Untouchable - Who's Hot (2010, South Korea) Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: We Got Game, I'm a Balla, Jiggy Get Down, Baby Girl
Since I'm not much of a Korean music fan compared to jrock, I don't keep up with these releases, so I'm not sure if it's been a while since these guys released something. All I know is that this album is very refreshing, especially since I'm getting into Korean rap. "We Got Game" is a very strong first track that definitely pulled me back in and reminded me why I like Untouchable so much. The next track I didn't feel as much as the first and just reminded me of a unhappy memory involving DJ DOC. "Hit Da Club" gave me thoughts of this Fat Joe song that used to be really popular and it was something I didn't expect to be coming from Korea. "Feelin Good" carried the same swagger and tone as the previous song with definite influence from American hip-hop artists a couple decades ago. "Talk To Me" digs up some elements from old school rap that was refreshing and gave me a little itch to listen to some George Clinton. "MC" gave me the vibe of BET's "Rap City" when they did those freestyles on generic or borrowed tracks. This is a compliment, by the way. "I'm a Balla" is a great song that shows a little cockiness for the guys along with a few other colleagues that mix it up just enough to make it enjoyable. "Jiggy Get Down" also shares a lot of that throwback sound that makes this album great and features a lot of great talent, even a female rapper. I was amused someone used a little snippet of Secret's "Magic". "Tell Me Why" was the reason I fell for these guys, because they had a hip-hop style and a smooth R&B flavor to their music at times. So, naturally, "Baby Girl" became an easy favorite on the album for me. "Makin Move Makin HOT" didn't quite click with me despite it having rock elements in it. It just seemed to have too much in it with the "screw" distortion or whatever that used to be pretty popular here down south. I never did like that. The last couple tracks cools down from that amazing ride of Untouchable attitude. Having this new found respect and liking for Korean rap now, this easily became a worthwhile CD to add to my collection.
Big Bang - 4th Mini Album (2011, South Korea) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: TONIGHT & CAFE
There was so much hype over Big Bang's comeback it was ridiculous (in some way). Now that this mini album was released, I believe some people are still waiting for their comeback. The intro was an okay way to start off by showing off everyone's vocal talent and reminding us of their chemistry as a group, since everyone had been working on individual projects. "HANDS UP" was originally on the Tell Me Goodbye single released in Japan, but now it's redone in Korean! Woo...I suppose the purpose of this song is to get the listener all hyped up because "we finally released something, y'all!" [pretty sure they don't use "y'all", at least I hope not]. I admit it is dancy and such, but kinda bland and unnatural for them. The grand song of all songs on the album is their third track, "TONIGHT". Sadly, I had fallen into this trap of loving this song. It's catchy and dramatic. I have some humorous commentary that has come from it like the laughable choreography, the annoying little kiss noise at the end, G-Dragon's opening with the irritating "two thousand and eleven~", and the fact he used a line from Eve and Gwen Stefani [5 points for everyone who caught that]. I wish that Daesung had more of part in the song and that they cut out the guitar part. It kinda ruined the mood for me. "SOMEBODY TO LOVE" is another track from a Japanese single turned Korean. Unfortunately, the radio has tainted my mind when I think of the title, but it's another dancy, autotuned track that is hit or miss depending on my mood. At least, Daesung has more vocal time. "WHAT IS RIGHT" is a little annoying for me. I don't know why...maybe because it has that "feel good" sound to it and a weird chorus that sounds like it should be in a Johnny's song placed on a beach. I actually really liked "CAFE". It has a warm, mellow vibe to it and T.O.P opening it up set the tone perfectly. I wasn't expecting G-Dragon's high voice to follow that either. I thought the vocal arrangement was perfect and it's even better that this so-so comeback ended on a good note.
AYABIE - Melody (2011, Japan) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Melody & 0010101.0
I was a little uncertain on how this single was gonna turn out, especially after feeling a bit uncomfortable with the release of their first album. Upon listening to the title track, it kinda sounded like every other upbeat j-indie band. Yumehito's voice was better and the song was very catchy. "Kanata, Tsunagaru Sora He" has reminiscent sounds of Ayabie, but something new as well. It's a little jazzy, but smooth. "00101010.0" was a surprising track from the regular edition for me. I actually really liked this song. It had a strong bass, the guitars were a little heavier than usual, and the piano was a nice touch to the song. I'm not sure if it had any connection to Ayabie's "10101", but it has a somewhat similar structure to it.
Daichi Miura - The Answer (2010, Japan) | Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: The Answer, Gotta Make You Mine, Human Nature
I never liked a single so much that I wanted to repeat everything over and over again. All of the tracks are near perfect. "The Answer" is smooth and flows easily through the ears, settling in your mind. "Gotta Make You Mine" is a nice little jazzy R&B flavor that balances out the single even more. To wrap up the whole single is a Michael Jackson cover of "Human Nature" which suits Daichi's voice perfectly. Although, there were points of the music that sounded a little odd, but I still enjoyed the cover a lot.
12012 - SEVEN (2010, Japan) | Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: JUST THE WAY YOU ARE..., M, mayakashi
Guess who's back with an seriously strong force? Yes, the energy and intensity has returned in 12012's music through their latest album. Song after song resonates in my mind and leaves a permanent impression. Wataru delivers his glorious range of both fiery and soothing vocals through songs like "JUST THE WAY YOU ARE..." and "BIRTHDAY PARTY OF SECRET ROOM". More admirably you can hear the layers of instruments and how well they support each other. Each song showcases at least one of the member's musical skills, especially Tooru's fast pace drumming in "M" and Tomoyuki's strong basslines in "Ruri". This is definitely refreshing from mar maroon and Diamond. Seven brings back those hardcore roots from their Under Code days and blends them with their mature sound they've developed since graduating from the label. I hope they continue to grow and keep their momentum as they progress in their music.