This post is the official start to the usual album review schedule (i.e. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and weekends) and the unofficial end to the week full of album reviews. KARD is the group in the spotlight today, with their mini-album, Re:. It is lead by the title track Ring The Alarm and features an additional three side tracks and two instrumental tracks. This was the co-ed group’s first comeback in 2 years, following the release of GUNSHOT (through the single album Way With Words) and J.Seph’s military enlistment.
Re: is one of those albums where the title track is the weakest link of the album. All the other side tracks stood out and were much stronger songs, whereas the title track in this case was pretty much behind the rest of the pack. But these are just my thoughts and you might have different take on the mini-album. Let me know in the comments if you agree with me or not.
1. Break Down – Break Down begins rather slow, but I love Jiwoo and Somin’s deep vocals that kicked off the song. Break Down instantly picks up when the chorus is reached, with the instrumental becoming very crunchy and textured. The hooks were super catchy and memorable. J.Seph comes swinging with his rap verse, which brought the song up even further. BM, for his run at the chorus, felt extremely dynamic. And his rap in the bridge was very pulling. I wished the ending had a much harder slam though, as what we got felt relatively weak compared to the rest of Break Down. (8/10)
3. Good Love – Good Love features a brighter and summery feel to its instrumental. You can feel a tropical vibe in the background and it was quite a fun listen. I can imagine a beach themed music video for this track. The melodies and hooks were rather pleasant, with Jiwoo and Somin doing the heavy lifting in this regard. The male members brought strong rap sequences with nice flow that is on par with the rest of the song. (8/10)
4. Whip! – Opening up with the catchy hooks of the song’s chorus and a brief saxophone riff (that plays throughout the song), Whip! Is the most appealing track on this mini-album. The instrumental is on the softer side, and I quite liked the guitar in the background. I also enjoyed how BM sings with the female members during some parts of the song. I found Jiwoo and Somin’s vocals to be so satisfying to listen to in this track (particularly Jiwoo’s vocals in the second verse), and J.Seph’s rap sequence packed a punch. (9/10)
As mentioned in the previous album review post, this is the second of two single album reviews that I will be posting to round out the week of album reviews before I return to the usual schedule for album reviews (first one will actually be will be published tomorrow, after I failed to post this review yesterday). WJSN is the focus of this post, alongside their first single album SEQUENCE. This was released back in July and is their first major comeback since their Queendom 2 win early on in the year. The single album features a total of three tracks, including the title track Last Sequence.
I think with the final overall album rating I have given SEQUENCE (scroll towards the end of the album review to see my rating for the single album – I won’t spoil it here), it is needless to say that I really enjoyed the single album. And with such a rating, SEQUENCE, becomes one of the best album releases of the year (despite having much less songs compared to their competition to work with). Do you agree with me? Let me know in the comments below.
2. Done – The chorus of Done was, without a doubt, the highlight of the song. The deep bass house instrumental was quite an unexpected and subtly intense surprise to the song, given how the song started. The slightly autotuned and muffled vocals that began the chorus was quite trendy and cool. Yeonjung’s vocals in the latter half of the chorus contrasted really nicely with the bass element of the chorus, feeling vibrant and gives Done so much more colour. I also enjoyed the use of the brass synth at the end of Done, which gave the song that additional element to make sure the song is not too similar from start to end. Its presence only at the end of Done felt just right and helped solidified the mature vibes of the song. (10/10)
3. Stronger – Stronger is a ballad duet, featuring Dawon and Yeonjung. With these two members are the helm of the song, it comes as no surprise that it is a stunner. The instrumentation for this ballad is quite atmospheric and feels inspirational. The vocals were heavenly. They didn’t rely on powerhouse vocals, which I personally thought was interesting. I kind of wished they did go down that path to an extent, but I feel their approach still has impact and gives Stronger a … well, strong and sound profile. (9/10)
I will be rounding out my week full of album reviews with two single albums (two, as they are very short). I will return to the usual transmission of album reviews on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and weekends starting this coming Wednesday. The first single album I will be looking at today is DRIPPIN’s mid-year comeback with Villain: ZERO. This is DRIPPIN’s second single album since debut and their latest comeback following their VILLAIN mini-album from earlier in the year. The single album features the title track ZERO and two additional side tracks.
I think my even and consistent rating of 8/10 throughout the single album, and hence adoption as my final overall album rating is indicative of the group’s potential in the long run (when you also look at DRIPPIN’s past releases). Sure, an 8/10 might not be the highest rating for an album before. But it still points towards some strong songs. Hopefully, DRIPPIN can receive a stronger title track and album release for the next comeback to gain a stronger presence in KPOP.
2. GAME – DRIPPIN doubles down with a very serious toned dance track, in the form of GAME. I found this track to be decent, with DRIPPIN’s solid delivery of the song. The pop instrumentation was mixed with tropical elements to create a strong and intense atmosphere. I just wished there was a bit more oomph to the song. GAME could have benefited from have a bolder hook, as opposed to the more vocally smooth hook we got in the song. GAME also could have emphasized some parts, just so the seriousness could have been concentrated. (8/10)
3. Trick and Treat – Re-entering the rock genre is Trick and Treat, who went with a grungier and abrasive profile this time around. It was more upfront with its intensity, compared to the title track. The chorus goes for a more shouty anthem-like chant, which makes sense, as the intention is to heighten the energy we are already getting from the instrumentation. The verses were a bit forgettable unfortunately, even though they go down more of a pop path with these verses. The bridge was probably the most energetic part of Trick and Treat, kicking off with an impressive high note from Hyeop. It will definitely make for a really dynamic and cool dance break in the live performances. (8/10)
And the week long album reviews continue with this post being focused on YENA’s second mini-album, SMARTPHONE. The mini-album was released at the start of August, alongside the title track of the same name. Alongside the title track are four additional side tracks. SMARTPHONE follows the release of YENA’s debut mini-album, x‿x (SMiLEY), from very early on in the year.
