Another year is coming to an end, and in what has become an unfortunate trend I’ve found that I’ve listened to much less music than the year before. However judging from the limited number of releases that did reach my ears, I’d like to think that 2010 (and the three months preceding it) was a remarkably good year for Korean music.
Apollo 18 – Red+
Apollo 18’s Red EP was by far my favourite release of 2009 and at the time I couldn’t imagine anything trumping it any time soon. However in preparation for 2010 Apollo 18 re-recorded all songs from the EP, added a few new titles, and released it again. The beyond wonderful post-rock tune “Warm” turned even more stunning as the pace slowed down, and the new titles were all well worthy of accompanying the old ones with “Time” almost becoming a new favourite. The result: my most favourite release ever.
National Pigeon Unity – Empathy
My only issue with Apollo 18’s Red EP is that once I start listening it’s difficult for me to quit. That is unless I get around to changing to the first full length album of National Pigeon Unity. Although it does suffer from a lacking production that does not quite bring out all the qualities these talented guys showcase on stage, their songs are strong enough to make the album worthwhile through their mix of emo, punk and hardcore with a touch of post-rock. To boost the well thought out track order further enhances the listening experience, making it another album difficult to stop listening to.
Sunkyeol – Sunkyeol EP
Apart from Apollo 18, usually when somebody asks me for my favorite bands I will also say Sunkyeol. The warm and fuzzy “I’ll Write When I’m There” was no doubt the song I listened to the most during last year and it was included when in 2010 Sunkyeol finally gathered some demos on CD. The self-titled EP holds delightful songs somewhere in the realm between indie pop and rock, recorded in London from 2004-2006. I can hardly wait to hear what Sunkyeol will sound like when hitting the studio with some new material. (Anna interviews Sunkyeol here – Ed)
Yellow Monsters – Yellow Monsters
With a guitarist from GumX, a bassist from My Aunt Mary, and a drummer from Omega 3 / Delispice, Yellow Monsters is something of a super band. Their catchy blend of pop punk and rock with heavy riffs appealed to me from the first bar, and especially the slow-paced ballady pieces offer high potential for repeated play. Hopefully this is a project that’ll last.
Jambinai – Jambinai
Uniquely Korean, Jambinai offers stunning pieces lingering somewhere between post-rock and ambient drone. The trio’s creative use of traditional Korean instruments such as gayageum, gomungo and piri has resulted in some very fine sonic delicacies. Although my favourite song of theirs may not have been included on the EP, the half hour it lasts is pure aural pleasure. (Anna interviews Jambinai, and shares a couple of mp3s (including her favourite track), here – Ed)
- Autumn Vacation – 가을방학/3월의 마른 모래: While Autumn Vacation’s first album may have suffered some from over production, the talented duo’s preceeding digital single offered warm and sweet indie pop of the loveliest kind. The full single plays on MySpace.
- itta – Re:POPS!: After studying a bit of Korean psychedlic rock, itta worked together with some of the best rappers in Korea’s underground and made an album that made me actually want to listen to hiphop again.
- Misty Blue – 4/4 Sentimental Painkiller: With the final part of Misty Blue’s season series they finally found their way back to the lovely modern folk that made me a fan five years ago.
- Swallow – It: Perfect singer/songwriter album from Huckleberry Finn’s Lee Ki Yong, where he interplays with last year’s pick Lune for additional suavity. Two People can be downloaded from SoundCloud
- The Quip – Almost The Same: With The Quip possibly being the best unsigned act in Korea right now, the EP produced by Jelly Boy (aka bassist of Apollo 18) gathers an intriguing mix of somewhat experimental psychedelic grunge with a bit of djembe action.
- Zitten – Wonderland: Being disappointed with Pastel Music’s meddelling for Zitten’s first full length album I was very pleased to find that the old songs on the new EP had benefitted well from the more stream lined indie pop sound.