Dok2 - Love & Life, The Album (2012, South Korea) Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Best Time (In Our Life), Let Me Love U, 비밀 2, Can't Let You Go
"Love & Life" opens this album with a different tone that I'm not used to with Dok2. He has done songs like this before, but this is a different trip than previous albums. Anyway, this has a simple little R&B sound and nice sprinkle of piano as well as guest vocals from a previous collaborative partner Rado. Their voices still compliment each other very well. "Best Time (In Our Life)" is a little less upbeat R&B than the first track. It has more of a piano emphasis with a nice snap effect. It's very smooth and it works really well with Dok2's voice. I'm really impressed with this track. It shows a softer side to this normally cocky rapper. Only criticism is the voice effect that throws off the mood a little. "Let Me Love U" brings it back up to the upbeat R&B sound from the first track. It still maintains a nice mellow beat and the chorus is kinda catchy. "비밀 2" strips away a lot music to the simplest form which allows Zion.T's sensual vocals shine with the subtle beat. Dok2 doesn't overdo it with his flow, so both voices work together well. "Plenty" shares a similar minimal sound and brings back the sounds of 90's love making music of America, especially with Jinbo providing his voice for the chorus and the ascending keyboard effects. "They Love Who?" departs from the romantic R&B sound to a more softer hip-hop sound. The music is more subtle, but the delivery has a slightly quiet aggressive edge to it. "Leave Me Alone (Fuck You)" maintains a balance between R&B and hip-hop. The music is minimal, but Dok2 attacks his subject while the chorus seals the deal on the message of this break up song. "Can't Let You Go" falls back into atmospheric, minimalistic R&B sound. The aggression is exchanged for a more pleading delivery by Dok2 while Bumkey adds a little more sympathy with his soulful vocals. "It's Alright" drops the R&B sound for an acoustic pop type sound and optimistic delivery by Dok2 which is a little odd, but not completely uncomfortable. "Lonely Nights" continues with an acoustic sound, but exchanges the pop for R&B and a female vocalist to carry on the chorus. This goes back to the sensitive Dok2 style that goes quite nicely with this sound. "어제 같은 오늘" jumps into 90's keyboard R&B territory and dramatics. It feels like a soothing blast from the past who are familiar with this sound and a great way to close the album off. I'm still not fond of the vocal distortion, but this song is really good. As a casual fan of Dok2's, I think this is his strongest album yet. It has a surprising emotional, sensitive direction to it, but it works really well.
Infinite - INFINITIZE (2012, South Korea) Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: The Chaser
"INFINITIZE" opens up with wild, belting guitars and some electronic and symphonic entwining elements as well as a preview of the boys' wonderful vocals. So refreshing~ "The Chaser" was used for promotion and I don't blame them for this pick. The song takes a few elements from the introduction, balancing subtle electro-pop elements, horns, guitars, bass, and drama. The chorus is powerful and the verses are slick, allowing the vocals to shine. "Feel So Bad" has a playful piano sound and a slight symphony sound to it. It’s a light, airy like song that highlight the chemistry between the members’ voices. “In The Summer” continues the playful, light sound but with an acoustic guitar. This is a song that will make fans’ hearts flutter and give you the urge to run through a field of fresh flowers. “Only Tears” goes into the sorrowful sounds of piano and strings. The vocals are softer and tugs at your heartstrings bit by bit. “니가좋다” jumps back up to upbeat territory with an electric guitar and a poppy tone musically and vocally. “With...” closes the album off with a soft, perhaps pleading tone.
Ulala Session - Ulala Session (2012, South Korea) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: 아름다운 밤
"URBANIC (울랄라 Prologue)" brings an optimistic, refreshing a Capella opening with some very strong vocals that can be compared to the legendary Boyz II Men. "울랄라" begins with a gimmicky showcase of horns and an upbeat pop sound, but the vocals still remain strong. This gives a great amount of energy and interest for listeners to just let loose. "아름다운 밤" is the song responsible for me trying out these guys. The song begins off romantic and slow with a swoon worthy piano backing, then it picks up to a fun pop tune that could easily be found in some sort of bright musical. You'll have a hard to resisting this one. "다 쓰고 없다" slows down things with a few strings and piano accompanying these soft, skillfully controlled vocals. "DYNAMITE" goes in a more electro-pop sound that reminds me of the latest KAT-TUN for some reason. This is definitely different from the previous tracks. Perhaps to keep up with what's trending with using a simple, generic beat and auto-tune. It's not a terrible song. It's still fun, but a bit out of place and a downgrade for the vocal skill set. "WEDDING SINGER" opens with a Sandford & Son introduction on the horns, then abandon it temporarily for a very simple beat and a lot of vocal pauses that remind me of older Japanese male vocals in old songs. It's a little strange and islandy. "난 행복해" closes the album off on a soft note and retreats back to their strength of vocals. This is definitely one of those drama OST type songs or at least an ending.
Dalmatian - State of Emergency (2012, South Korea) Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: E.R, Drive
I remember not liking this group, but something about "E.R" made me give this group another chance. This is definitely more mature than their debut and has some great elements. It has a nice, toned down dance beat with some piano points cleverly placed with various levels for emotional effect. This song also shows off the boys' vocals more than the stuff they were given in the beginning too. "Drive" has a nice R&B beat to it and probably would provide a smooth driving song. This definitely continues that maturity displayed in the previous song. "Hurt Me" has the same feeling as "Drive", but a little more simplistic. I almost like this song just as much as the previous but the drums or whatever pack too much punch that becomes a bit distracting during the quiet moments. The chorus is a little weak too. Sometimes it feels like it doesn't match the sweet tone of the verses and the auto-tune is unnecessary. "Still By Ur Side" pulls in some guitar work and a little English dialogue before the song begins. It's a decent song, but it feels like it's missing something I can't put my finger on. I'm quite pleased with this growth and it seemed like the guys carried this mature image to their new name DMTN.
2NE1 - Scream (2012, Japan) Rating: 2/5
Favorite Tracks: Scream
I think this is the first original Japanese track that these girls have made. I'm completely ignoring that catastrophe with m-flo. Anyway, the song isn't that bad. Although, I felt that everyone's voices seemed stifled and too soft, except Bom's. They always crank up the volume for her for some reason, which is really annoying. Somehow the song remains enjoyable, but nothing extremely new or quite the same from their previous tracks. The next track is a Japanese remake of one of their hit singles, "Fire". Originally, I really liked this song, but once you hear certain tracks too much they tend to fade. The song's still not that bad, but the transition from Korean to Japanese seems a bit awkward. I don't know if it's just me because I'm so used to listening to this track in Korean, but it's odd. Last track of this single, excluding instrumentals, is a remix from m-flo of "Scream". It's a pretty good remix by mixing piano elements and electronic sounds. Although, I could've lived without the beat dropping and Verbal's vocal input in the song.
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