[Album Review] Sneakers / Select Shop (5th Mini Album / 5th Mini Album Repackaged) – Ha Sung Woon

As flagged earlier in the week, I am fast-tracking a recent album release for review this weekend as it is the repackaged version of an album I have yet to review (and this is something I might be doing more often, given my lag on this front). The album in question is Ha Sung Woon’s fifth mini-album, Sneakers, and the repackaged version, Select Shop. In total, we pretty much have a studio length album with the addition of five new songs on the repackaged album, on top of the seven songs on the original mini-album (numbers include the title tracks, Sneakers and Strawberry Gum). Because of that, this album review will be a lengthy one and there is no other reason to why I should delay launching into the review.

1. Cake – To me, Cake sounds quite pleasant and eases you into the album quite well. Despite the sweet-sounding title, the song isn’t that sweet. Rather it feels quite fresh and it is the type of song you want to listen to on a pleasant day out in Spring. The cheerful energy thanks to the brass and Ha Sung Woon’s tone was appreciable. But while I would say all the elements across the board in Cake were all pleasant, Cake wasn’t the most memorable number on this album. (8/10)

2. Strawberry Gum (ft. Don Mills) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Strawberry Gum. (8/10)

3. Let’s SingLet’s Sing has that retro pop rock style that could easily have slid into Hairspray or similar musicals. Ha Sung Woon’s vocals were really strong, especially his high note. It is a fun number that definitely makes me want to sing and dance, fulfilling its lyrics. My only criticism about Let’s Sing is regarding the chorus. It should have been punchier and more defined. The chorus we got did a good job, but I was expecting something more dynamic. If that was the case and Let’s Sing had a bulkier hook and a more colorful instrumental, I think this would have been a standout track. (8.5/10)

4. Galaxy DustGalaxy Dust has this atmospheric and aesthetic aura to it. This does a good job of pulling me in, almost hypnotic in a way. The synths and instrumentation was quite light and airy, which helped make the song a nice listen. The same can be said with Ha Sung Woon’s vocals. They were extremely pleasant and smooth throughout. It was such an amazing listen. Before I knew it, Galaxy Dust was over, and I was reaching for the replay button. (10/10)

5. Magic WordMagic Word is one of the songs that I thought the album could have done without. It isn’t a terrible song. I just wasn’t memorable and was forgettable. The instrumental was definitely unique, but in an obnoxious sense. It was a bit too abstract for my liking, and I do like abstract. It was also quite distracting, blocking me from enjoying Ha Sung Woon’s nice vocals. I kept on mistaking the vibrations to be notifications on my phone, and the water drop synths and co. just felt a bit much. (6/10)

6. Sneakers (스니커즈) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Sneakers. (9/10)

7. On & OnOn & On start off the Sneakers mini-album, but has been moved to the seventh song on the tracklist of the repackaged album. On & On is another pleasant mid-tempo pop ballad track, that brings forth very retro roots via its synthesizer-based instrumentation and percussion. Ha Sung Woon also sounds heavenly throughout the song, smooth and delicate being words I would use to describe the soloist in On & On. Definitely a great and somewhat unique take on the retro style. (8/10)

8. Why Don’t You See A Movie? (영화 한 편 볼까 하는데) – The Sneakers mini-album diverts to a more subdued and laidback sound. This is another song that I felt the album could have done without. Once again, Why Don’t You See A Movie? isn’t a terrible song. It just made me sleepy and didn’t have much going on to be as appealing as other songs on the album. The acoustic R&B instrumental paired with Ha Sung Woon’s falsetto vocals felt like something I would listen to while you venture into dreamland. (6/10)

9. Eeny Meeny Miny Moe – Similar to the preceding song, Eeny Meeny Miny Moe isn’t something I am head over heels for. It is still a nice listen (once again, Ha Sung Woon’s vocals are in very pleasant territory), and I feel that the song’s melodies and jazzy instrumentation does a good job of keeping the song churning along (and so doesn’t tire you out this time around). But it, compared to other songs on the album, just wasn’t up there. (7/10)

10. Don’t Leave Me Alone (겨우살이) – It seems like the album is stuck in a bit of a rut. Don’t Leave Me Alone is the third song that I am not that into. Don’t Leave Me Alone is a R&B track that does a good job of bringing forth breathy vocals. I do feel like Don’t Leave Me Alone gets better as it progresses, but it was quite a consistent number from start to end, which resulted in it feeling like a blur when I listen to the album in the background. (6.5/10)

11. Bus – We are definitely stuck in a rut at the back end of this album. Bus is the fourth song that is on the slower side of music. But I think Bus is more captivating than the rest, which makes it stand out amongst the five songs (including the next song) of this section of the album. Ha Sung Woon’s airy and husky tone in Bus helped made the song feel different. And the whispering delivery of some of the lines were quite unique. The slow but pleasant instrumentation may not have been memorable, but it did a good job of carrying the vocals without smothering or overpowering them. It is definitely a song that I wouldn’t mind listening to again, thanks to its individualistic style. (8/10)

12. Starlight (야광별) – The album finishes with another slow song. This time, a straight forward ballad. Starlight is another good song to listen to if you want something to fall asleep to, thanks to Ha Sung Woon’s delicate and paced vocals, and the traditional piano style instrumental. On a more positive note, however, Starlight has this warm feel and had a nice finish as both a song and an ender to the album. (7/10)

Overall Album Rating – 7.7/10

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