[Album Review] REFUGE (2nd Mini Album) – Moonbin & Sanha (ASTRO)

The next album to be reviewed is Moonbin & Sanha’s second mini-album, RFFUGE, which dropped mid-March this year. It features the title track WHO, and four additional singles including Ghost Town, which served as the mini-album’s pre-release single. Moonbin & Sanha’s comeback follows the debut of ASTRO’s second subunit, JinJin & Rocky, who made their debut with the single Just Breath and mini-album Restore. Their comeback precedes ASTRO’s Candy Sugar Pop comeback and the group’s third studio album, Drive to the Starry Road (which I will be reviewing at a later date).

I can’t remember the exact reason why I chose to review REFUGE, as it has been a while since its release. I just have it down as ‘TO REVIEW’ in my notes. It has been bumped up slightly, however, as I don’t think I can handle another full length album review this weekend, but thought it would be nice to still put out an album review. And REFUGE was the first mini-album on my list to review. Overall, REFUGE was a decent album with some good and weaker songs. It is still worth a listen, as you may find something you like, as I did.

REFUGE Album Cover

1. WHO (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of WHO. (6.5/10)

2. BOOBOO takes on the R&B genre. I personally like the beat, the brighter tone, the clear vocals and the intriguing nature of the twangs we get in the instrumental. But beyond that, I find BOO to be just a decent track. Unfortunately, the melodies or hooks weren’t as memorable as they could be. And compared to the other tracks on the album, BOO easily becomes the forgotten single. (7/10)

3. DIADIA is more of my jam. The disco influences in the crunchy instrumental brought a more dynamic profile to the song (which I find to be extremely memorable), and I find myself having a boogie in my chair every time this song comes on. I really liked their vocals throughout DIA, with this song showing off their vocals in the best on this album. There is no standout hook in this song, as the instrumental really dominated the track for me. But I feel there is enough in terms of melodies to help boost the song’s memorability factor. (8/10)

4. DistanceDistance brings forth balladry energy. Distance starts off with an acoustic centric instrumental which I thought was really soothing and nice, before developing into a more bolstered instrumental that somehow maintains the acoustic roots it began with. I find myself swaying along to the song, as the pair delivers very captivating vocals and melodies. I am not entirely keen on the siren-like synths, but they do help fill up the background of the song, creating a heftier number. (8.5/10)

5. Ghost Town (Pre-Release Track)Click here to read the full review of Ghost Town. (7/10)

Overall Album Rating – 7.4/10

[Review] WHO – Moonbin & Sanha (ASTRO)

Also making their comeback this week was ASTRO’s subunit consisting of Moonbin & Sanha. The pair returned with the single, WHO, and mini-album, Refuge, on Tuesday. It follows their unit debut back in 2020 with Bad Idea and is the second subunit from ASTRO to release music this year (the first being JinJin & Rocky’s Just Breath). Moonbin and Sanha were also quite lucky in making their comeback as schedule, as both were diagnosed with COVID-19 a week prior to their comeback. Many groups are delaying their comebacks or postpone the start of promotions due to COVID, whereas Moonbin & Sanha managed to just dodge this potential impact and recovered just in time for their scheduled comeback. However, ASTRO’s fan meet event, which was scheduled for 13 March, had to be pushed back to April.

It is clear from this comeback that Moonbin & Sanha (the subunit) was formed to showcase a very intense and more mature side of the group. Bad Idea definitely had mature vibes, while WHO has adopted a darker profile. And at the helm of this ‘darker profile’ is a powerful dance track. It is also quite minimalistic throughout – to the point where WHO felt very bare. But the powerful and intense nature of WHO helps offset the bareness of the song. Part of me likes that. Unique and innovative in a way. But another part me of felt like it wasn’t enough. And sadly, I am leaning more to that latter side. While the powerful rock influenced flair we get in the chorus definitely gets WHO into the memorable category, I fear its stay would be short-lived. In other words, the intense beat is enough to get it there, but WHO didn’t have anything to keep it there. The chorus could have been backed up by a hook, through a two part chorus, and this (provided it was executed properly and fitted in with the rest of the track) could potentially have ‘sealed the deal’ for WHO to stay in the ‘memorable category’. It also could have potentially helped offset that bareness that I had mentioned in a more satisfying and fulfilling manner. When I turn to the verses and bridge, there are some good vocals in there and there was a really bone chilling ‘Who you looking for’ line. But nothing captivating or strong enough.

