Contributing Writer, drowningn00b, is on a k-indie high! Here’s his latest review for K-indie band, J. Rabbit
Korean indie music (or k-indie) has been expanding with a number of unique groups and musicians. Standing Egg are for lovers, No Reply is the thinking man’s (or woman’s) go-to group, and 10cm is for those cigarette-smoking, Americano-sipping hipsters. With players like these, the challenge to present a unique idea is growing higher. But what has been missing, in my opinion, is the wide-eyed and fresh face concept, and J. Rabbit fulfills this spot very well. But don’t let the label confuse you. J. Rabbit is a group taking a little from everywhere and making it their own; making for one of the more unique and refreshing debuts of the first half of 2011.
Hyesun Jung (vocalist) and Dawoon Jung (instrumentalist) (known as J Hyesun and J Dawoon) comprise J. Rabbit itself part of a collaborative project with other indie artists under friendz.net. (For videos of J. Rabbit and the other artists, visit their YouTube page here.) J. Rabbit have a whimsical and fun take on music, taking cues from all over, even the musical theatre scene. They play all their own instruments, having everything from the classics (piano and guitar), to more unique choices, like a xylophone solo in “힘든가요 (Morning Mix)”. The care-free attitude goes a step further in its production and editing. You can hear the squeaking of guitar playing, laughter and joking between the duo and the producer, as well as a dog barking (of all things)! This is distracting, but it adds a charm to the album. They’re telling us, “We’re proud of this project, warts and all, and hope you feel the same”, and the message is heard loud and clear.
The album can be separated into two parts, classic indie and musical theatre. The indie stuff includes the mid-tempo songs “요즘 너 말야 (Album Edit)” and “Amorejo”, the former an acoustic song that showcases Hyesun’s high voice, the latter a song that speaks softly and glides you along the simple composition. “힘든가요 (Morning Mix)” is the lounge track of the set, with the aforementioned xylophone solo (can you name the last time you heard a xylophone in a k-pop or k-indie song?) Lounge-like songs are common place in k-pop. Girl’s Generation’s Jessica and Tiffany did a lounge-style duet called “Talk to Me”, Brown Eyed Girls turned it on its electronic ear with “Moody Night”, and Taeyang’s “I Need A Girl” is a modern take on the lounge formula. Like Hyesun’s voice, the xylophone adds the lightness necessary to make it stand out. The ballads in this group include “Falling in Love”, with sweet vocal layers, and “내일을 묻는다 (Album Edit)”, a classic guitar ballad. But the best ballad in ‘It’s Spring’ is the album-ender, “요즘 너 말야 (Piano version)”, a stripped-down version of the opening track. It should have been called “vocal version” because Hyesun stretches her voice over a piano accompaniment to superb effect. “요즘 너 말야 (Piano ver.)” is a gem of a song.
As a whole, k-pop borrows heavily from Western popular music, but rarely are other styles used. Ga-In used tango for her mini “Step 2/4” and Jonghyun from SHINee made an incredible Korean cover of Spanish singer-songwriter Alejandro Sanz’s “Y Si Fuera Ella?”. Musical theatre compositions are rarely, if ever, used. “It’s Spring” contains three covers of famous pieces. “My Favorite Things” was done by legendary composer-duo Oscar Hammerstein II & Richard Rogers for “The Sound of Music”, made famous by Julie Andrews in the film adaptation. “Part of Your World” was part of the Disney film “The Little Mermaid”, while “Thank You for the Music” was by ABBA, though intended for theatrical use. All three are covered in the same style as the rest of the album, giving these three a wide-eyed quality geared to fans with stage aspirations. J. Rabbit take what they learned and display it in the bouncy song “Love is So Amazing”. The piano is played in a ragtime/swing style, with little flow between notes. Adding to the uniqueness, J. Rabbit use a violin like a fiddle, giving the song a rougher feel. The song is short, but it results in a complete and charming package. J. Rabbit’s musical theatre background shows and these songs play to the strengths of the two girls very well.
With an expanding k-indie scene, J.Rabbit has carved out its own spot with their sweet and fun approach to music. Pulling from more aspects in Western music adds variety to their package, while their delivery and execution puts it all in perspective of the album. “It’s Spring” is a collection of music that makes you happy and renewed, like the season it evokes.
Hi! My name is Xtian, and I’m a total pop music whore. I’m from NYC and can be seen dancing in the streets with headphones permanently glued to my ears. I may not have had a musical background, but I’m a lover of all things music, so I’m excited to be bringing a new voice to the McRoth’s funhouse. Y’all can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or better yet, follow me on twitter, where I do most of my social media-ing, @drowningn00b. See y’all lataz!