Piggy Dolls - Hakuna Matata (2011, South Korea) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: 하쿠나 마타타, Trend, 이 노래
Ever since the release of their mini album and their opposing image to the typical kpop female groups, I was really cheering for these girls and I was surprised they came out with an album so quickly. "Piggy Dolls" brings us in with a simple dance vibe that gets the listener excited to hear the rest of the album. It also gives us a nice snippet of what these ladies are working with vocally. "아는여자" was one of their promo songs for the album. It has a simple, light melody that anyone can easily get into. "LUV GAME" keeps the same fun 60s musical sound and shows off the girls' cute, fun side. "어제까진" is a nice little ballad piece that displays strong vocals and an equally powerful musical arrangement. "하쿠나 마타타" was another promo song for the album. It brings us back to that fun, easy going sound and a catchy little chorus. "Shout" is another fun song that's in your face with tons of sass and attitude. "Trend" was their debut song that has an almost different sound than their new stuff, but not too much different. This song reminds me why I fell for this group and keep wanting to support their endeavors of breaking the standards of talent. "그거 아니" is another light-hearted ballad with more of an R&B sound. It was featured on the same mini album as "Trend". Another imported track, "Darling", has a simple electronic melody and a sassy punch to the verses, but an easy going chorus. "아니잖아" is your standard Korean ballad with violins, piano, acoustics, and soft emotional vocals. "이 노래" keeps the slow pace, but it adds autotune and a hint of bass. This song was used as the intro to their video for "Trend". It was nice hearing a full version of it. Overall, I'm not jumping out of my seat for joy over this, but this is a great start for the rookie girl group. I hope they continue pushing forward and proving the media wrong.
Leessang - AsuRa BalBalTa (2011, South Korea) Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: TV를 껐네..., 회상, 죽기 전까지 날아야 하는 새 (To. Bizzy), Am I?
It's been a couple years since the duo released an album, but it's refreshing to hear such high level musical skills in the Korean music industry. The prologue of the album is a piano opener for the first real track. "나란 놈은 답은 너다" is a slow, mellow piece with beautiful piano, drum, and violin combo and an easy rap flow that listeners can easily slip into. "TV를 껐네..." was their promo song for this album and it had a very artistic, unique video as well. It's also another easy song to listen to with acoustics, drums, and a great combination of voices. "Serenade" keeps that simple acoustic club sound with an old school R&B and hip-hop fusion. "회상" brings in the duo's signature easy going hip-hop melody with a hint of flute and a female guest vocal to balance everything out. "나 그대에게 모두 드리리" smoothly transitions to a smooth Erykah Badu vibe and another great combination of the duo's masculine, rough vocals with the soft, gentle female vocals. "죽기 전까지 날아야 하는 새 (To. Bizzy)" goes back to the usual Leessang laid back hip-hop sound with a hint of Latin flavor. I really like this song and the combination of vocal talents featured on it. Skipping over the interlude song "AsuRa BalBalTa" to "격산타우" which features more of a jazz rock sound. It brings the tempo up some and shows the duo experiment with their sound without doing anything super crazy. I commend them for their bravery of treading into rock territory. "강남 사짜" has a simple, yet somewhat dramatic musical arrangement. It also contributes to the duo experimenting with different sounds. "Am I?" is another track that I really enjoyed. It has a looping piano melody mixed with some old school elements that mesh well with the duo's signature flowing style. "독기" has a sorrowful tone with piano and deep bass that matches the mood of the vocals. "Grand Final (Planet Shiver Mix)" closes out the album with a dance hip-hop beat that goes well with the duo's voices. This album was flawless from start to finish and I didn't expect anything less from them.
Yuya Matsushita - SUPER DRIVE (2011, Japan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: SUPER DRIVE, Lonely rain
Somehow I got into this pretty boy R&B singer when looking for music and I ended up becoming a fan. Very similar to Daichi Miura. As you can see, there's many versions of this single, so hopefully these are all the songs included with all the releases. I must admit that the title track threw me off and almost made me ignore the poor boy based simply on the PV, but the song grew on me more and more. According to iTunes, I've listened to this track more than 20 times. It's oddly addicting. "HOT GIRL!!" keeps that electro-pop vibe, but has more of a fun sound than a underlying sexy one like "SUPER DRIVE". I guess the company decided that Yuya needed to do a Michael Jackson cover too. "ROCK WITH YOU" has a more mainstream sound, but doesn't lose the original arrangement too much. Honestly, this doesn't beat Daichi's "Human Nature", but this was a decent cover. Skipping over the instrumental of "SUPER DRIVE", the last track is a ballad piece called "Lonely rain". I'm a very picky ballad person, but this song is beautiful. The music might sound a little generic, but I love it and it's my second favorite ballad from Yuya. After listening to this single and I AM ME, I'm looking forward to his upcoming album.
Koda Kumi - 4 Times (2011, Japan) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: V.I.P, KO-SO-KO-SO
I'm a casual Koda listener, so some of her releases I skipped, but this one caught my attention. I blame the sexy PVs. For once, I'm going to skip over the introduction and the interludes and go straight into the meat of the single. The first song is "Poppin' love cocktail" featuring BACK-ON's TEEDA. It's a typical upbeat Koda pop song with a great, fun summer rock twist. Koda and TEEDA's voices play off each other well. Next is "IN THE AIR" which is a softer electro-pop song that shows off Koda's voice a little better than the first track without it being a complete ballad. "V.I.P" brings out the naughty Koda that everyone knows and this is one reason I was drawn to this single. The song is very catchy and has a similar strong attitude as "POP DIVA" without being boring. If you've seen the PV, then you know this single ends with the sexiest song, "KO-SO-KO-SO". It's equally catchy and naughty as the previous track. Both tracks have been competing on my iTunes. I can't get enough of them.
U-KISS - NEVERLAND (2011, South Korea) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: NEVERLAND, Baby Don't Cry, TOP THAT
Previously, I wasn't overly impressed with U-KISS's debut mini since their line up change. With this new album coming out, I didn't want to give up on the boys and I was anxious to listen. "Intro" is pretty simple featuring some bass beats, electronic elements, and some sample vocals from the boys that's in the next track. "NEVERLAND" is the main promo song for obvious reasons. It has a better harmonization than their previous release. It's really catchy and the chorus is very simple. This song definitely gave me hope that the vocal chemistry exists between the members. "Baby Don't Cry" is by far my favorite track on the album. This song combines electro-pop with a slight R&B melody that has a smooth vocal flow. This is exactly what I've been looking for from them! "SOME DAY" opens up with a dramatic piano melody and more impressive vocals for this semi-ballad. The album slows down even more with "Take Me Away". It has slower piano melody accompanied by violin and emotion filled vocals. "On the Floor" picks up the pace and goes back to the trending electro-pop sound. "친구의 사랑" and "4월 이야기" take a step back to the generic ballad mode. "Obsession" brings piano and electro-pop together again. It picks up the tempo a little from the previous two songs. It's very simple and almost lacks substances in places, mostly in the chorus. "TOP THAT" seems pretty cocky, playful, and silly, but...I like it. It has a weird instrumental, but it's a refreshing upbeat sound from being brought down with all the ballad, slow songs. "Tell Me Y" has an interesting play with piano levels and minimalistic instrumental in certain places. "다시 만나요" is an acoustic piece with PARAN that sounds like it's straight from the studio booth. The album ends with an instrumental version of "SOME DAY". I'm very pleased with this album compared to Bran New Kiss and I hope the guys continue improving more and more in the future.
If there's something you want me to review, check out this post on how you can submit requests.