In times like these, it feels like the passing of a week deserves some sort of celebration. In fact, even just knowing what day it is accurately feels like an achievement (for those who are wondering, it’s Friday). But fear not, your end of week woes will come to an end with this week’s edition of the Self-Isolation Grab Bag*, with another article with a more streamlined five recommendations from across the genres in Korea. We hope enjoy.
*No guarantees can be made that the Self-Isolation Grab Bag cures any woe. For all we know, it could create more.
Crush – with HER
Before leaving us for his mandatory military enlistment, Crush gifted the world with with HER. A collaborative EP made exclusively with female artists, it was a genre-defying project which showed both the 28-year-old’s competency in dipping in-and-out of musical styles, as well as his openness for fresh, exciting partnerships with some of Korea’s best female artists.
Proceedings start with “Let Me Go,” a warm piano ballad with Girls’ Generation‘s Taeyeon. Soft, fuzzy and soulful, it breezes through its runtime in a cosy manner, never asking its audience to do too much in the form of attentiveness. Melodically endearing, its a comfortable duet for the two which starts the EP in an accessible, easy-going way, even if the topic on show is a heart-wrenching breakup.
From there, though, the experiments come streaming in. First, there’s the synth-led, sensual “Tip Toe” with LeeHi, a subtly sensual number about sneaking around whilst getting up to some extracurricular activity. Full of chemistry and zip, this playful R&B number is full of the ’90s vibes Crush so evidently adores. After that comes “Love Encore” with Lee Sora, which hinges on its bossa nova groove and abstract feel. Rather philosophical in its lyrical reflections on what love truly is, its skeletal, drifting instrumentation allows for the vocals and message to come through unobstructed, in turn moulding a calming, yet thought-provoking mid-point in the EP.
“Step By Step,” a cut flanked with beatboxing and bending synths follows, enlisting the help of Yoon Mirae for its more mature themes. Everything from the underlying rhythm guitar to the spoken percussion works wonders here, and makes for a compelling, delicately full-grown offering which lends itself to the bygone eras of carefully methodical R&B bangers.
Not without a climax, though, “She Said” ends affairs in a seamlessly trendy way, driven by trap beats, freeform vocal delivery, and raunchy lyrics depicting a huge night of passion. Dripping with vigour, it’s a hip-hop tinged number which offers a straightforward punch, and closes the curtain with R-rated finesse.
All in all, with HER is a tour-de-force for Crush, and shows his powers as an artist able to add his signature touch on numerous styles, and work effortlessly with artists who all embrace their own strong, individual personalities.
Code Kunst, Choi Jung Hoon, Simon Dominic – ‘For The Gone’
Every now and then, a song comes along which just clicks. Everything from its vocals, to its lyrics, to its instrumentals works perfectly in your mind, and you just want to sit for hours on end pressing the repeat button.
“For The Gone,” a track released as part of an ELLE KOREA project, fits that description more than aptly. Driven by a reflective, colourful rhythm guitar melody and Choi Jung Hoon’s distinct, poetic vocals, the song adapts to its contemplativeness, discussing how love can still exist amidst disappointment. Simon Dominic’s addition is smart, adding a differing charismatic energy to the single, as well as diversifying the voices discussing the lost spark.
Aided by a fantastic visual music video which shows-off some of Korea’s top actors, “For the gone” is a sublime release worth plenty of revisits.
Mokyo – ‘uleum’
After his departure from H1GHR MUSIC, there was no shift in style for Mokyo. Instead, the artist delved deeper into his pain, and served up “uleum,” an offering penned about his late mother, and how he hopes that she is proud of the man he has become.
It’s remarkably striking in its rawness, slowly coasting through the plodding staccato percussion, downcast guitar chords and harmonising, teary vocals. Mokyo is one of the most intriguing artists in Korea, and his work demands a more mature palette, but is worth the attentiveness needed to truly immerse oneself in the material.
kyuu – ALLFORNOTHING
Formerly known as NUNSSEOP, kyuu is undoubtedly a bright talent. Lyrically contemplative without being self-pitying, there’s a tangible relatability to the expressed emotions on show throughout his material. Everyone experiences loneliness, sadness and anger, but the hip-hop artist seems to channel it better than most of his contemporaries.
ALLFORNOTHING continues to embrace these themes, and shows the newly dubbed kyuu in a sonically mature, developed light. Beginning with the hazy, soothing trap offering “FANTASY,” the rapper glides through the cluttered percussion sharply, his raspy vocals standing out emphatically. There’s no climax here, but rather a breathy conclusion which packs a sharp punch, and leads into “DON’T QUIT,” a more pensively produced offering, seamlessly.
The acoustically-led, grunge-tinged “CALLING” follows, with its spacious, ruminating layers of trap and placating vocals working in perfect tandem. It’s more catchy and melodic than a lot of the other cuts on the LP, and stands out as a firm highlight in a record packed full of quality.
Other stand-outs include “CHILD,” which skitters across elements of sharp rhythm guitar and sleeker, more polished vocals. It’s a pleasant surprise to here kyuu settle into a more comfortable pace here, the more alleviated production benefiting the artist excellently.
All in all, ALLFORNOTHING is a vastly attractive album, standing out as one of the year’s finest and proving that trap, despite its roots in a lot of generic hip-hop, can still be moulded into something truly enrapturing, especially combined with elements of rock.
Jay Park – V
This week’s customary Jay Park addition is V, the summery, colourful double-single released back in September 2018, and concludes this week’s more concise recommendation coverage.
Beginning with “Dank,” which opens with reverberating guitar before extending to supple, soothing synth-lines and glossy vocals. Simile-laden, some of which don’t work, it’s a understatedly atmospheric release, shaking off criticism whilst emphatically celebrating his success. Unlike some of Park’s offering, it’s a confident, but never cocky, production, and one which feels all the more endearing for it.
“V” closes things, metaphorically throwing the deuces up and celebrating life in a shuffling, bubbly R&B ditty. Full of tongue-in-cheek humour, including a particularly funny reference to the former president Donald Trump, it’s the type of positivity which suits the AOMG mogul like a glove, and captures his audience’s attention effortlessly.
A inarguably refreshing listen to unwind to, V is Jay Park at his best, and shows his fun-loving side really is where he excels.