The dark side of the pair is definitely shown throughout the video. The video takes on a religious concept, which I think is a bit of a unique concept in KPOP. Some scenes of the video seems to depict the idea of hell and possession, which is a pretty cool topic to portray. It also fits in with the lyrics of the song, which is about express the confusing emotions between evil that cannot be escaped and the desire for healing (taken from Soompi). Both Moonbin and Sanha’s visuals were definitely top notch in this video, with the mature look really shown off in this video.

The powerful nature of the song lends well to the performance aspect of this comeback. It allowed them to show off their performance skills, coolness and fierceness on stage. Definitely a performance I recommend you watch.

Song – 6.5/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 7.5/10

[Review] Ghost Town – Moonbin & Sanha (ASTRO)

Last month, we saw the debut of ASTRO’s latest subunit, JinJin & Rocky, who partied it up with their Just Breath single. It was later confirmed following JinJin & Rocky’s unit debut that ASTRO’s first subunit, Moonbin & Sanha, would be make their comeback in March, with a pre-release single dropping in February. Well time flew by as we waited, and Moonbin & Sanha’s pre-release single, Ghost Town, officially dropped yesterday. Now, we will be counting down to the day that Moonbin & Sanha returns as a duo, making it their first release since Bad Idea, their debut single from 2020. In the meanwhile, let’s have a deep dive into Ghost Town.

Ghost Town is another stop along the mature path that Moobin and Sanha has sent us on with Bad Idea. It is not a grand stop of any kind, as there isn’t anything big or groundbreaking within Ghost Town that gets me excited or is a ‘must see’ attraction. It is just more so like a rest stop you stop at before going on with the last leg of your trip to the real destination (that is, their March comeback). After all, that is the purpose of a pre-release single. Ghost Town is pretty straight forward track with a pleasant blend with its acoustic instrumentation and trap/hip-hop beats. There was potential at the start, however. I found the acoustic guitar to be quite striking, but it was soon lost to the heavy hip-hop beats that is heavily present throughout the rest of the song. In the end, it does make Ghost Town repetitive. But not to the unbearable extent where it drains out the energy of the song. This is why I still found it pleasant. As for the duo, I don’t have much else to say other than that Moonbin and Sanha sounded quite satisfying throughout Ghost Town. They fitted in nicely with the instrumentation, and complimented the hip-hop vibes. The melodies were quite pleasant as well, but as mentioned at the start, not memorable. Overall, Ghost Town is basically your typical side track/pre-release single that just isn’t title track material. I sure do hope that whatever Moonbin & Sanha unveils in March, it is ‘title track material’.

The music video is pretty basic and isn’t too fancy. This felt right for the song, which was of a similar nature. All of the video was the pair in front of a screen that was showing static, red tinge cloudy backgrounds or was simply off some portions of the video (these parts were extremely dark and it was hard to see the two of them). The pair interacted with the camera in a way that reminded me of 90s R&B music videos. I personally thought the video was a bit dry and isn’t something that I would find myself revisiting. It is a fitting video for the song, but not my cup of tea.

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 6/10
Overall Rating – 6.6/10

[Album Review] IN-OUT (1st Mini Album) – Moonbin & Sanha (ASTRO)

Another album review written over a month after its release. ASTRO’s Moonbin and Sanha formed this subunit mid-September through the release of their first mini-album, IN-OUT. Featured on this mini-album is the title track, Bad Idea, that the pair have wrapped up promotions for. The entire album, aside from the title track, is doused heavily with R&B. Whether I enjoyed this heavy dose of the R&B genre, continue reading to find out.