YENA’s debut mini-album was a standout for a debut act. This time around, I feel YENA’s album release was a bit more typical, but it is still a fairly strong album release nonetheless. The SMARTPHONE title track was by far my favourite from the mini-album. Do you agree with me? Let me know in the comments below.
1. Make U Smile – Starting off the mini-album is a ballad. Usually, ballads are kept for the end of the album, but it isn’t unheard of for ballads to be place in the front of the release. YENA sounds really beautiful throughout Make U Smile. I liked that she sings in both low and high registers, and that her vocals were quite airy. The instrumentation was quite soothing and dreamy. (8/10)
3. WithOrWithOut – YENA revisits the punk genre with WithOrWithOut. You might remember the likes of Lxxk 2 U from her first mini-album, which was also delved into the punk genre and was a favourite of mine. WithOrWithOut is a bit softer around the edges, but it still has that nostalgic feel to it. Of course, this song is best during the chorus when the energy is at a high, and the bridge was super awesome. Her brief stints of rapping in the bridge in particular were awesome. (8.5/10)
4. Lemon-Aid – Lemon-Aid goes down the pop path. The instrumental alone was already extremely enjoyable and just hits right, for me. The energy that YENA and the instrumental comes together to form successfully brings a smile to my face. YENA’s vocals are cutesy and I am not too troubled by this. Her rapping was probably the weakest aspects of the song, especially in the pre-choruses. I wished they were just vocals in a similar manner to elsewhere in the song. (8/10)
5. U – The final song on the album is U, and this is probably the style I would have expected from YENA from the very start of her solo career. The pop instrumentation was fun and YENA’s vocals were quite cutesy sounding. It is just a bit too sweet for me personal taste, but it was still a neat way to round out the mini-album. (7/10)
The next album review on the blog this week is for Golden Child’s sixth mini-album since their debut, AURA, which was released in August of this year. This mini-album features the title track Replay, an intro track and 4 additional side tracks. AURA follows the group’s Japanese debut and first comeback, the military enlistment of Daeyeol and the group’s Korean releases of Ra Pam Pam and DDARA from last year.
It comes as no surprise to me (and it honestly should not be any surprise to any of you) that Golden Child has put out another strong album with AURA, as evident by the extremely high rating I gave the mini-album at the end of this post. I really enjoyed every track on the mini-album – from the title track to the intro track (and everything that follows these two tracks). Both AURA and Golden Child deserves more attention!
1. AURA – The mini-album starts off with a very elegant but mature sounding instrumental piece. It builds up from deliberately slow and paced beat, infusing some electronic synths and brief flute work into the instrumental, but peaking with crunchy vibration at the very end. It is definitely moody throughout and sets the scene for the rest of the mini-album.
3. Knocking On My Door – My high hopes for this Golden Child album release comes to fruition with Knocking On My Door. It is the song that made certain that the mini-album would find a place on the agenda for an album review. I love the seamless flow of this track, and the consistently dynamic chorus. The brightness from the synths did the song a solid, giving the song a very refreshing and breezy feel. The rapping added a nice and palatable touch of textures. But it is the vocals that left me most impressed with Knocking On My Door. Y and Joochan’s vocals in the chorus were amazing, and the ad-libs we got at the end just sealed the deal to make this track one of the album’s highlight. (10/10)
4. 3! 6! 5! – 3! 6! 5! ups the energy exponentially with this fun and very vibrant track. Without a doubt, it fits into the summer season just perfectly. And it is incredibly hard to not dance to this song whilst listening to it and I always a find a wide smile on my face following a listen to this song. The harmonies give 3! 6! 5! so much boldness, while the rapping added such a fitting level of edginess and grooviness to the song, all at the same time. And the hooks in the song are so catchy and so easy to get into. Another undeniable highlight. (10/10)
5. Purpose – Purpose starts off as a much softer track, as opposed to the song preceding it. The melodies and verses frames the song as a mid-tempo pop song. But the choruses of Purpose ended up being quite impactful with the combination of the pop and heavy synths. The synths almost overwhelm the vocals, in my opinion. But the vocalists just manage to push through and stay on top. They do sound nice, but I think a bit of refinement would have helped Purpose a lot. I quite like the rapping in this track, especially in the second verse when there wasn’t any backing to the rapping. (8/10)
6. Miracle (완벽해) – The mini-album ends with a glitchy EDM dance track. This brings the energy of the album right back up, and possibly to new highs on this mini-album when the instrumental is most relentless. The choruses were decent, and I liked how the melodies/vocals kept the song grounded. I kind of wished the hooks in the chorus were a bit more memorable, but what we were presented is definitely fine enough. The rapping in the second verse was super cool and gave off a super edgy feel. The verses settled for some less crunchy synths and a funky underlying bass – both leads well into the choruses. (8.5/10)
ITZY is the next group to be getting the album review treatment this week. In particular, I am looking at ITZY’s fifth and most recent mini-album since their debut. Titled CHECKMATE, the mini album features both the Korean and English version of the title track, SNEAKERS, and an additional five tracks. This is the first album review for the group, since their first studio length album release in September of last year.
CHECKMATE is an okay mini-album. I get the impression that listeners got more out of the mini-album, whereas I enjoyed the title track more (compared to the rest of the mini-album). Interestingly, the original album cover (which featured the queen chess piece) was replaced with the pink album cover you see below. Personally, I feel like the pink album cover is terrible and I much prefer the original album cover – even if the concept didn’t match the title track. I guess I am against the world with this review. Let me know if you agree or disagree with me.
