LKL is delighted to welcome guest contributor refresh_daemon presenting his top albums of 2010. Other contributors will be joining in soon.
When Philip asked me to contribute to LKL’s yearly music round-up, I was actually quite excited about writing about my favorite new releases of 2010. Then I looked through the many albums that I’d purchased in 2010 and realized that very few of them were actually released in 2010 as I’ve been primarily concerned with listening to back-catalogs rather than latest releases. Consequently, I can only really pick three of the discs I’ve listened to that were released this year as choices and I’m going to cheat a little to make my top five by including two releases that were actually re-issues–but are still included for good reason here.
One thing that I have personally noticed about my more recent Korean musical intake is that I’ve become quite fond of female Korean singer-songwriters, from Han Heejung to Osoyoung and so that particular type of music has the greatest representation here:
이아립 (Earip), the former frontwoman of acid indiepop band Sweater, released an album earlier this year that I found to be a delightful, even if quiet and mellow indie folk-pop affair. There’s something about her warm alto that easily floods my listening sensibilities and while she’s drawn back from some of the more electronic/pop elements of her previous indie releases, I find 공기로 만든 노래 (words from the breath) to be perfectly accessible and certainly worthy of at least a listen.
Full review here: http://init-music.blogspot.com/2010/08/inbox.html
시와 (Siwa) is the other female singer-songwriter represented here. As for her, I actually found myself drawn most to her actual voice, which, like 이아립 is quite warm, but not as breathy and more measured. Many of her songs are observational in nature and quite pleasant, occasionally even cute (but not in an immature way), a contrast to the more intimate and emotional 이아립, but that doesn’t mean she fails to dig deeper and cut loose on 소요 逍遙. With 이아립, these two make up the two sides of the female singer-songwriter coin, different in nature, despite both of them fitting under that label.
Full review here: http://init-music.blogspot.com/2010/07/inbox_29.html
The final truly new release that I’m including here is I And I Djangdan’s Guidance. Anna, who runs the essential anglophone K-indie blog, Indieful ROK actually picked their debut EP as one of her choices for LKL’s Critics Choice 2008, and I found their first outing to be interesting, but a harder sell. The difference between Culture Tree and Guidance is subtle, but what sold me about Guidance was improved and cleaner production technique as well as a greater blending of Jang Goon’s pansori with the dub-reggae of the band, each working well to reinforce the other. While I admit that I And I Djangdan is probably still not particularly friendly to more casual music fans, because both pansori and dub are musical genres that require some getting used to, I thought that Guidance was a very successful record that incorporated both and never once felt like a gimmick.
Here’s my first cheat: 국카스텐 (Guckkasten) actually released their eponymous debut album in 2009, but after winning some serious awards for their uncompromising rock, they went back into the studio and re-recorded their album, possibly because they were dissatisfied with the somewhat sterile production. Either way, the band’s music blasts through the speakers on their re-recorded version with the immense ferocity that deservedly gave the band the spotlight in the Korean rock scene. Truly blistering, creative rock that took me by surprise because I’d never heard anything like it before.
wakesidevision’s review here: http://www.wakesidevision.com/2010/06/국카스텐-guckkasten-self-titled-re-record-review/
This final entry is actually a double-cheat. It’s both a remixed-remaster and it’s a box set. 3호선 버터플라이 (3rd Line Butterfly), in my opinion, is not only one of Korea’s premiere alternative rock acts, but I personally think the band’s music can easily stand in the pantheon of alternative rock greats and this box set is proof. Their discography had long been out of print since their last printing when Pastel Music pressed a batch in 2004 with the release of their third album, Time Table, and so much of the music was unavailable on disc until recently, when they signed up with Beatball to act as their distributors. Not only did they get brand new pressings of their back catalog to go along with their fantastic 2009 EP, Nine Days or a Million, but the original albums got a careful remix and remaster by the band to help make the music shine even more. The result? Another chance to listen to the almost head-spinningly exhilarating rock of this superb music act.
Full reviews here: http://init-music.blogspot.com/2010/11/inbox-3rd-line-butterfly-i-iii.html
The refresh_daemon has been a semi-regular consumer of Korean entertainment media since watching Korean saeguk dramas with his parents, rented from Korean videotape rental stores in his youth. Although his enthusiasm waned, his interest in Korean media was reignited while getting his undergraduate degree in Film/TV Studies and Music. He is a screenwriter by trade, but his interest in media, including Korean entertainment media, has led him to start a number of different blogs. “refresh_daemon” is an artifact of having started his video game blog before he even considered the other blogs: Init_Music | Init_Games | Init_Food | Init_Images | Init_MovingPictures | Init_WrittenWords.
I and I Djangdan can be sampled on MySpace. Siwa is on CyWorld. Albums are available at Hyang Music: Siwa | Earip | I and I Djangdan | 3rd Line Butterfly | Guckkasten. You can also find Guckkasten and 3rd Line Butterfly on iTunes.