In-Out Album Cover

1. Eyez On You Eyez On You has two major letdowns that really drags the track down for me. The first letdown is the really generic R&B sound that the verses opt for. It bored me, nor did it excite me. The second element is the overwhelming ‘noise’ that forms the basis of Eyez On You’s chorus. It is very jarring and the multiple layers of instrumentals feels very obnoxious. Some might find it a charm, as I have said in the past with some song’s and their respective noise. But Eyez On You’s take on this felt too much and prevented me from liking the opening track. And these two elements overpower the pair’s vocals, leaving them forgotten. All of this is quite a pity, as the pre-chorus managed to successfully change the song’s gears and allude to something fun, upbeat and vibrant. (5/10)

2. Bad Idea (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Bad Idea. (9/10)

3. Alone (섬) Alone returns to that R&B genre that unsuccessfully opened the song. While Alone does take on more of that generic R&B sound, the song instantly sounds better and more refreshing. It is because Eyez On You really left an impression. Anything generic yet is executed well enough would be on many levels higher than the opening track. I did like that Alone had a bit of a spring in its instrumentation. The piano was also a nice consistent touch to the song. What really makes this song even more pleasant and palatable are the vocals, particularly Sanha’s. The way he sings ‘I am so lonely’ in the song was very memorable. The song’s melodies also gives off strong promise. (8/10)

4. All I Wanna Do – To me, All I Wanna Do is their best side track on the album. I really like the instrumentation when it came to the chorus. The bass add definition and dynamism to the strings. And the strings add prominence and a striking element to the chorus. The rest of the song goes down the R&B hold once again. For this song, this isn’t really a problem as the chorus compensates for that flaw. Once again, the song features the stunning nature of Moonbin and Sanha’s vocals. They sound very silky and sweet. I felt that both members were well utilized throughout All I Wanna Do and made the song more appealing. (9/10)

5. Dream CatcherDream Catcher is more of a ballad, though it encroaches into the R&B realm. The song is very calming and soothing, feeling almost like an acoustic-centric track. I say ‘almost’, as the main instrument is an electric guitar that is played softly. The rest of the instruments come in to help lift the song up ever so slightly without disrupting the soft acoustic-vibe of the electric guitar. Their vocals shine in Dream Catcher, adding to that soothing nature of the song. Their harmonies were well used to give the ballad some definition and feel more warming for fans. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8/10

Bad Idea / In-Out Teaser Image

[Review] Bad Idea – Moonbin & Sanha (ASTRO)

Yesterday, ASTRO launches their first duo unit with Moonbin and Sanha joining forces to bring us Bad Idea, which is featured on the pair’s first mini-album, IN-OUT. This comes after the entire group returned with Knock earlier this year.

It seems that funky is now the norm in KPOP. Bad Idea continues the ongoing trend of reemerging funky and groovy numbers in the industry, a trend that KPOP has definitely experienced in the past. Some of the best and widely known KPOP tracks over the years fall into this category! While Bad Idea does fit in with that particular crowd of songs (based on genre alone), it just needed a bit more to potentially be given that status. And that ‘bit more’ could have easily been a rap sequence. Sure, the addition of a rap sequence would have been cliche move. But I felt that Bad Idea was missing an element to give the song a kick and some additional intense energy. The entire song is vocally centric, which makes complete sense given the vocalist label that both Moonbin and Sanha carry whilst promoting with the rest of the ASTRO members. There isn’t anything wrong with that. I just believe it is missing that oomph to bring it to the next level. But aside from that, what we got was perfectly nailed. Both Moonbin and Sanha did amazing with the vocals, especially when we got to the falsetto pre-chorus. That pre-chorus was super sexy sounding, admittedly. The chorus was quite simple and catchy. The instrumental has a nice bass feel to it and the guitars work very hard to bring the funkiness to life. Maybe that ‘bit more’ could also have been delivered with a bit of a change up in the instrumentation, but it would have been most effective as a rap sequence (in my opinion).

The music video for Bad Idea is super interesting. The pair take on a dark sensual concept with their choreography and solo shots. That itself is something quite exciting, as it takes ASTRO’s previous concepts a step further. But that is embedded throughout a time-loop story line, where Sanha constantly dies after drinking a poisoned drink and wakes up right after. He becomes confused and lost. Moonbin isn’t the centre of this time-loop, so suspicion is on him almost immediately from the start. It is revealed towards the end that Moonbin indeed did poison Sanha, causing him to die. I think Sanha had shot Moonbin in the past, which might give Moonbin a motive. Though I am not sure why. That is just my take on the music video though and I am sure other theories have determined by Moonbin is killing Sanha and how Moonbin better fits into the story line (i.e. I didn’t understand meaning behind the fire and broken glass scenes).

The choreography looks quite good. I liked how they carried that dark sensual concept from the music video into the choreography. I really like the move that did when they repetitively sang ‘Bad’ during the chorus. Their chemistry was also note-worthy during their duo moments!

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9/10