SHINee - 3집 Chapter 1. `Dream Girl - The misconceptions of you` (2013, South Korea) Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Dream Girl, Dynamite
I guess SM Entertainment learned how to properly compile all the tracks featured on the album as opposed to making it seem like a never ending song. *coughs*Sherlock*coughs* This track opener is called "Spoiler", which features bits and pieces of the tracks on this CD with some other stuff. I don't suggest doing this all the time, but it does work better than "Sherlock (Clue+Note)", "Clue", and "Note" following one right after another. "Dream Girl" is the promo track for this album. It took me a while to appreciate this song, but without having the visuals from the music video made me enjoy the retro sounds combined with booming electro-pop. It was something fresh, but familiar in the SHINee discography...at least their recent material after Lucifer. It's a fun, upbeat song with a good vocal composition that utilizes the boys' talents which I'm surprised by. Good job, SMEnt, you did something right! "Hitchhiking" has a slightly odd synth-trumpet thing going on and a lot of experimental electronic sounds. It almost feels like a combination of the previous track and "Sherlock", but it doesn't quite fit in certain places. "Punch Drunk Love" brings out the most simplistic beat of R&B of the 80's and tries to make it charming, but it comes off as cheesy and dated in the worse sense. "Girls, Girls, Girls" is a simple, upbeat melody with lots of feel good elements. Unfortunately, it doesn't make me feel good. It's too sweet for me! "Aside" departs from the cheesy vintage sound to a mature piano and acoustic combo of a love tune...at least I think it's a love song. "Beautiful" brings back the electronic sound ripped straight from capsule, but softened up to make it more endearing than in your face. Must admit "Dynamite" is my favorite track on this album, hands down. It's odd and quirky in some ways. It mixes retro and has a give and take electronic addicting sound to the melody. It flows more easily than "Hitchhiking", but the melody drop moment is a little questionable. It's not too bothersome to ruin the song, fortunately. "Runaway" closes out this album with more recycled capsule leftovers! This is practically Johnny's Entertainment C-side material. Nothing super interesting. Well, this album was definitely less annoying than Sherlock. Looking forward to listening to chapter 2.
B.A.P - One Shot (2013, South Korea) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: One Shot, COMA
This was a request made by one of the readers and luckily I can easily comment on this mini-album. "PUNCH" has a grand opening of brass and hip-hop. It tries to be as tough as "Warrior", but comes off as weak as "POWER" and "NO MERCY" with a weak vocal aggression and a partially recycled beat. "ONE SHOT" is the main reason I was excited to listen to this mini-album. A lot of the group's releases have been pale comparisons to their debut song and usually it's the other way around. This track brings back the essence and attitude of "Warrior" with something new...even if it's only slightly. I love the vocal arrangement and how the rap and singing is balanced out perfectly. The bridge is beautifully delivered and flows effortlessly into the repetitive and simple chorus. I hope the group takes a little break and brings more of this sound to their harder tracks. "빗소리" is a softer, acoustic track that actually works. I haven't been fond of the group's slower tracks, but they found out how to make rapping and singing work for this steady and confident track. "COMA" is the other track that was slipped into the music video for "ONE SHOT". It's a more intense track with a tough rap delivery and a pleading tone to the vocals. Somehow, this song works as well. I have no problems with it and I even listened to it more than once which is a feat. This track definitely shows the group's growth for more vulnerable, emotional tracks. "0 (ZERO)" is the weakest track on this mini-album. It's upbeat, has a slightly poppy acoustic, and tries to be fun and hip-hop, but it comes off as an awkward inspirational song.
Dir en grey - Rinkaku (2012, Japan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Rinkaku (Eternal Summer Mix)
It's been quite some time since Dum Spiro Spero and, of course, any release from this band is an exciting one. "Rinkaku" is a beautiful, heavy song that reminds us that Kyo can indeed sing. I have no idea why people keep saying that all he does is scream. The delivery of the verse and part of chorus is calming and almost entrancing to the mind. It almost counters the heaviness of the guitars and bass, but it is skillfully balanced. "Kiri to Mayu" has been revived from it's MISSA era to the year 2012. The song keeps the foundation of the original and pumps it with growls, guttural screams, and hardcore instrumentation similar to the "ZAN" remake. "Rinkaku (Eternal Summer Mix)" was a track I was most excited for and I know a few of my friends were looking forward to it as well because it is remixed by Akira Yamaoka (a.k.a the composer of the Silent Hill game series). This remix definitely sounds like something straight out of Silent Hill with the perfect touch of softness and vocal performance from Kyo's end. It doesn't sound overly Silent Hill either. It has an ambient Dir en grey sound lingering in between the melody. I don't know if it's because of my bias, but I enjoy this more than the original. It's just beautifully haunting. They should do more collaborations!
