Monday, 1 February 2016

February 2016 Music Recommendations + Playlist

I haven't put a playlist up in a while and I've been positively squeeing with joy over the music I've been listening to lately, so I thought it prudent to share the songs that made January a little more bearable and February seem a little brighter. This playlist is purely recommendations of songs I've been listening to lately/have been released lately. Most of my playlists in the past have essentially been this but I want to make a distinction between this tendency of mine and my aim to create playlists that are more thematic and atmospheric in the future.

There are, however, some thematic threads which run through this playlist - three, in fact (though a few tracks don't fit into these). These are: 1. The WINNER comeback, 2. The Cheese in The Trap Soundtrack and 3. The Korean R'n'B Scene. And, yes, this means that, once again, this music is all South Korean...What can I say, I don't like things halfway and the passion is going strong here. 


Among K-pop fans, the main question that you're asked upon meeting is who your favourite group is. I don't really have a single band that I hold above others as I enjoy the music but am a little past devoted fangirling (not that there's anything wrong with that), I'm too old and tired to commit that much energy to any one thing! (I'm aware I'm not actually old) However, in saying this, there are some bands that come close to making me commit and WINNER is one of them. It's hard not to fall in love with them as they all debuted at a relatively old age for the industry after all going through a lot to get where they were.

Two members were finalists in nationwide singing contests like X-Factor or The Voice and one member even almost debuted with another band. WINNER themselves were formed in a competition that pitted two groups made up of trainees from record label YG to become the first boyband launched by the company since megastars Bigbang. When they won, it was genuinely quite emotional and, as great as the other team was (now debuted themselves as IKON), most people were delighted for them - myself included. The band also has had major success since their debut and this tale of perseverance and success paired with the personalities displayed through various television shows makes them a rather likable lot.

At midnight Korean time, they launched their new album and follow-up to their hugely successful debut. At the time I'm writing this, they've topped 8 charts domestically and 11 internationally. EXIT : E, the EP, is part of a series of releases planned for the next few months, à la Bigbang and their MADE series. The EP features five tracks, all written or co-written by the band (an unusual and delightful trait). Three tracks feature the entire band, one is a solo track from one of the main vocalists, Nam Taehyun and the final track is a duet from Nam and one of the two rappers of the group, Song Mino.

I've featured almost the entire EP in this playlist as its release has already hugely altered my current soundscape. To say it is on repeat would be an understatement. My highlights are the emotional "I'm Young" (and its dramatic music video) from Nam, the smooth "Baby, Baby" from the entire group and the fun and dancey "Sentimental" (esp the corresponding choreo which I look forward to seeing in full in their live performances). However, the duet, "Pricked" also deserves a mention as a flawless pairing of rap and vocal performances and due to the fact that it wasn't officially promoted but released quietly before the EP launched and still made it onto charts.

Bravi, WINNER, I can't wait for the rest of EXIT.

2. Cheese in The Trap

tvN is a Korean cable channel which makes some of the best (and risk-taking, boundary-pushing) dramas in the country. Cheese in The Trap is a new drama which is still currently airing and which is based on a popular webtoon. The story revolves around the story of Hong Seol, a hard-working college student who comes from a poor background and has to take on multiple jobs to stay in school, yet manages to get top grades, and Yoo Jung, a rich, popular and intelligent senior. Seol notices he isn't as nice as everyone thinks he is one day and sets a whole series of events in motion by standing up to him. The acting is superb, the story intriguing (is Jung a tortured soul or a lunatic?), the characters lovable (I'm having major second-lead syndrome for Baek In-Ho) but one of the absolute best parts of the show is its soundtrack. Through it I've discovered No Respect for Beauty, a South Korean post-rock band that make the most wonderful walls of sound, and I'm utterly in love with them now. Much of the soundtrack and score comes from Tearliner and I've included both an instrumental piece and a song with lyrics that I've been digging. In addition, there are three more tracks on the playlist that come from the soundtrack from other artists. Did I mention how good this OST is?

3. Korean R&B

The final thematic thread in this playlist is Korean R&B. 2016 saw new music released by Dean, Crush and Zico and, boy, was I excited. Admittedly, some of these figures are problematic (it's hard not to find rap, hip-hop and R&B problematic at times) but these are very talented individuals. The latter two are pretty well established with Zico becoming more and more famous as a producer, being a member of idol group Block B yet managing to maintain his underground hip-hop street cred, producing endless amounts of new solo work and being taken on as a judge on Show Me The Money, a rap competition television show. (And, as he says himself, he's "only 24" which is actually only 23 in Western age. If you ever want to feel unproductive and bad about yourself, google him). Dean, meanwhile is the least well-known of the group but a huge up-and-coming star in the Korean scene (he has even worked with both of the other two artists).

All three have produced tracks in the last few weeks that are less hard-hitting than previous works and a little more melodic and melancholic and perfect for the season and weather.

BONUS: This final mention isn't on the playlist as the track isn't on Spotify yet but I've fallen so utterly in love with The Black Skirts' "Everything" that I had to include it in some way. This dreamy, genre-bending track from the one-man indie band that is the Black Skirts is a bit of a departure sound-wise but is so perfect. Again, much repeating.

Well, that's more talking than I meant to do...Anyway, here's the playlist! Enjoy and let me know if there's anything you've been digging or if you like anything here.


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