2. RACER – For me, the coolest aspect of RACER was the chorus. This is thanks to the trap hybrid instrumentation and edginess it brought out of the song. In addition, the start of the second verse (i.e., with the autotuned muffled vocals) follows a similar vein. Unfortunately, the rest of the song does not live up to the same standard as the already mentioned parts. It all pretty much felt typical and cliché to me. The vocals and rapping didn’t elicit much from me, and I felt the groans at the end of the hooks were very cringy. (6/10)
3. WHAT I WANT – WHAT I WANT settles for an electro-pop instrumental. I feel the cool and trendy descriptions that could not be applied to the entirety of the previous song can be applied to the entire instrumentation of WHAT I WANT. I particularly like the strong infusion of pop during the pre-choruses through the vocal melodies and the layering of instrumentation in the final chorus. Throw in some catchy repetitive hook that are keyed into your memory bank once this song is over, and you basically have a strong track. (8/10)
4. Free Fall – Free Fall begins with dramatic thumps that alludes to an intense atmosphere. At first, I thought this meant the song was going to feature a mature change up to the album. But we don’t get that whatsoever. ITZY brings their usual bright and youthful energy to Free Fall. But they do so in such a firm matter that any thought of the song being mature was long forgotten and that bright/youthful energy they bring takes full control of the song. The ‘Weee’ we get throughout the choruses were cringy at first, but I ended up warming up to them a fair bit. I am quite surprised I enjoyed this song. (8.5/10)
5. 365 – 365 builds on what was alluded in the previous song, just without the initial dramatic start. As a result, this makes 365 the darkest sounding release on this album. It features an EDM instrumental that sounded like it had mechanical, metallic and robotic sound effects. The members themselves bring a hip-hop energy to the song. I did wish the song had bolder hooks and a more prominent peak, just to potentially take itself to a higher level. (7/10)
6. DOMINO – DOMINO’s instrumentation moves towards pop rock territory, but it just feels a tad on the pop side. The vibrant energy that comes from the instrumentation fits perfectly into the summer season. There was some good rhythm to the song, and the melodies were quite pleasant. I did think the vocals could have used a bit refinement. I personally felt during some parts the members were really pushing themselves, and I wished the producers took a moment to rethink those moments. It was slightly uncomfortable to listen to, if you really hone into the details. (8/10)
7. SNEAKERS (English Version) – Refer to the full review of SNEAKERS above.
Next up on the week long of album reviews is PURPLE KISS’ Geekyland, their latest mini-album release. Geekyland and its title track Nerdy was originally released on 25 July 2022. This min-album features another 4 tracks and an intro track alongside Nerdy. Fun fact (and proof that I really dropped the ball on album reviews this year), but a couple of weeks following Nerdy‘s review, I reviewed PURPLE KISS’ third mini-album, memeM, from way back in March of this year.
Once again, PURPLE KISS put out a strong mini-album. I think their past few releases have also been of a similar calibre, and so PURPLE KISS has proven to be consistent and full of potential, just like what I had indicated in their memeM album review. Just like that mini-album, Geekyland also features one 10/10 track. Keep on reading to find out which song that is.
1. Intro: Bye Bye Bully – The intro track was an ideal track to precede the title track that follows it. Bye Bye Bully’s instrumentation features a spooky vibe whilst also being trendy and modern. The vocals work was sleek, working well with the instrumentation. If there was anything to take away from this intro track, it is that PURPLE KISS knows how to the set the scene. (8.5/10)
3. Fireflower (불꽃) – Fireflower was a pleasant dance track. I liked the different influences within the background, from the brief cultural sample at the start and the complimenting moombahton instrumental for the chorus. The vocal work was quite alluring to listen to. The rapping in the bridge was a highlight and I wouldn’t mind hearing more of that in the song. In addition to wanting that, I did want some more oomph to Fireflower, just so everything we get in Fireflower is heightened and an even more exciting vibe comes from the song. (8/10)
4. Can’t Stop Dreamin’ – There are two sides to Can’t Stop Dreamin’. On one side, we have a dreamy atmosphere come about during the verses. The dreamy nature comes about from the harp-like synth in the trap-centric instrumental. On the other side, a dynamic infusion of energy comes through the choruses. The two sides work well with one another, creating a harmonious dance track. The hooks in this song were strong, with a solid set vocals and great delivery from the members. A favourite of my mine from this mini-album. (9/10)
5. Love Is Dead – We continue that spooky vibe from the first two songs in Love Is Dead through a fun and groovy rock track. I quite enjoyed the use of their raspy/husky vocals in the song, which gave them a mature profile. But it also plays towards that spooky vibe I just mentioned. The rapping in the second verse was perfect for this song, aligning with the raspy vocals and bought an edgy factor to the song. The hooks within Love Is Dead was super catchy and memorable, help making it a highlight on this mini-album. (9/10)
6. SuMMer RaiN – The song tones down and completes the album with an acoustic R&B number. And I found it so nice and soothing to listen to. The deep voice in the background was a surprising element, however, and the idea of it doesn’t work with acoustics whatsoever. But somehow, it fits into snuggly into the background. The vocals were very delicate and soft, bringing out the melodies really well. Some of the melodies feel a bit haunting, which I guess is the song’s connection to the rest of the mini-album. The rapping was superb and I love the rhythm it brought to the song. (10/10)
Okay, I lied. Yesterday’s review was not an album review. But it was pre-scheduled, before I decided to make this week full of album reviews. But the rest of the reviews this week (through to Monday) will be album reviews. Next up is SF9’s 11th mini-album, The Wave OF9, which was released back in July of this year. It features the title track SCREAM and five other side tracks. This comeback also is the first comeback from SF9 of a reduced lineup, with Inseong, Youngbin and Rowoon sitting out for different reasons.
The Wave OF9 had the potential to have some 10/10 songs, but I just wasn’t exactly satisfied by how the songs turned out. Interestingly enough, it all came to do one member. I wonder if you can guess which member that was. I don’t mean to single them out or blame them for my personal ratings of the songs, but I found it intriguing that this member was the reason to why I held back from giving these songs a 10/10. Otherwise, this mini-album is pretty good. Per usual, let me know if you agree with my thoughts/ratings below.
