So here we are mid-April, 2016 and out of all the number of good albums that the Korean world could have released so far this year I’ve only come to the conclusion that there were only 3 really good ones that have been released.
Quick mini-rant: one thing that I hate the most about the Korean music industry is the fact that a lot of the mainstream artists don’t release good albums That’s probably why they usually only release mini-albums because they know the quality of all of the songs except their singles are rubbish.
Although I wish I liked a lot more albums this year I just couldn’t come across to any artists who released albums that I liked more than 3 songs off the album (not including the single). So here we have a 3 solid, albums which managed to have a consistent flow and identifying sound for the artists that made contributed to them.
Lee Hi’s Seoulite
It’s been about three years since Lee Hi has dropped new solo work and it was a very warm welcome back from YG’s princess. Although she didn’t make her comeback through YG’s label she was still in good hands (and still kind of in YG hands) as rap superstar Tablo’s HIGHGRND label helped produced the songstress’s sophomore album.
With only five songs in the album Lee Hi manages to take us into her charming world. The thing I love the most about Lee Hi is her ability to capture the emotions of the lyrics through her vocals. She really wants you to understand the meaning behind each songs and she does that well with every inflation or deflation. Most importantly the girl can “SANG” but she never lets her songs be a reason to show off like a lot of artists do. Instead she’s confident in her ability to sing and really just wants the listeners to enjoy the song and feel the emotions with her which I think she achieved in this album.
With the exception of the doo-woppy title track “Hold My Hand” and the ballad “Breathe” (also a title track), this album is an R&B album. Which shouldn’t be surprising considering that Tablo made it. The good thing about this album is that it does not follow many trends and so it can probably still be tested as a good album ten years later and pass.
My favorite track is definitely “Official” as it is probably the slickest track on the album and that’s the stuff I like. With booming percussion banging mid-tempo along with the minimal horn sounds that I hear this is just something I can imagine sounding perfect live. Then “Fxxk with Us” is just a nice surprise as it really captures Lee Hi in her sassiest moment. She really goes for a lower ranger with the vocals which works because the song calls for a little bit more “don’t give a damn” type of vibe. If anything the whole album does embody a carefree attitude, which is always good.
Whatever unsure feelings I had about Mamamoo before this album have now been cleared up. I absolutely LOVE this group and this album has solidified that.
With their opening track “1cm Taller than you”, the quartet initiates who they are: a group of sophisticated ladies who are serious about their work but also like to let loose. Overall I feel that that’s what the entire album shows. Because right after 1cm’s crazy 90s hip-hop vibes we get a jazzy, Spanish coffee house presence with “Words Don’t Come Easy.”
One of the strong suits about Mamamoo is their harmony. Everyone has a role in Mamamoo and they actually take their role seriously, it’s not just something to tell the public. You can’t really pick the strongest singer out of the bunch because each girl is super awesome in just different ways which is perfect for their sound. The strength of their blend shows the most in the soulful R&B ballad “I Miss You” in which each girl gets a chance to sing the chorus. As one sings the chorus in a softer, raspier way another one belts it out which adds to the emotion behind the lyrics.
Cheese in the Trap Official Soundtrack
So far one of my favorite television shows this year is the Korean drama “Cheese in the Trap”. It follows college student Hong Seoul as she deals with the ups and downs of college and her relationship with her senior Yoo Jung who is awfully mysterious.
For me, any good Korean show has to have a good soundtrack. If the soundtrack isn’t good, there are higher chances the show wasn’t that great either. With this drama, that is not the case.
As the drama was on the more indie side, the soundtrack also carried more indie songs. This means that most of them are folk pop songs, and folksy ballads where the singers have very dreamy and airy vocals that make you want to fall asleep. This album would probably be great for studying or for relaxing evenings.
My favorite tracks are “A Little Bit More” by Sweden Laundry which was used often throughout the drama and obviously the ballad “Such” by Kang Hyun Min and Jo Hyun Ah which just hits all the feels. As this is a soundtack for a romance drama don’t expect to many upbeat songs, expect ballads and expect to cry.
Overall rating 8/10 (but the drama was a 9.9/10)
So those are my favorite albums so far this year. I know there’s probably a lot I haven’t heard so if you know of any good Korean albums that came out this year that I should check out let me know in the comments.