Within a week of the Grab Bag returning, it already feels rather depressing. After all, the only reason this is being written is because of a dreadful response to a pandemic which has caused countless deaths, and that doesn’t exactly scream “reason to celebrate.” However, in times of mental peril, a fantastic tool in beating the blues is music (well, aside from country), so this edition will focus on songs that will get you smiling, moving, or singing along to. Forget anything else.
We hope you enjoy.
Jay Park, Double K, Boi B – ‘Reborn’
The customary Jay Park inclusion is coming early this week with “Reborn,” the perfect antidote to convince yourself that you are, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, a completely new person.
Centred around playful keys, sprightly rhythm guitar and peppy undercurrents of bass, Park and co. sing about taking the scars off from a past life and living anew, grateful for their new chance in life. Both catchy and energetic, it’s a rare type of clean fun from AOMG‘s CEO, and a song that benefits from plenty of lyrical zip and humour.
Sadly though, the real reason for this offering was not for you to participate in a personal “new year new me” type rebranding, but rather for Boi B and Double K‘s return to the sixth season Show Me The Money. But why let that get in the way of your own personal goals? Go out there and show the world you’ve got what it takes, provided it’s over zoom, or from at least two metres apart from everyone else.
divin’ – RUN THE NEW PATH
In a lot of ways, the music of divin’ is rather obscure. Although evidently inspired from the numerous sub-genres of dance and EDM, there’s something about its pop magnetism, and quintessentially melodic approach which feels rather underappreciated.
In RUN THE NEW PATH, July’s nine-track offering from the independent musician, the soundscapes got larger, the music got louder, and the results were tangible.
Opening track “Discovery,” which starts with dynamic, atmospheric synths and thrashes of drum machines feels like ’80s pop brought into 2020, driven by twanging bass melodies and a vivid colour. “Siren” continues the trend, with its expansive, echoing key melody and underlying rhythm guitar providing ample space for the singer to drift through the runtime with a defined groove.
Elsewhere, the marginally haunting “Thrill” offers some resonance of poignance, with the drifting, raspy vocals complementing the striking piano melody seamlessly, whilst “Lovin’ your scene” ups the ante with a club-tinged banger syringed with skittering percussion and spacious synth-leads.
On the whole, RUN THE NEW PATH is a diverse LP packed with substance and range, making it well worth your time.
Kang Daniel, Simon Dominic, Jamie – ‘Waves’
The rise of Kang Daniel to the upper-rungs of Korea’s mainstream has been a very intriguing watch. Once shrouded in consistent disputes, the philanthropist/artist found a way to push through the negativity, and reach the peak of the industry with flair and finesse.
“Waves,” a pre-release single to August’s MAGENTA EP, showed some of this aforementioned flair, simmering down his usual buoyant pop stylings to release a more tempestuous, sleek piece of material.
Mostly riding a mid-tempo groove throughout its runtime, the track infuses a dark, nimble bassline with shuffling percussion and flushes of synth. The addition of Simon Dominic is particularly impressive, with the rapper’s machismo bouncing off Daniel’s more restrained charisma expertly.
A Latin-inspired success, Kang Daniel proved that he had earnt his stars with “Waves,” and will continue to be one of the most exciting solo artists in Korea.
The Rose – ‘Black Rose’
Like many others, The Rose have not had the most seamless of years. Marred by contract issues with their now former label, the foursome hadn’t been able to capitalise on their 2019 full of exemplar releases, and are now left with some members facing mandatory enlistment.
Not a band to let adversity break them, however, they did manage to release “Black Rose” towards the tail-end of it all, a song penned for their fans who had waited for them so patiently, and so lovingly.
Somewhat healing, the track is written all about facing life without fears, and is driven by a sombre key melody, and the quintessential wispy vocals of Woosung, and more soulful timbre of Dojoon. Touching without being overly melodramatic, “Black Rose” is a fantastic effort which shows that in life, hardships can breed key lessons.
Jannabi – Jannabi’s Small Pieces 1
In terms of consistency, Jannabi never disappoint. Always a band to add vivid, sonically expansive styles into their ever-expanding Petri dish of soundscapes, their most recent release sees a renovation of their typical indie-folk stylings, tinting it with Autumnal breeziness.
“A thought on an autumn night” opens proceedings, drifting along its lullaby-like composition with lean vocals, graceful guitars and lissom keys. Fluttering by, it’s a perfect piece of reflection packed full of resonance as it ultimately comes to its restrained climax.
Elsewhere, tracks like “Old dog,” a rawer folk-ditty which utilises punctuating whistles and freeform vocals to give it a busking feel shine, whereas the lively, opera-backed, theatrical “Blue spring” spreads vivacious energy into its willing audience.
A phenomenal five-track EP which feels as broad as a full-length offering, Jannabi once again prove their chops as the uncrowned kings of Korean mainstream indie.
Woo – ‘Zip’
Following on from BLACK OUT, a musically enthralling full-length debut from Woo, “Zip” settles back into more familiar territory, dialling down the energy for a tempered hip-hop number.
Assisted by Mokyo, the string twangs and cerebral trap beats accompany Woo’s surprisingly resonant slow, husky raps perfectly. Emotionally sweet in a reserved, shy kind of way, “Zip” is another excellent release from Woo, and brings with it a perhaps unexpectedly thought-provoking plangency.
WINNER – CROSS
In many ways, 2019 was a year to remember for WINNER. Not only did they offer up the excellent WE EP, but they followed it up with CROSS, a six-track release which ditched all conventions in favour of an honest, diverse style.
Title-track “SOSO” is particularly striking, penned about putting on an adequately content face when you’re battling hardships. It flits between a buoyant, tropical groove and echoing freneticism in the verses, before the subdued, anti-drop chorus induces raw melancholia. Written by Mino, Seungyoon and Seunghoon, it’s a starkly mature release, and one which deserves endless praise for its daring style.
Elsewhere, there are offerings like “DRESS UP,” which rides a funky groove for the majority of its runtime, syringing it with bass-fused synths and a palpable vibrancy. There’s also the Latin-tinged “FLAMENCO,” a Seunghoon solo track which allows for the 28-year-old the space to add his own stylings on proceedings, painting it with his own unique colour.
All of CROSS is worth listening to more than just once, making it the perfect closer to this week’s Grab Bag. As always, we hope you enjoyed reading, and we hope to see you next week.