2. OK OK – The soft and airy vocals of OK OK make this song feel so enjoyable. The synth-pop instrumentation and melodies aids the vocals, creating such a pleasant tone for the song that ensures the soft vocals shine. Zuho’s rapping was probably the most questionable aspect of the song. I admit that his rap does offset the softness of the song and adds a bit of oomph to keep the song from feeling too consistent. But I feel like his part was too abrasive for the grander picture that is OK OK. Maybe he should have somehow smoothed out his lines to just fit in better with the rest of OK OK. (9/10)
3. Summertime Bounce (Don’t Kill My Vibe)– I find myself singing along to the super catchy hook of Summertime Bounce. It is just so easy to get into and to get lost in. Again, the intro and verses were quite pleasant, never really encroaching over a certain threshold that would have allowed me to describe the track as dynamic. But there was a nice beat to it. The choruses were unexpectedly trendy, featuring some constricted electric guitar that just transform pleasant into groovy. The latter half of the choruses do go over that threshold I mentioned, and rounds out the chorus with a refined yet dynamic bounce. Once again, however, Zuho’s rapping was overwhelming for this song, but I did like the way Summertime Bounce transitioned back into the final chorus. (9/10)
4. Driver – I am reminded of past KPOP songs while listening to Driver. It doesn’t ping me of any song in particular, but rather there is a sense of familiarity to the song. Aside from that, Driver features a groovy dance instrumental, catchy hooks and solid efforts from the members. I am particularly happy to say that Zuho fits into this song nicely and doesn’t overwhelm. I also find the song to be quite sleek and very enjoyable. (8/10)
5. Crazy Crazy Love – Crazy Crazy Love brings a retro touch and disco influences to the mini-album. I really liked the consistent groovy energy of this track, while the ‘Oooh Oooh Oooh’ were super catchy. Chani’s rapping in the first half of the pre-choruses is so alluring to listen to, while the vocals brought vibrancy to the song. The actual more substantial rapping sequences were cool, while I got a nostalgic vibe from Jaeyoon’s vocals in the bridge. (8/10)
6. Butterfly – We end the album with a track that features a fairly busy and noisy instrumental. There was a lot going in the background in Butterfly. But all of this brought character and profile to the song. I did think the pleasantness nature of the vocals was a poor choice, resulting in the vocalists sounding weak and lacking momentum. The rappers, on the other hand, stands out with a strong and powerful rap sequences, and I feel their parts are on par with the instrumental of Butterfly. (7/10)
Majority of the post this week will be album reviews, as I am out of town and have decided to take a break as well. As a result, I have scheduled a bunch of album reviews for this week – through to the start of next week. So prepare yourselves for the onslaught of album reviews. First up is NAYEON’s self-titled debut mini-album, IM NAYEON, which was released in June of this year. Leading the charge on this mini-album is the title track POP!. There are an additional six tracks on this mini-album.
M NAYEON is another fairly decent album release. I also feel that this description of the mini-album could be applied to her debut, as a whole as well. There are a few strong tracks, like the last few mini albums I have reviewed. I might be able to be persuaded to include the title track in that grouping as well (but I won’t change my original rating just yet) But overall, IM NAYEON was average, at best. Let me know if you agree with my thoughts or not.
2. NO PROBLEM (ft. Felix of Stray Kids) – I am completely in love with NO PROBLEM. The English lyrics to NO PROBLEM are one aspect of this track that I am totally enjoying. Another is the electro-pop instrumental. It was just so vibrant and there was a nice disco vibe coming from the song. The same vibrancy is aided by Naeyeon’s vocals, which just gave the song an extra pop of freshness. The melodies also add to this. Felix’s deep voice appears in the bridge and his rapping helps offset the brightness of the song, allowing NO PROBLEM to feel balanced. I also liked how his featuring is not kept to just one section of the song, allowing him to contribute to the closing moments and give NO PROBLEM some depth. (10/10)
3. LOVE COUNTDOWN (ft. Wonstein) – LOVE COUNTDOWN stays in the realm of pop. The instrumental feels a bit punchier and bouncier with a lively beat and percussion, while the melodies are more pleasant and mellow. NAYEYON’s vocals brought a nice colour to the track, while Wonstein’s featuring adds a bit more bite to the song. His rapping brought a dynamic factor to the track. Again, I liked that he is not constricted to one section of the song. Wonstein, although subtly, provides harmonies to the second choruses and adds ad-libs to the final chorus. A neat track, overall. (8/10)
4. CANDYFLOSS – Just like the title, this song features a dousing of sugar. NAYEYON executes this song perfectly, with her bright and sweet vocals shining throughout. Even though the song does go down that saccharine path, which might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I still found CANDYFLOSS to be quite a catchy and fun number to listen to. I find it hard to emerge from this song without smiling. (9/10)
5. ALL OR NOTHING – ALL OR NOTHING enters R&B territory with its instrumental. It is fairly simple instrumental and brings a touch of extra oomph than compared to café style of music (but it is still pleasant enough to be heard in that type of environment). The vocals, whilst nice, do not really elicit much thought from me. I am not as drawn to them as I was with other songs on this mini-album. (7/10)
6. Happy Birthday To You – Happy Birthday To You follows a similar vein as the previous track. However, I note that there was a fair amount of synths throughout the track. To be honest, the synths felt a bit odd, to me. They sure brought texture to the song, but the abundance of synths felt unnecessary and I am unsure of their value in this song. NAEYEON had nice vocals, but again, she does not do much to captivate me nor elicit a response from me. The melodies felt plain, as well. (6.5/10)
7. SUNSET (노을만 예쁘다) – SUNSET is more of a ballad. More importantly, I feel it is an improvement following the previous tracks. I really liked the breathy backing vocals and the harmonies that NAYEON and the backing vocals share. This combination helped create a soothing piece. There was a bit more to the song’s instrumental than your standard ballads and the swayable melody was definitely there. I am quite satisfied that the album ends on a more positive note (musically) with such a piece. (8/10)
Youngjae’s second mini-album, SUGAR, released mid June is the next album to be reviewed. I think, by now, you can tell I am not sticking to any particular order for these album reviews. I am just posting the ones that I have completed, and so longer albums (i.e., those that are studio length) will be published later. For now, I will be looking into SUGAR, Youngjae’s latest mini-album release that features the title of the same name and four other side tracks. SUGAR (both the mini-album and title track) follows Youngjae’s debut mini-album Colors from Ars, and title track Vibin’, from October of last year.
