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Introducing a new subsection to KS Press’ album review section, “Quarterly Mentions” covers certain albums which didn’t get full reviews from us. Short and concise, these short reviews help the blog to cover more albums, satisfying our readers as well as letting the album reviewers cover albums for which they couldn’t write full reviews. Including albums we felt positively, negatively, or neutral on, this list is for the first quarter of 2020.
IT’z ME – ITZY
Heads turn, gossip ensues, people gasp, as the ladies of ITZY make another bold statement with IT’Z ME. From the runway walker “WANNABE” to the Oliver Heldens feature “TING TING TING”, ITZY serves synth-pop with attitude and sass. Although admittedly, it can get immature with them pushing the “I’m different” narrative.
JYP also makes ITZY sing out of their comfort zone, with them vocalising 5th octave notes with much difficulty in “THAT’S A NO NO”. The standout on the record for me is “24HRS”: incorporating PC synths lent by artist-producer extraordinaire SOPHIE, the track oozes confidence with ITZY chanting in the chorus. It is a really cohesive mini but it suffers from the repetition of ideas and the immaturity attached to them. — Mortie
Jackpot – ELRIS
ELRIS makes a colourful comeback with JACKPOT, highlighting the area they excel in. Bright, summery pop laced with a certain goofiness is heard in the title track. The bass, although staying in the same scale degree, changes character as it hits a different set of notes with the change in sections. The rap sections also keep a listener’s interest as the rhythms are changed throughout the track.
The sassiness and usage of quarter tones continues onto the next track, “This Is Me”. The synths are 8-bit-like, promoting a rather bright mood. There are bouts of surprise hidden with them, foregoing the instrumental for mere seconds and introducing spoken words, then going back immediately. Another more prominent example would be the Phrygian dance break which totally shatters the bright mood into splinters for some seconds. The vocals are also done with much finesse, especially in the chorus – the song is a terrain for diverse vocal melodies and it’s difficult to get tired of it.
An 80s banger with certain modern influences, “Like I Do”, adds to the diversity of the album. The 80s sound carries over to the next track “No Big Deal” with a more serious vibe prevailing and the 80s synths sashaying about. It’s quieter but a perfect closer to the hyper album; it gives the ears time to rest.
ELRIS have certainly hit the jackpot with this mini-album and I cannot wait for more from them. — Mortie
Self-Portrait – Suho
EXO’s Suho makes his solo debut with an aesthetic, soft rock mini-album. Suho took inspiration from his favourite artist, Van Gogh, for this mini-album to the point of even naming it Self-Portrait and having a track titled “Starry Night”.
The opening track “O2” is a gentle ballad with acoustic guitars and strings which lays a gorgeous foundation for the album. However, the other tracks are not able to achieve that level of sonic excellence. It’s a very inspired and cohesive record but fails to provide many interesting sounds, suffering from a noticeable lack in diversity; the chords are simple and archetypal. I was looking forward to the track with Younha, “For You Know”, but I fail to see it highlighting any of their strengths, making it a let-down for me.
Overall, the mini-album would’ve done better with less motivational-sounding music and more diversity. — Mortie
Slow Dance – Aseul
Rebelling against the musical mood of this season, Aseul expands her musicality with “Slow dance”.
The album drips with sweet summer nostalgia as Aseul’s dreamy voice floats atop of glistening synths. The tracks give off a distinctive, carefree and loafing aura with “Bye Bye Summer” being the rather upbeat piece. “Sunday Morning” paints the imagery of a bright summer morning as the sparkling synths entrance the listener. One can picture the sun’s rays peeking through the window as Aseul sings her heart out. “Joke” is the most outstanding track on which Aseul portrays the misery of love in a bittersweet manner.
This album incorporates the sound of Loneliness into musically exquisite pieces. It’s a unique piece of art that keeps the listener mesmerized with its dream-like quality. — Skinnny
Nonadaptation – Se So Neon
Fitting for bidding a goodbye to the melancholic season of winter, Se So Neon presented us with Nonadaptation, one of the best albums of this quarter. The group doesn’t disappoint as this album incorporates indie rock wonderfully.
Soyoon’s raw vocals, guitars and bass-y drums come together to ignite bittersweet emotions. The “Midnight train” takes the listener to a faraway land devoid of any problems while “Go back” revels in laid-back puzzlement. “Winter” stays true to its title as it perfectly represents the season’s mood. “Ung” features magnificent synths and “E” makes it mark with gritty guitars and heavy percussion.
This album is an impeccable addition that maintains the quality of Se So Neon’s discography. — Skinnny
BLOOM*IZ – IZ*ONE
IZ*ONE made their highly anticipated comeback in February with their 3rd Korean album BLOOM*IZ. For this album, IZ*ONE went for a fantasy-like, dreamy concept but failed to incorporate it musically. Most of the tracks on the album are similar sounding with choruses that fall flat and instrumentation that does not amuse the ear.
The ballads on the album, “You&I” and “Someday”, are also devoid of any outstanding factor, just thriving on piano keys. However, two songs manage to make their way out of this static cycle: “Fiesta” with its dynamic chorus and magnificent synths and “Pink Blusher” with its J-Pop esque sound. The album is stagnant overall with the songs barely having any distinct color of their own, failing to keep the listener hooked. — Skinnny
RED PUNCH – Rocket Punch
Boasting a confident and audacious persona, Rocket Punch made a comeback with their addictive title track “BOUNCY” in their second EP RED PUNCH. From the synth heavy, flowering “Lilac” to the exploding EDM in ‘Firework’, Rocket Punch display new sides of themselves with each turn. “So Solo” particularly stands out from the crowd, bringing out the group’s more mature style while still incorporating their girly concept; the Deep House chorus and change in pitch of the vocals catches one’s attention the most.
Even though the classical violins are pleasing to the ear in “Girl Friend”, I would label it as one of the weakest on the album along with “Paper Star” – your standard kpop ballad with vocals only supported by a sluggish piano. Brimming with bops, Rocket Punch did not fail to deliver, exceeding expectations with only their second comeback. — Tato
Dystopia: The Tree of Language – Dreamcatcher
Changing up their distinct rock sound, “Scream” divided fans with its release with some longing for their older sound while others loved the musical change-up and variety. I would place myself in the latter, enjoying the heavy drums during the chorus.
The familiar rock sound creeps back up again in “Tension”, satisfying the rock-lover fans with its sound reminiscent of anime openings. Dreamcatcher even explore Middle Eastern melodies in their album Dystopia: The Tree of Language – with b-sides “Red Sun” and “SAHARA” – and dabble in the blues with “Jazz Bar”.
The distinct instruments compliment each other in “Black and White” and I particularly enjoyed the soft rock elements incorporated into the track. ‘Daybreak’ shines for its laid back, soft atmosphere: perfect for a cup of coffee in the morning. Despite its simple melody, it gives the listener a break from the heavier tunes on the album, painting a picture of all the grey, moody colours of the morning.
Overall, this album was one of their best releases and always makes sure to keep the listener entertained. — Tato