This was one of my gullible speculative purchases foisted on me by Mr Jay Kim at AM Records in Manhattan’s Koreatown. Bless him — he’s getting to know me too well. This one’s a cracker.
Yi (이승열) has a gorgeous mellow voice — but with the occasional rough edge to make him seem more human. The voice reminds me of Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy, and like Hannon he can write a great tune with a great chorus. There’s a good mix of slow ballad-style, mid-tempo and folky numbers, but nothing energetic. You’ll find yourself humming these songs for long after you’ve turned the CD player off. Try Buono Sera, Track 3, for a catchy number, and for a key change before the last verse which actually slips through surreptitiously without the abrupt gear change that you find in your typical cheesy Korean R&B album. In fact one shouldn’t make such comparisons. This stuff is in a completely different division.
A further treat is in store in the fourth track (가면), with the delectable voice of Loveholic’s 지선 joining for a well-matched duet. Unfortunately, Yi seems most popular for his slightly miserable tracks, and I couldn’t find any YouTubes to demonstrate either this track or my other favourites, the slightly more up-tempo Track 6 (스물 그리고 서른) and track 10 (방!), both of which demonstrate Yi’s wide vocal range: two and a half octaves including a well-controlled falsetto at the top.
One of the slightly tantalising things for a non-Korean speaker is the macaronic nature of the lyrics. Every now and then you catch a phrase of English — slightly meaningless out of context — before the song lapses back into Korean. No doubt the sentence as a whole makes perfect sense.
Here are the videos I’ve managed to track down:
Track 2, 기억할게:
Track 5: 우리는 (Que Sera OST)