As you can see, I didn’t review Youngjae’s debut mini-album. So I promised to myself that I would review a future release from Youngjae, subjected to the usual vetting process that I have for the album review segment of the blog (i.e. an initial listen to see if the album has much to talk about and/or is worth writing a review for), and I was quite satisfied that SUGAR was good enough for an album review following the vetting process. In addition to the catchy and fun title track from SUGAR, there are a few other strong tracks that I would recommend you tune in for when listening to this mini-album. Read on to find out which songs these are.
2. Focus – Focus carries forward the upbeat nature of SUGAR, this time mixing the likes of R&B and pop together to create a very satisfying track. I really liked how Focus didn’t feel heavy or serious. It has this laidback vibe and a fun tone to it. The energy, Youngjae’s vocals and melodies from Focus made me smile, and I also have a small boogie very now and then when the song hits just right. An instant favourite for me. (9/10)
3. Crema – Youngjae dives deeper into the R&B genre with Crema. Parts of the instrumentation feature a coffee house like vibe or dreamy orchestral, but other parts just have some extra bass that just doesn’t fit that environment. Regardless of which part of the song, there is still a nice upbeat kick to the song that helps the song not feel so dry. Youngjae’s vocals are smooth throughout the song. (8/10)
4. Nothing – Nothing slows down the album slightly further with this nice track. While this song isn’t as great as the other, it was still extremely likeable and pleasant to enjoy. I really liked the swayable melodies of Nothing, and I liked how the orchestral instrumentation plays a bigger part in the song. Youngjae does a fantastic job with his vocals, providing a warming and comforting pillow to rest your head on whilst listening to this song. (8/10)
5. With You – With the continuous slow down of momentum as the album progressed, it came as no surprise to me that the final song on the album was a ballad. This is the type of ballad that I found myself sitting extremely still and had my eyes closed to really take it all in, particularly when it came to the chorus. That is another sign of a good ballad, in my opinion. The orchestral instrumentation, which is the main player in the background this time around, was beautiful. And Youngjae was so captivating. With You is my pick for hidden gem on this mini-album. (10/10)
Next album review on the blog is for Kep1er, who made their comeback back in June of this year with DOUBLAST. It features the title track Up! and four additional side tracks. This comeback is their first one ever, following their debut with WA DA DA and FIRST IMPACT from very early on in the year.
The latest mini-album was a fairly decent one. There are a few strong side tracks, but the rest of the mini-album was more average. But even if I found it decent and average, you might enjoy the mini-album more than me. So don’t be shy and give DOUBLAST a listen yourself to see if you agree with my thoughts or not.
2. LE VOYA9E – For some reason, I had in my mind that LE VOYA9E was going to be some sort of dance track. I have no idea where this misconception had come from, but I think it was based on the spelling of the song’s title. Instead, LE VOYA9E was a very gentle and soft song, with acoustics and a sparse use of synths bringing the song to life. I found LE VOYA9E to be quite unique, with the whispery delivery in the chorus. Elsewhere, the vocals were quite lovely. (8/10)
3. Attention – Attention opens up with synths that reminding me of the jungle environment, setting up the song to be appropriate for the summer season. As the song progresses, this jungle like reminder is forgotten. But it is replaced with a dynamic and upbeat pop instrumentation that has a nice cute and likeable quality to it. Attention does feel straightforward, but it was done really well. I also enjoyed this number and recommend it anyone who is looking for a Kep1er song. (9/10)
4. Good Night – Good Night is a more soft and pleasant pop track. I quite liked the youthful and vibrant side of the vocals in this song. Both the instrumentation and vocals helped make the song enjoyable. But when you compare it to the preceding tracks, Good Night doesn’t really offer anything new, interesting or exciting. (7/10)
5. Rewind – DOUBLAST finishes off with a mid-tempo ballad. Rewind is the album’s most generic release, as this style has been done so many times before. What Kep1er does manage to do to make it their own is through nice vocals and melodies. But it isn’t the most riveting release from the group or from this mini-album. (7/10)
ENHYPEN’s latest mini-album, as you could have told from the review for their second single from the release, is next up to get an album review from me. MANIFESTO: DAY 1 was released in July of this year, and serves as the group’s second comeback of the year. The first was Blessed-Cursed, from the repackaged version of their first studio length album. Anyhow, back to their more recent releases. It features a total of six songs, including the title track Future Perfect (Pass the MIC), the single Paradoxx Invasion and four additional side tracks.
MANIFESTO: DAY 1, as an overall picture, was a decent album. The title track was the album’s weakest track, based on my ratings. Instead, the other tracks stand out. One of the side tracks became my highlight from the album (keep on reading to find out which one). The first and final tracks also serve as unofficial intro and outro tracks, which are common features of ENHYPEN’s release. I am specifically shining the spotlight on them, as they delve into deep topics, which might be of interest.
