Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Quick Music Review

San E - 'Not' Based on the True Story (2013, South Korea) Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: 더 불행했음 좋겠다, 전 여자친구에게, 어디서 잤어

You have no idea how happy I was to see that San E was finally releasing something, especially after his departure for JYPE. This release starts off with a phone conversation skit and proceeds to a very blunt track called "더 불행했음 좋겠다". This is a really good track and you can definitely feel that lyrical freedom soar away in this seemingly sounding break up anthem. "전 여자친구에게" takes a more somber tone with a little dialogue interlude and rain and traffic sound effects in the background. This shows a more pain filled side to San E with Seon Woo Jung Ah enhancing the tone and story with her soft, beautiful vocals echoing for the chorus. I also really enjoy this song and I enjoy the emotional shift in San E's delivery as the song progresses. If you don't listen to any other track on this album, I urge you to listen to at least this one. "지영이 어머니" pulls out of the sorrowful mood with some upbeat acoustic guitar and quick rap delivery. It's a fun sounding song and a stark contrast from the previous two tracks. "어디서 잤어" was used for promotion for this album. It mixes the fun side of San E and his sarcastic style in delivering insults or, in this case, accusations. It keeps the beat up from the previous track and brings a little more hip-hop feel to the sound. Also, there's some good contributions from Verbal Jint and Swings. "이별식탁" was another choice used for promotion. It utilizes the beautiful, soulful vocals of Phantom's Sanchez and gives more of an R&B feeling, which is a nice change up and transition from the previous track. "아는사람 얘기" closes off the album with more smooth R&B acoustic guitar, piano, and bass while continuing the whole theme of this album. There are three instrumental tracks included as well. I must say that this release was worth the wait and San E's departure was a good move on his part. This is definitely a solid release.

AYABIE - Kakusei Syupurehicoru (2012, Japan) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: Kakusei Syupurehicoru, SICs

"Kakusei Syupurehicoru" is a high energy, electronic track that comes at you right off the bat. It has a good bass line, catchy melody, and fun vocals. You could easily bounce around to this song with a big grin on your face. "HERO" continues that fun, upbeat sound, but takes away the electronic sound for a more pure rock sound. It has a simple, familiar sound and is easy to dance or rock out to. "SICs" steps away from the light, fun rock sound that "HERO" has and goes all in for something more heavy with a mix of traditional Japanese elements. It reminds me of original Ayabie's "Brownie". I could definitely see myself doing furi to it with a tambourine or something.

Rain - Rain Effect (2014, South Korea) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: 30 Sexy, LA SONG, Marilyn Monroe, 30 SEXY (East4a deeptech mix)

Most of you know I've been dying for a release from Rain and I finally got it, around my birthday no less. XD "Rain Effect" gives a little sample of an intro to what we're getting into, that's when "30 Sexy" transitions in. It's a very electronic/R&B driven song with a subtle alluring melody weaving in and out of the beat and claps. Rain's vocals definitely tests itself out with mid to high range vocals, which I'm sure took some time to exercise back to a comfortable position. "LA SONG" takes a different direction with a brass driven party sound that's unique to kpop. The lyrical delivery is admittedly a bit sloppy in the verses, but you can't resist how fun and simple the chorus and beat are. I know a lot of people don't like this song, especially the video, but I enjoy it for all its carefree silliness. "어디 가요. 오빠" is minimalistic trap song with way too much bass and an annoying guitar whaling in the background. The song would be decent if Hyuna's breathy voice of try too hard sexiness wasn't trying to milk out the "oppa" vocal fantasy. It makes me feel icky listening to her beg this way. "Marilyn Monroe" cleans up the sleaziness of the previous track for something more mature and sophisticated. This is the Rain that I'm familiar with. Deep, adult sounding R&B beat and smooth vocals that feel a little more natural compared to "30 Sexy". "차에 타봐" continues that mature musical sound with some unnecessary pounding drums...or something. It's an okay track, but it feels like there's something missing to make it jump a bit more, mostly in the beginning. The build up is good, but meh. "SUPERMAN" experiments with some electro-pop, but doesn't go too crazy to sound like the younger groups. There's not much lyrical substance and I wish I could forgive it as easily as "LA SONG" as it feels like the same vein of delivery, but it just doesn't stick, especially with those high notes. "알아버렸어" mixes electro-pop and funky fresh sounds of the 80s together. It's not all that exciting, but it is different. I have a feeling I would've enjoyed this beat if it was set up for this song a lot more with actual instruments. "DEAR MAMA DON'T CRY" is a more heartfelt song with a very simple beat. It kinda works for this song, but I wish there was a little less bass and more soul in the melody. "30 SEXY (East4a deeptech mix)" ends this album with a surprisingly fun and more danceable beat. I don't know whether I like this remix more or less than the original. I find myself alternating between the two. Added recently was "사랑해" for the special edition version of this comeback album. It's nice to hear some real instruments on this, assuming, tribute/thank you track. It's sweet and the vocals are pretty good. Unfortunately, I found myself a bit underwhelmed by this comeback, but not completely let down at the same time. I'm happy it's something new, but it wasn't quite the sound I was looking for Rain's catalogue.

Dir en grey - SUSTAIN THE UNTRUTH (2014, Japan) Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: SUSTAIN THE UNTRUTH, 流転の塔 (Acoustic Ver.)

Similar to Rain, I was really looking forward to this single. Well, mostly the full version of the title track. I've already expressed my love for "SUSTAIN THE UNTRUTH" and surprisingly [or unsurprisingly] I got a new feeling and enjoyment while listening to it without the visuals. The melody, transitions, and vocal shifts sink into my ears very naturally that it instantly stuns my heart to stop beating. Upon listening to it for maybe the third or fourth time, I noticed that Kyo utilized splitting up certain vocal parts from one speaker to another, which I love when it's done right. [ex. deadman's "bodybag NO."] At the moment, I can't help but be drawn back to this song and lose myself on this musical journey. "流転の塔 (Acoustic Ver.)" was an interesting choice to include on this single as this song isn't that old and there's an unplugged version that already exists, but you know what, I really don't care. Not because I love Dir en grey, but because it's a really good and well composed acoustic track of an already great song, whether you're listening to the original or the unplugged version. I would say this was a rather bold choice on their part. One thing that hasn't changed about the recent Dir en grey singles, live tracks. This single features a live track of "凱歌、沈黙が眠る頃". It's just as good as the studio version, if you're a live track fan, or hearing it in person.

B2ST - Sad Movie/Christmas Carol no Koro ni wa (2013, Japan) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Sad Movie, Christmas Carol no Koro ni wa

It's rare to find a good Japanese release from a kpop group, so I gave this single a try. "Sad Movie" is upbeat track that immediately starts off with its chorus. It has an interesting melody and annoying whining that comes in and out of the track. Despite the weird voice and odd placement of violin noises, the song isn't that bad. The beat is simple and the vocals are deliver well. "Christmas Carol no Koro ni wa" somehow mixes the sounds of kpop with the subdue sounds of jpop. Something about it makes me want to demand parapara choreography to this melody. When I pay more attention to the structure of the music, it does sound a little odd in places, but I can look past it and enjoy it for what it is. The vocals are nice and a bit too soft that it tends to occasionally get drowned out by the music. The only other track on this Japanese single is an instrumental version of "Sad Movie".

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