Yes, y’all, Phase 2 has finally arrived!
It took me a while to actually find time to whip this up for a post because I’ve basically been swamped with school work for the past couple of weeks. One word: Finals.
Anyway, there won’t be any explaining. You guys know the drill (if not, take a minute to check out Phase 1 which has the break down and details of this special) so I’m just going to dive in full force.
Oh, let it be known that this was a very difficult process. Deciding the songs, I mean. There was a point this week where I got so damn stuck on which ones to include and which to leave out and I’m already kicking myself for forgetting some in the previous Phase. I tried covering all the bases this time (i.e. ballads, up tempos, popular singles, indie favorites) so I believe this came together pretty well.
Also, I’ll be compiling a playlist on YouTube of all the songs and linking to it soon because I know the mixpod playlist doesn’t work for some of you. It’s always nice to have alternatives just in case that happens, no?
One More Chance – “Back In Time“
This group was the very first indie act I featured on my Recommendations series and how I discovered them is a vague memory, but I’m so glad I found them because I absolutely love this song of theirs. It’s such an easy-listener and it sustains this pleasant ambiance from beginning to end that really lends itself well to the simple instrumentation. The form is perfect and one of the best choruses this year.
MBLAQ – “What You Want“
MBLAQ is one of those groups who seem to suck hard during their promotional period and never deliver 100% on their live performances, but for whatever reason, I actually find myself rooting for these guys. I’ve found out that below that thick layer of materialistic and sex-driven values that Rain has implemented on them, hides talent and a rather enjoyable side to MBLAQ. This song isn’t outstanding (though I do like it), but I think this kind of sound suits them as opposed to the electro-mess that they tend to lean towards in their singles. There needs to be more of this in the future.
Super Junior – “Shake It Up“
I was going to insert Bonamana in here because believe it or not I murdered the replay button for that song, but as did this one. As far as boy bands go, these guys are definitely the most overrated – meaning they have very little impact if you strip away their vanity and status (the very foundation of their popularity). Vocally, SuJu are weak, but that’s where SM’s flawless producers come in and save the day. With this song, they’ve delivered a head-bobbing, melodic pop song. It’s really one of their best this year and would have been a nice follow-up instead of No Other, imho.
Monday Kiz – “Don’t Go“
This group reminds me a lot of 4Men. They’re freakishly skilled and have crazy range and color to their singing. One of them even reminds me of DBSK’s Junsu. Aside from their obvious talent, I also enjoyed the orchestration of this song. It’s really dramatic and sometimes that puts me off, but here it worked nicely. Explosive moments left and right, you know that’s my cup of tea.
Lee Seung Hwan – “이별기술자”
A man who’s been making music for years released one of my favorite albums in 2010. Lee Seung Hwan is a fun musician who expresses an enthusiastic and equally amusing personality through his songs and this one is a great example. It’s uplifting, cheerful and really well done. This song also embodies my exact taste in pop music. It’s a little bit sassy, slightly bubbly, all working impeccably well together with the great beat and electro nuances.
Big Songs This Month:
Taeyang – “I Need A Girl“
I remember expecting a lot from Taeyang’s solo album for some reason. I don’t know what I was hoping for, but listening to it months after he released “Solar”, I have to admit that a lot of it might not have been groundbreaking, but it was overall really well done. This particular song isn’t the typical R&B sound we’re all used to hearing from Taetae, but it personally worked for me. I loved that the whole thing was subtle and understated – much like Taeyang himself – but still gripped on to the sensuality he’s known for. I give the instrumental an A++
Infinite – “Wings“
Infinite debuted this year and everyone had high expectations of them, being under the watchful eye of Tablo of Epik High and all. And they certainly left an impression. Their first EP featured quality songs and was really well produced. For example, this song, while utterly boy band-ish, is nicely put together. Even if the strings are digitally generated, I love how they’re used during the verses (verse 2, especially). And the minimal processing on their voices will always win brownie points in my book.
Swimming Fish – “Fly“
Holy shit – The first female voice in Phase 2! Swimming Fish is an indie group who released this catchy-as-hell pop-rock song this summer. It sounds like something off of a Kdrama OST (all k-indie music sounds like that, actually…weird). This song takes me back to my middle school/freshman year in High School days when everything was happy and carefree. It’s one of those songs that puts smiles on peoples faces, so that should say a lot about the quality of “Fly”.
Navi feat. K.Will – “We Really Did Love Each Other“
As far as duets go, this one is a must-have for 2010. If you don’t know, Navi is THE queen of covers and almost always does it better than the original singers, but as for her own material, it doesn’t always stick, at least not for me (i.e. her 2010 digital single I have now forgotten the name of). This song, though, is a complete exception. To put it simply, it is SO pretty. Navi and K.Will sound so good together, it’s ridiculous! I Love it, with a capital L.