1. WALK THE LINE – Beginning the album is WALK THE LINE. This track features the members dramatically speaking in their own native languages of Korean, Japanese and English over a simple yet intense instrumental. The members speak and sing about their struggles whilst maturing, and how they come to realize that they are now the mature people who sets their own standards, relating everything to a line. A line once drawn for them, and a new line that they will draw for themselves. I like the meaning behind the track, but everything else was standard. (7/10)
4. TFW (That Feeling When) – Glad to see they clarified the meaning behind the acronym. Hahaha… TFW is quite a change to their previous tracks on the mini-album, which were more hip-hop centric. TFW is much more mellow, featuring a consistent pop rock band instrumental. I enjoyed the combination of the beat and melody, which bought out a pleasant atmosphere. This instrumental also enable the focus to be on the vocals, which were quite solid. However, I just do not see anything special with TFW, just that it is a nice track. (7.5/10)
5. SHOUT OUT – The opening of SHOUT OUT does exactly what the title suggests, allowing the song to just feel right from the very start. It then settles for an early 00s emo rock vibe, bringing great and nostalgic energy out of the song for me (especially during the chorus, when the instrumental is the most full-on and head-banging worthy). If the instrumental hasn’t won me over yet (spoiler: it has), then what I describe next will do the trick. ENHYPEN’s vocals are a perfect fit with the genre, with the members perfectly executing their delivery and encompassing the energy of SHOUT OUT. Without a doubt, my favourite from the mini-album. (10/10)
6. Foreshadow – Again, we go through the three-language narration from the initial song to close out the album. This time around, the members express their uncertainty about the immediate future. They say their past is making sense and they know there is a future waiting for them. But the light that is supposed to guide them to that future casts a shadow over the immediate future, hence the uncertainty and Foreshadow title. It is an abstract way of expressing uncertainty, but a clever way nonetheless. The song aspect of this track was more riveting than the initial song and has a much better bite to it. (9/10)
Another album review for you all. LOONA made their comeback back in June of this year with FL!P that, a special summer mini-album. The release features the title track Flip That and the single POSE, alongside another 3 side tracks and an introductory instrumental track. The latter named single was released as part of the group’s participation in Queendom 2, which they finished as the runner-up (after WJSN).
FL!P that was a standard length mini-album, but it just felt short. It doesn’t feel like a six track mini-album, for some odd reason. I kind of wished there was more to it. But still, a catchy title track and one of the side tracks might be able to sneak away with the title of best side track of the year. Read on to find out which one song that is, and let me know if you agree with me.
1. The Journey – The Journey sets the scene for this special mini-album. It first starts off very ethereal natural sound, as if you are looking into a mystical forest in a fairytale. The synths build from here into quite a bass-heavy and boisterous piece that brings a whole heap of dynamic flair to the track, but the incorporation of the Flip That instrumental in the background (and more upfront and whole in the final moments of this instrumental track) hints at more delicate and sweeter undertone to the mini-album.
3. Need U – I quite enjoyed Need U’s chorus, which felt very minimal but also fulfilling at the same time. I also liked how the minimalism also comes through the members’ vocals and melodies, which made the chorus speak much louder than how it sounds. The verses, whilst less memorable, also had a minimalistic vibe. But every time I revisit them, I find they set up the choruses quite well. My only gripe about the song is the cutesy spoken line ‘You make me shine’ you hear in the chorus. I don’t agree with its presence, as it just stuck out like a sore thumb for me and detracted from the rest of the song. (8.5/10)
5. Pale Blue Dot – The bass that opens up Pale Blue Dot really pulls you in. And I am so happy that it did. The bass leads you to a thumping verse backing that is so pretty thanks to LOONA’s delicate yet vibrant vocal work and melodies of the song. The pre-chorus builds the song up in an epic fashion, yet also keeping the LOONA touch. What you don’t really expect the simplicity of this song’s chorus. But somehow it works and I am loving it. The ‘Ooh Ooh Ooh’ was super catchy and fun. The second run at the chorus incorporated more instrumentation, building the liveliness of the song. The drumming in the bridge and Chuu’s soaring vocals was definitely an amazing peak for (you guessed it) my favourite side track from this mini-album. (10/10)
6. Playback – Playback brings us back to a more typical sounding mid-tempo pop ballad. The melodies were on the plainer side, but there was still a decent swaying motion/effect coming out of this song. Unfortunately, Playback wasn’t as riveting as the producers had intended to be. I think this is partly due to the fact that Playback follows on from Pale Blue Dot. No matter what song that comes after the preceding track, it all would have felt plainer and dull. But at least the synths in this track gave it a more vibrant feel, which allowed to feel and sound suitable as a follow-up track. (7/10)
The next album to on the reviewing block of this blog is HUTA’s (who is otherwise known as Lee Min Hyuk from BTOB) second studio album, BOOM. This album, alongside the title track of the same name, was released at the end of June of this year and features another eleven tracks. This is HUTA’s first major Korean release since completing his military enlistment, participating on the Kingdom: Legendary War and making a few comebacks with his fellow BTOB members through the singles Show Your Love, Outsider and (most recently) The Song.
All the songs on BOOM (the album) basically were all strong showing from the soloist, with the album receiving a 8.2/10 rating and most songs earned a 8/10 from me. This is quite consistent for the wide range of songs that HUTA had put on the album. I commend HUTA for doing this, as it proves to me (and all his fans and the listeners of BOOM) that he is more than just a rapper (not that he needed to as I am totally aware of his potential through BTOB’s works and his first studio album). Just through this album, we can easily see that he is capable of releasing an intense and powerful number that aligns with his rapper image, or flipping the switch to release some thing more delicate and peaceful.
