understated instrumental layers.

Effortlessly both rhythmic and melodic, “Wings,” is an undeniably captivating track worth well more than just a quick listen.

Crush, Garibay – ‘Lay Your Head On Me’

It was always going to be difficult closing-out the first Grab Bag back since the re-introduction of lockdown. There was seemingly no full-length album, nor EP which could capture the fact that, in reality, this is a vastly different time to March. The optimism and hope isn’t quite there, the uncertainty and divisions seem to only be growing larger, and truthfully what a large amount of people find themselves searching for is comfort.

Lay Your Head On Me,” is that comfort, at least sonically, and somewhat. A slow, pensive acoustic ballad, it’s one of Crush’s finest releases as he sings about being there for the person who needs it unconditionally. It may not have any grand climax, or indeed anything aggressively memorable, but it’s a source of strength in tough times, and a reminder that through everything, there’ll always be someone.

And with that in mind, we hope you stay safe throughout this lockdown, and enjoy, if you can, what this series of articles brings. With a bit of hope, we hope to see you next week.

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