4Men feat. Ben (Bebe Mignon) – “고해요”
Ah, another collabo worth mentioning. 4Men and Ben released this lovely number in the OST for the kdrama “Bad Guy”. I saw, like, the first half hour of that drama and let me just say it now – I haven’t been watching dramas a lot and I never was into them 100%, but I do enjoy them. Ben, by the way, is one of three female singers of the rookie group Bebe Mignon. They sing ballads, are vocally gifted and, Ben in particular, sounds precious against the strong vocals of 4Men.
Big Songs This Month:
Nia – “Vision“
Nia released this beautiful song in their “Remember the Forest” EP. It isn’t noisy or too erratic of a song coming from a rock band, but not all bands have to sound like that. The song is pretty emotional and the verses are to die for. Like I said in my review, it’s times when I listen to meaningful songs like this that I wish I thoroughly understood Korean.
SHINee – “Lucifer“
While the composition of this song is laughable and the lousiest effort ever in a song for SHINee, there is nothing to hide – I went crazy for this song. It’s like some psychotic fangirl possessed me the day the boys released this and there was nothing anyone could do to hold me down. The pulse of this song is perfect for an explosive pop single. Layer SHINee’s energy on top of that and you’ve got mainstream gold.
Narsha – “Bbi Ri Bba Bba“
Here’s another song that drove me crazy this summer (and just about every illuminati nut job, too). Narsha is a member of one of my favorite girl groups in Korea. I don’t judge them based on their vocal competency because that’s not their strong point. The Brown Eyed Girls’ secret-but-not-so-secret weapon is their out of the ordinary concepts and outside the box production value. It’s true. The quality of BEG’s music – including this solo song from Narsha – is insane. I love everything about this.
Se7en feat. T.O.P. of Big Bang- “Digital Bounce“
“Hands up, everybody, hands up” – This is one of those songs that sounds AWESOME in your car. Particularly at a high volume. Trust me, I played the hell out of it during my drives to and from work. Se7en definitely reinvented himself by adopting the whole ‘digital’ thing and you know what, I liked it. It’s kind of all over the place, but for some reason it makes sense. The treatment on his voice in this song isn’t bad at all and T.O.P.’s contribution made this song as cool as it is now.
SHINee – “Love Still Goes On“
I decided to include the song that became my second favorite up tempo off of SHINee’s 2nd full album because every element of the song fits together perfectly. Nothing speaks louder than a song that is well pieced together. Personally, my vocal bias is Jonghyun and even if he goes way out of control 80% of the time, he’s always in his own and when he nails it, he fucking nails it. That’s what he did in this song.
Big Songs This Month:
Dear Cloud – “무너져”
One of any K-indie’s favorites: Dear Cloud. How could I have compiled a top of anything list and not have included this gem? This group gets an overwhelming amount of love from Korean indie listeners and they’re well worth it. Dear Cloud’s vocalist (9nine) delivers every phrase and line in this song with more emotion than you’d expect. There’s a real authenticity about this group and I am always up for listening to their music.
Narsha – “Mamma Mia“
Korean pop music reached an astonishing high when Narsha released this song. To me, this went beyond my expectations. You get a little taste of sugar, spice and everything nice and then some. The production, as always, is top notch. At Narsha’s age, she’s making Kpop’s top idol girl groups eat her dust with such sophisticated and thoughtfully manufactured songs. Major props to her for staying fresh.
Taeyang feat. Big Tone- “Connection“
Taeyang released “I’ll Be There” this month, and while I liked that song, this one was just a notch higher in my opinion. Like every YG song ever produced, this is more American than America itself. I get a lot of Usher from this, which is acceptable since Taeyang idolizes the man. An added bonus: Taetae’s English is improving!
2PM – “Fly To Seoul (Boom Boom Boom)“
Here’s one of my guilty pleasures. I don’t know what it was when I first heard this song, but I was all over it. I think it’s because 2PM weren’t focused on being sexy beasts for once that I genuinely enjoyed this song. I still do. The chorus is really good and the hook is beyond addicting. It all works well, especially since it’s a campaign song for tourism in Seoul, Korea. I rarely like frilly songs for such a purpose, but this one won me over.
Dear Cloud – “그때와 같은 공간, 같은 노래가”
Closing out this Phase is another Dear Cloud song. It’s quicker paced than the previous one, but just as emotional and engaging. I really do love this band. They make me feel nice things every time I listen to them, so I’m so happy to have discovered them for myself this year.
Big Songs This Month:
Phase 3 | September – December will be out next week, followed by My Top Kpop MVs of 2010. I’ll also update this post with a link to the songs on YouTube as well as the links to the top songs that didn’t make it on my list. I kind of got lazy when I was writing this post to search for those links, so expect them real soon.
Feel free to comment, spread the love and tell me your personal picks for 2010 in the comments section below. Retweet it, Facebook it and see you soon!