1. I’m Rare – Kicking BOOM (the album) off is the short track I’m Rare, which packs a punch with its super energetic electronic instrumentation. I quite enjoyed how the song developed as it progressed, moving from a mid-tempo pace to a fast-paced track. This helped hyped the track and the album’s opening, which in turn got me excited for what is to come. HUTA’s rapping was quite dynamic and heightens the energy of the song, rounding out a very strong start to the album. (8/10)
3. Shadow – Third track into the album and I think we are treated to the album’s standout track. Shadow focuses on HUTA’s vocals, moving away from the rapping that dominated or stood out in the preceding two tracks. His vocals took a lowkey approach. They never really went further than how he started. While this might be something I raise as an issue usually, it worked well with the 80s synth-based instrumentation. That itself had the right amount of momentum to propel the song forward, but at the same time not feel too filling or intense. The melodies that HUTA brought to life with his vocals were quite chill and easy on the ears. I enjoyed everything from Shadow. (10/10)
4. Dear My Spring (넌 나의 봄이야) – Dear My Spring follows up Shadow and the two songs sounded quite similar in some regards. But the main difference between the two songs is that Dear My Spring is a lot sweeter sounding, and this basically came down to two aspects. Firstly, HUTA’s vocals brought a smile to my face and was quite soothing throughout the song. This works well with the topic of spring, which is what the song is based on. Secondly, the instrumental features a more acoustic feel which is synonymous with the Spring season, rather than an 80s synth instrumental. (8/10)
5. Secretly (그대가 모르게) – Secretly is a lovely track to follow the sweetness of the preceding track. HUTA sounds very charming and romantic in Secretly. I quite liked the bounce to the instrumental, and how it developed from just a simple piano instrumental piece into a livelier piece thanks to the addition of other instruments. All of this helped make Secretly more appealing to listen to. (8.5/10)
6. Is It Love? (사랑일까요) – Is It Love? is another romantic song on the album. It also doubles as a duet with fellow BTOB member, Lee Chang Sub. HUTA starts off the song with deep vocals, and subsequently reverts to his lovely vocals. Lee Chang Sub serenades with his vocals. I particularly liked it when Lee Chang Sub’s vocals peaks in the chorus, provides a high note and ad-libs to the end of the song. It was also nice to hear some rapping from HUTA in this song, especially since that has not been much rapping throughout this romantic side of the album. I wished there was a more memorable melody to the song, however. (7.5/10)
7. Firework (위험해) – Firework begins with a rather sinister yet moody atmosphere. Once Firework reached the chorus, it changed itself up by going with an upbeat and slightly groovy house based instrumental. I really liked how engaging HUTA was in the chorus. There was a lot of personality and energy that he himself puts into the chorus, which made it stand out for me. Firework also features a really cool bridge, where HUTA was given an opportunity to intensify his rapping and delivery in a more natural manner. This gave Firework a bit of edge and definitely helped the song finish on an enticing manner. (9/10)
8. Real Game (Like Messi) – Real Game brings a more consistent and dynamic energy to the album. It is a short number, spanning only just over 2 minutes. But I quite liked how it gets straight to the point, launching right into the chorus and the aforementioned energy. And I liked how it doesn’t let up. HUTA follows through with a consistent delivery of his lines, yet his rapping just intensifies everything to just be so alluring. I know we were constricted by time, but I would have liked the ending just to have a bit more oomph to close out the song appropriately. (8/10)
9. Us Together (우리 함께 걸어요) – We revisit the likes of the first half of the album with another sweet song. I find Us Together to be nicely instrumented with the pop instrumental it went for. A bit plain, but it works well with the rest of the song. HUTA showcases soft vocals throughout, which sounded very soothing. A different instrumental would have easily overpowered the vocals. There is also rapping in the song, which might make you think would have done the overpowering instead. But HUTA was careful in approaching the rapping in a suitable manner for Us Together and the sweeter pop sound of the song. (8/10)
10. Red Wine – When I first saw the title of this song, I was expecting a more mature track. While the R&B genre that Red Wine did go for is typically mature, Red Wine was more so upbeat and bright. The synths gave the song a subtle disco tinge, which ended up being quite fun to listen to. The brass detailing was also a highlight in this song. HUTA’s delivery also adds to this, and this helped make Red Wine a fine song to listen to. If anything, I wished there was stronger hooks in Red Wine, as I felt the hooks we got in Red Wine were lacking. (7.5/10)
11. Stay (기다리고 있어) – Stay was previously released in Japan, as the lead single from his solo debut mini-album in Japan. For this album and its release in Korea, it was rewritten with Korean lyrics. Everything in this song can be described as nice and pleasant, which is all very much different to the likes of BOOM (the title track). But aside from that, there wasn’t really much else to comment in the song. (7/10)
12. Hello and Bye (끝 눈) – Completing the 12-song length studio album is Hello and Bye. It is another pleasant number, this time tapping into the balladry side of music. I liked the dreamy nature of the instrumentation, which is made up of piano, a bit of percussion and a light sprinkling of synths. HUTA’s vocals a very soft and fitting for the ballad genre in this song, particularly when they get breathy. Overall, it closes the album on a very soothing and calming note. (8/10)
It is a short one today, but an album review nonetheless. The album in question belongs to WONHO, who made his comeback in June with FACADE (his 3rd mini-album) and CRAZY (his latest title track). FACADE features a total of three full tracks (one of them being the title track itself), and an intro and outro instrumental track (both of which is not factored into the final rating of the album). This is his first release since his first single album OBSESSION and EYE ON YOU.
I feel like some explanation for the intro and outro tracks is required to give some them (and potentially the entire mini-album) context, as they felt very random. But I will admit they do flow into the title track (in the case of the intro track) and flow from the Korean version of last year’s Japanese winter single (in the case of the outro track) in a somewhat logical fashion. But when you consider the middle section of the mini-album together (i.e. the three tracks that I have included ratings for), FACADE felt like a hodge podge. And given the small length of the album, this feeling is more so broaden out to the whole mini-album, as well.
1. INTRO: 9AM – The start of 9AM gives off haunting vibes, which I am all down for. I love a bit of eerie and mysteriousness, and I feel 9AM really concentrates all of that in its instrumental piece. It definitely got me intrigued with the rest of the mini-album.