Moon Hee Jun - BEGINS (2012, South Korea) Rating: 2/5
Favorite Tracks: PIONEER, SCANDAL
I was happy to hear that MHJ was making a comeback, but I was not expecting him to abandon his rock sound for the trending electro-pop sound of the idol world. "PIONEER" is full of unnecessary dubstep wubs and wobs. I would've been happy if it was just a pure electronic dance track because those parts work. Even though his voice is slightly auto-tuned, MHJ hasn't lost his touch in the vocal department. "I'M NOT OK" was chosen to promote this comeback mini-album and mixes current and 90's kpop electronic sounds together. It's below the usual level that MHJ reaches for in his music, even lyrically. It's a decent song, but a bit mediocre for MHJ's musical caliber. "SCANDAL" brings back what MHJ is good at which is emotion filled vocals and a nice piano pop mix. It's so refreshing to hear his voice without all the auto-tune accompanied by a less in your face electronic sound. "BLOOD-V" is the final track, if you don't count the instrumental for "PIONEER". It brings back the 90's dance scene in another sub-par song with dubstep sprinkled here and there and, of course, auto-tune. It's a fun track, yes, but MHJ doesn't sound like himself at all. I'm hoping he returns to the rock and ballad scene where he excels or at least bring the bar back up on his pop material.
DBSK - catch Me + Humanoids repackage (2012, South Korea) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Catch Me, Insaengeun Bitnatda (viva), Good Night, Humanoids
"Catch Me" is the obvious promotional track and the only reason I even bothered with this album. Ignoring the lack of chemistry in the music video, I can enjoy this song a lot more. It's catchy, has some good build ups, and the vocals are pretty good. It's also very addicting, but I could live without the robotic vocals and the dubstep break. SMEnt, step away from the dubstep! "Insaengeun Bitnatda (viva)" features some possible electronic guitars, deep bass grumbling at the base of the speakers, and a surprisingly catchy chorus. I was shocked that the follow up track would be this good. Sure, there's another dubstep break they could've been left out, but it has a simple beat and the sly, half whispered verses are kinda cool. "Destiny" mixes electronic elements and vintage R&B sounds for the mandatory love track that loses Miko's interest. "Binucheoreom (like A Soap)" takes a new direction with an upbeat tune of happy drums and a sweet acoustic guitar. This might work better with, I don't know, more members, but what they do with the vocals are good too. "I Don't Know" is a straight guitar pop tune that I can hear Britney Spears using...maybe a few years back or even solo Gwen Stefani. "Dream" is a cutesy song that really doesn't fit these men. It's meant for an anime opening. "How Are You" is another lovey dovey, acoustic ballad-y thing. "Getaway" wakes you up with the bombastic rock sound and makes you wonder if you're still listening to the same album, until you hear Yunho (I think) yelling at you. It almost works, but there's a lot of vocal strain. "I Swear" lulls me back to sleepy disinterest with an even softer love song. "Gorgeous" jumps back to the booming electronic sound. It has some interesting musical elements, but sounds like some other kpop rookie group I can't place at the moment. Not a bad song, considering I passed through some rather uninteresting tracks beforehand. "Good Night" surprisingly is a track I really like. It has that cheesy 90's R&B sound mixed with a good balance of electronic elements. The song really compliments the guys' vocals. Honestly, this sounds like a good love making song or something. Sensual and just enough charm. More of their love songs should sound like this. Now onto the repackaged material! Similar to "Catch Me", "Humanoids" is the only reason I bothered with the extra songs. The music video is even more cringe worthy, so it took me sometime to fully appreciate the song. It's a slightly weaker "Catch Me", but has this silly catchy chorus that just earworms into your mind with its electro-popness. "Here I Stand" is a track that tried to be U-KISS, but failed. It tries to be all cool and dynamic with its sprinkle of electronics, vocal levels, and upbeat chorus, but just falls flat.
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