To me, 2006 was a pretty weak year, music-wise, and it wasn’t really till the very end of November that it began to shape up. That’s when – after a two month delay – adultchild finally released their debut album, B TL B TL. Filled with soft slow paced mellow music, cosy guitar play and lovely female vocals, adultchild had with the assistance of Soda (aka Oldfish) refined the sound from their demos and came off as full worthy label mates of Pastel Music’s premier mellow act, Bluedawn. Their formula with a careful beginning that gradually builds up towards a stronger end works great on me. Hopefully the attention adultchild have gotten from their participation on Tearliner’s Coffee Prince OST will last and we’ll get to hear much more from this band in the future.
Speaking of Bluedawn, their 보옴이 오면 (When Spring Comes) is another noteworthy release of late 2006. While I have enjoyed the music of Bluedawn since the release of their self titled debut, it wasn’t till I got this particular album in my hands that I realized why most of my k-indie listening friends held them in such high regard. There’s nothing but loveliness on this album. It’s a delight to listen to the voice of Dawny (한희정) pared with these beautiful melodies. Acoustic guitar, electronic elements and the occasional piano – they’re all perfectly balanced. The whole arrangement makes me feel at ease. Sadly, this album serves as Bluedawn’s “goodbye” album. At least they left with flying colours.
But Pastel Music has more to offer than adultchild and Bluedawn when it comes to dreamy stuff with sweet vocals. In the same category, there’s also donawhale that saw the release of a self titled debut album in May. Compared to the other two, donawhale have a little more “action” – a rock element, if you may – in their songs and on this album they also have a wider span. From the lovely piano solo that is 비오는 밤 to the amazing 아카시아 which, as Jenny said in her review, is more of a light alternative rock track with a certain airiness. It’s hard to describe exactly why 아카시아 has such appeal to me. Suffice it to say it’s the kind of song that can keep me up all night, just listening to music, even when I have to get up early. Some of that quality can be heard in every song on this album. I can hardly wait to hear how they will administer it till their next release.
Onto something different. The end of last year also brought a couple of really good releases from Dope Entertainment: the first full length albums of Same Old Story and Hollow Jan. Listening to good music will usually put me in a good mood. Then there’s the kind of music, like that of Same Old Story, that in addition to having a mood enhancing effect on me will also create an energy surge. It’s rare for an album to contain nothing but such tracks without every song sounding like another, but Same Old Story actually pull it off. This is melodic punk of the kind commonly labeled emo. I don’t always know what they’re singing about, but I don’t have to either. The enthusiasm conveyed by the vocalist alongside the guitars is really all I need.
I consider myself to be something of an omnivore of music, but there are some genres I tend avoid. One is screamo, the obvious reason being I don’t like screaming people. Thus I was surprised to find myself thoroughly enjoying Hollow Jan’s Rough Draft in Progress as just about all lyrics are screamed out. There is, however, a perfectly good explanation for this. Just like there are genres I tend to avoid, there are genres I favor over others. One favored genre is post-rock – somewhat generalized it’s about beautifully orchestrated instrumental pieces performed on the same kind of instruments as most rock bands would use – and that’s pretty much where I’d put the background music of Hollow Jan. If I dislike screamo, doesn’t the vocals ruin the experience of the background music then? I’d argue they don’t. Instead they add to the dynamics that make listening to post-rock so intriguing. Admittedly, on of my favourite tracks on this album is the all instrumental “Water from the Same Source”, but as it surpasses the original of Rachel’s it just shows how good these guys really are.
In addition to great albums from Bluedawn and a bunch of newcomers (more or less), the past year also offered one of the comebacks I have anticipated the most: that of MOT. Considering how much I liked their first album I was bound to get disappointed with Strange Season. Although with the wonderful 클로즈 and the exquisite 서울은 흐림, where the soothing voice of Dawny can be heard over a Scandinavian ringing piano, the initial disappointment passed faster than expected. Despite a fairly varied album, every song on it sounds like the MOT I like so much. I can’t say that every song is great, but the overall quality of the album certainly is.
Back to Pastel Music: This year’s biggest surprise was no doubt Jelly Boy’s They Dream Daydream Everyday. His first album didn’t even come close to my high expectations (after all he is a Pastel artist), so I had written him off as somebody not to care too much about. Being the Pastel junkie that I am, however, I had to listen to Jelly Boy on various compilations anyway and as his second album was released some songs of his had grown on me enough for me to decide to give him a second chance. Lucky I did. Jelly Boy (해파리소년) is obviously not afraid of trying different genres and the results of his efforts are commendable. In addition to the electronic based indie pop/rock I associate with Jelly Boy there are also post-rock tendencies, cabaret flavours and the mellow dreamy kind of music the previously mentioned Pastel bands focus on. His instrumentals are all gorgeous and every song has it’s own charm. Now I’ll have to listen to his first album again.
I would’ve loved to put Tearliner‘s Polaroid Life – another highly anticipated comeback of the past year – among the titles above, but it didn’t fit. Still, it would not be my finest recommendations if I failed to mention the one song that I have listened to more than any other in the past year: 함께라면. This incredible song, which isn’t even three minutes long, was put in my cell phone in May. Since then I have traveled for hours and hours – up to eight hours at a time – listening to nothing but this particular song. Acoustic guitars and Liner singing in Korean to this beautiful melody is good enough. Add some strings and it’s great. Add some percussion and it’s awesome. Add a piano and it’s off the scale.