3. CLOSE – Following the very groovy and sensual CRAZY is the more atmospheric and ambient CLOSE. This is another all-English pop song from the artist (and KPOP in general) that attempts to appeal to the international audience. And I think WONHO did a good job. His vocals were quite prominent and straight forward in the track. But it still managed to pair well with the riveting (to a degree) softer synth instrumentation. There was still a bite to the song thanks to the beat present in the pop instrumentation. While CLOSE is pleasant, I did find the song to be linear, which dulled its appeal slightly. I think more drifty melodies and smoother vocals could have boosted CLOSE. (7.5/10)
4. White Miracle (Korean Version) – Winter Miracle was originally released in Japan at the end of last year, but I never got the chance to review the Japanese single. As it is part of this mini-album as well, I will be reviewing the Korean version instead. There isn’t a whole lot going on in White Miracle aside from an apparent sweetness to the song. It makes sense given that this was a Winter single released ahead of last year’s Christmas holiday. WONHO does sound quite decent. But apart from those aspects, the song is pretty much in neutral gear and doesn’t deviate from this sameness. So, the track is a skippable number in my opinion. (6/10)
5. OUTRO: 9PM – While we started off the album in a Halloween-like spirit, we end off with an instrumental piece that gives off Winter Wonderland vibes. 9PM felt very comforting, special and warming. I found this thoroughly interesting, but it works well given the previous track (i.e., the previous track’s original period of release matches the vibes of this song).
ASTRO’s full length studio album from mid-May is the next album to be reviewed on the blog. Titled Drive To The Starry Road, the studio album is ASTRO’s third one since their debut back in 2016. It features the title track Candy Sugar Pop and ten additional side tracks. In those ten side tracks, six of them were solo tracks from each of the members. This album does feature all six members, but promotions only consisted of five members, with MJ sitting out due to his military enlistment prior to the comeback.
Like the last album review, there appears to be a common description between most of the songs on Drive To The Starry Road. And that particular word is ‘pleasant’. I tried my best not to repeat it over and over again in this review to avoid repetition, but I could have gotten away with using it alongside most of the songs on this ASTRO album. There are two standout tracks, in my opinion, on this album. More particularly, two solo tracks. Have a read below to see which solo track I had given a 10/10 to (and to find out which one of the two that I strongly recommend overall)!
2. Something Something – Something Something hovers somewhere between a pleasant pop track and a groovy number. I don’t think Something Something leans towards any side in particular, and was balanced enough to still be engaging. The vocals paired well with the pleasant pop side of the song, bringing the song’s nice melody to life. The rapping worked tandemly with the groovy side and it too brought forth a dynamic touch and kick to Something Something. (8/10)
3. More – More concentrates and intensifies those funky vibes from the previous song without going down the usual vibrant route. As a result, I feel that More comes off as quite refined and mature. Their vocals and rapping follows suit, going with a more serious tone which definitely meant business. A more memorable melody or hook would have taken More to the next level, but what we got was pretty good. (8/10)
4. Light The Sky (하늘빛) – ASTRO continues their pleasant run with another pleasant pop track. Light The Sky goes down a pop ballad route with a very delightful instrumentation that feels quite atmospheric and definitely makes you think of a clear sky – either during the day or at night where the stars are shining brightly. The vocal work was soothing and brought a smile to my face. The rapping was low-key but works well with the softness that is Light The Sky. Overall, a comforting number. (9/10)
5. Story – We enter solo track territory with the first one belonging to MJ, who unfortunately didn’t get to promote the album due to his military enlistment. It is definitely nice that we still got to hear from him on this album. Story is a ballad really brings out MJ’s raw vocals. He was definitely stunning. The instrumental starts off minimalistic with just guitar, which brought your attention straight to his vocals. The second verse featured a rapid build in instrumentation, bringing in classical and synths into the mix. It eventuates into a stunning and epic backing piece. (10/10)
6. All Day – JinJin follows with his solo track, All Day, a hip-hop track. It is such an upbeat number that brings the energy of the album right back up. I liked the vibrant nature of the song, as it isn’t a profile that we have yet to hear on the album since the title track. JinJin adds a dynamic front to the song with his cool rapping and anthem-like chorus. Unfortunately, All Day does lack memorable elements, which pulls the song towards skippable territory. It is decent, but I kind of wanted more. (7/10)
7. First Love – First Love continues the brightness that featured as part of the previous solo track. But Eunwoo’s solo track is much more mellow and lovely. Both the instrumentation and Eunwoo’s breathy vocals were incredibly soft and fragile, but not in a balladry sense. Instead, First Love felt lovable and touching. I did quite like that brief guitar solo in the bridge and the swayable melody that First Love brings. The latter brought a smile to my face. Overall, another decent solo track. (8/10)
8. Let’s Go Ride – Moonbin brings R&B to the album with his solo track, Let’s Go Ride. I honestly did not expect anything else from Moonbin, simply because his solo performances and fancams from their recent concert show him pushing a sensual and mature agenda. And well, Let’s Go Ride definitely brings those descriptions to fruition. From the instrumentation to even Moonbin’s vocals, everything just oozed sensual energy and charisma that I am all for. His smooth approach to the song’s bridge was on point. (8/10)
9. S#1 – Out of all the songs on the album, Rocky’s S#1 is my favourite. I remember being in awe with the song and Rocky when I first vetted the album for an album review. His vocals were amazingly passionate, expressive and emotive. That high note was spectacular. S#1’s pop rock ballad instrumental was also quite riveting. Digging into the song, S#1 tells a full story of when a love first began between a couple and the breakup point of said couple. It was an interesting piece as a result. If you want any recommendation from this album, Rocky’s S#1 is what I will be recommending to listeners. (10/10)
10. 24 Hours (24시간) – The final solo song on the album belongs to none other than the maknae of ASTRO, Sanha. I feel Sanha was slightly disadvantage, following on from the likes of Rocky’s song. But 24 Hours is still (yet again) pleasant and soothing piece. Sanha’s vocals were nice, while the toots in the instrumental (can’t tell what instrument it was) helped give 24 Hour a unique profile. Not as captivating like the other tracks on the album, but still a nice listen. (7/10)
11. Like Stars (밤하늘의 별처럼) – The six members of ASTRO regroup for the last song on the album, Like Stars. It was a nice ender to the album, and rounds out the entire album in a heartening manner. The synth pop of the song’s instrumental brought a nice upbeatness, with certain parts of the song diverting to an atmospheric feel as well. Both the vocal work and rapping were fine, with the latter also bringing a bit of intensity to the song. I did wish the melody was more memorable. But what we got works absolutely fine. (8/10)