DBSK - Keep Your Head Down (2011, South Korea) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Maximum & Our Game
My expectations were pretty much set when I started this album, especially since 1. I'm not a DBSK fan and 2. I wasn't as "wowed" as everyone else with their debut music video as a duo. "Why (Keep Your Down)" was a bit off putting for me considering it featured some heavy rock elements in the beginning and still had that generic kpop sound lingering that they're known for. I still feel a bit iffy about the song, but it's alright (with an added shrug). Just kinda feels like they were trying too hard in places. My mind drifted upon the next track as I'm not a big fan of ballads, but I made it once through just to say I went through the whole album. "Maximum" gained my interest back with its hard hitting bass that they kinda recycled from the first track and some classic oriental intro and break I wasn't expecting. Progressing forward, my interest was waning from thoughts of "oh, this is okay" to "great...another boring ballad *sighs*", until it was gained back once more upon a track with some attitude and a little bit of darkness by the name of "Our Game". I had to seize my journey through this album to repeat it a couple more times, but once I moved forward to the final two tracks, I learned it was back to waning attention until the album ended and I was free to backtrack to "Our Game"...with added volume~
GD & T.O.P - Vol. 1 (2011, South Korea) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: HIGH HIGH, Oh Yeah, & Knock Out
I was pretty excited for what these two talented yet different rappers would bring to the table. The "Intro" gave me promise with a retro 80's beat and a smooth flow and attitude from both men. "HIGH HIGH" was their debut as a duo and it was easily catchy. A great dance tune with a hip-hop club attitude that you can't resist. Teaming up with label mate Park Bom to add some sweet flavor to this hip-hop, semi-R&B beat and flow. You can't help but say "Oh Yeah" to this track. "Don't Go Home" shared another great retro vibe with trumpets and other elements reminiscent of the 70s. "BABY GOOD NIGHT" is a mind melting R&B lullaby. The last track is "Knock Out" that serves attitude and some fun vibes to keep your head bobbing like a gangsta. This album also features a few solo tracks from G-Dragon and T.O.P. G-Dragon's "Nightmare" was instant love with it's dark underlinings and a somewhat haunting auto-tune vocal track, but "What Do You Want?" made me go "wtf?" with it's country/blues fusion that I wasn't digging at all. T.O.P's contribution made me realize how talented he is on his own. "Oh Mom" was a fusion of rock and a bit of hip-hop, although I think the song would've been better if it was less auto-tuned. "Of All Days" was by far my favorite out of his solo stuff on the album! The auto tune was a little annoying, but I like the drama of the music and how well every line fit with the slightly slow pace of the melody until it gets to the chorus. A good build up that sticks easily. I already was pleased with "Turn It Up" and it probably would've been my favorite solo song on the album, but sadly, I was guilty of overplay. The song is still great, has amazing bass, and very hypnotizing just as the lyrics imply.
Dir en grey - LOTUS (2011, Japan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: LOTUS & OBSCURE -2011 ver.-
I was a little hesitant to listen to this single, but it ended up being not so bad. "LOTUS" had the perfect blend of the band's softer side that they introduced us to in Withering to death, but still had a bit of rage in the underbelly that was waiting to be released between the entrancing echos of Kyo's voice. I was pleased with the range that was shown in one song. The new version of "Obscure" had me the most nervous. It was a decent remake and I'm not completely sure why they've been redoing their older songs that are already amazing, especially this one. The music was a little more hollowed out in places, but kept it's original melody with a few changes in the guitar arrangements which made it interesting. Of course, there's more crazy, wild growling and vocal echos that were alright, but the chorus arrangement was a nice little twist. It was a close race, but I might just stick to the old version. "Reiketsu Nariseba (live)" was simply a wasted filler you can hear from the various [unnecessary] live DVDs Diru has been producing for the past couple years, so I don't have much to comment on that.
Seungri - VVIP (2011, South Korea) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: VVIP, What Can I Do, MAGIC
I was really expecting to not like this mini, but I do and I feel a little guilty for it. "VVIP" opens up with a grand introduction into a great dance beat that you can't deny is irresistible. I really enjoyed how the song progressed and changed, showing off the many great points of Seungri's voice that I honestly didn't know about. "What Can I Do" honestly reminded me of Usher's new work. Dance and R&B fusion that you kinda want to dislike, but you can't help but want to repeat it. It has great dramatic vocals and the music is very smooth. There are a few points in the song where his voice sounds a bit strained, but you really have to listen to hear it. Of course you have to slow it down a little and have G-Dragon join in for a moment. "Open Window" is a smooth R&B track that's calming and a bit alluring with heart fluttering vocals. I'm bad and didn't bother to look up a translation to "Magic", but I get this cocky, flirty, but playful vibe from it and it makes me smile a little. The last three remaining tracks were downhill for me and I became uninterested as it progressed.
Kalafina - Magia (2011, Japan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Magia
This Japanese female trio never disappoints me with amazing, dramatic orchestral music mixed with hits of rock elements and outstanding vocal talents. "Magia" definitely meets my standards and beyond of these girls and it feels like a dramatic journey through a sandstorm desert filmed in slow motion of a movie. The music perfectly matches the power of each girls' voice and it's a great track to just lose yourself and sway freely. "Snow Falling" is a beautiful ballad with overshadowed music and more amazing range of vocals. It's not particularly my type of song I normally enjoy, so I found it a bit boring.