2007 was not an outstanding year for Korean music to be brutally honest. I found myself liking this song here and that song there, but only a few albums as a whole have commanded my attention this past year. The following are my top 5 picks for best Korean albums of 2007. My criteria for inclusion on this top 5 list are as follows: listenability, consistency, and variety. Listenability = I enjoy listening to the album. Consistency = the album contains very few, if any filler tracks. Finally, variety = the first song does not sound exactly like the second song, the second song does not sound like the third song, and so forth. All of these criteria are highly subjective of course, but that’s what made writing this article fun. It’s purely opinion.
My choice for 2007 album of the year is former Click-B member, Evan‘s (Yoo Ho Suk) debut solo album, ‘Hard to Breath.’ If you ignore the grammatically incorrect album title, this album comes pretty close to being flawless. Produced by former H.O.T/jtL legend, Tony An, it is a brilliant gem in a sea of dull, uninspired albums the Korean music industry has cranked out this year. It’s definitely the best pop album I’ve heard in a while. Evan’s vocals are soothing, sincere and never pretentious while delivering a refreshingly varied mix of R&B and modern jazz-influenced tunes. This album is simply a breath of fresh air.
Filling in the #2 spot is the Que Sera Sera OST. This has to be one of the best Korean drama OSTs I’ve heard in a while. It features some of the best names in Korean music such as Alex and Horan of Clazziquai, Loveholic, and My Aunt Mary. Newcomer W & Whale’s contribution is especially not to be missed. Most of the songs on the album are moody, but ‘Wolgwang (Moonrise)’ is sleek, shiny, stylish, and exciting. No, it’s not a fancy sports car. It’s just a really good song. The one thing that ties the whole album together though is an unspoken air of sophistication.
I don’t think you can call yourself a true fan of kpop if you haven’t heard of Fly to the Sky. Brian’s crystal clear vocals and Hwanhee’s rich powerhouse pipes are a winning combination. Ballads are a staple in Korean music and when it comes to their execution, Fly to the Sky is pretty much as good as it gets. That’s why Fly to the Sky’s seventh studio release gets my vote for the #3 spot. Since their baby-faced debut in 1999, the duo has grown tremendously and subtly reinvented their sound with each album release. Change has done them good. Be on the lookout for a couple of soulful blues-inspired tracks in addition to their signature R&B ballads on their latest album.
My next pick is Rumble Fish‘s third album, ‘Open the Safe.’ It’s pretty safe compared to the bolder and louder sound of their previous two albums. Nonetheless, it deserves a spot on this list for being such a solid well-rounded album. You’ll find a mix of rock ballads, upbeat rock tracks, big-band styled tunes, as well as jazz and bossa nova influenced tracks in ‘Open the Safe.’ Can you say versatile? In addition to variety, Rumble Fish also has Choi Jini’s commanding yet feminine vocals. I have yet to hear a ‘bad’ song from these guys.
Rounding out the top five, we have Donawhale‘s self-titled debut album which is a mix of alternative rock and soft pop with an ethereal feel. Their sound is light, dreamy, and slightly eccentric without ever being boring. Gentle female vocals that seem to echo from a distance add to the effect. Let Donawhale take you to another world. The band truly possesses a sound that they can call their own. This album may take a little time to appreciate; but it’s the perfect CD to spin after a long stressful day at school or work.
After 2006’s impressive string of good releases, 2007 was a bit of a slump for me when it came to new music. Thankfully, there were a few exceptions. I’m hoping for a better 2008.