When I start investigating something, I get borderline obsessive. It's my favorite time as a music fan. It's like unlocking a new level in a game. It was like that when I first started delving into the world of K-Pop (a world I am extremely confident in navigating nowadays). Over the past week or so, I finally made the leap to J-Pop. I already posted a track by Kat-Tun last week, which is one of two groups that I've been fawning over. Now I feel compelled to post this one from News, which is a senior group on the same label as Kat-Tun. Now, the music video is quite something. I don't *think* it's meant to be funny, but I find it fascinating that the director (or the artists?) determined that this kind of posing and wardrobe would be "sexy." It's incredibly effeminate for sure, which is actually totally awesome but a bit jarring to the Western eye. I know that the song is based on a Japanese folktale about a princess, so maybe that has something to do with it. The track itself is epic, though. The jackhammer chorus, coupled with the incredibly bombastic production, has been lodged in my head for days now. It could easily become the first true J-Pop song to find its way onto my end-of-year countdown come December. (And let's be honest, as awkward as it is, the music video is kind of addictively strange).
**No posts for the next week because, speaking of K-Pop, I'll be enjoying two nights of concerts in L.A. at KCON! (I'll make sure to report back)
Robyn is back with a new EP (finally!) early next month. It's another collaboration, this time with La Bagatelle Magique, a band of sorts that she has gathered to help her set the sound of her new material. I wasn't a huge fan of the first teaser track we got, but Set Me Free is much more in line with the Robyn I've come to know and love. A tad repetitive perhaps, but it's definitely got that quirky, swirling 80's electropop vibe that characterizes her best work. What I love so much about Robyn's music is that, barring her first few albums, she doesn't follow any trends. Instead, she blazes her own path and always comes up with something that sounds both current and classic. And even in something as melodically simple as this track, there's always a deep underpinning of emotions in the vocals.
Nervo - The Other Boys (ft. Jake Shears, Kylie Minogue and Nile Rogers)
What a fantastic surprise this is! We haven't heard from Scissor Sisters' Jake Shears for quite awhile, and to see his name alongside Kylie Minogue on this Nervo track nearly made me jump out of my seat. Then I played the song and realized that it's actually even more brilliantly fun than I'd imagined. What a beat! It makes me wish that Jake and Kylie would record an entire album with Nervo producing. Their synergy is electric, and feels like one of those team-ups that was just always meant to happen. And then Nile Rogers comes in with that guitar at the end and... well, can you tell I'm excited?
If you can't stomach a little cutesy sugar rush, you should probably stop reading now. It's not usually my thing either, but the ridiculously names Gfriend do one thing and they do it very, very well. It felt like they came out of absolutely nowhere earlier this year, and are now back with a song that sounds a lot like their last one. Luckily, that's exactly what I wanted from them. Me Gustas Tu is a sinfully catchy piece of pop music. It's something that Korean girl groups do especially well, and I'd put Gfriend right at the top of the heap, despite not being around very long at all. It's the little bursts of electric guitars and strings that send this over the top. That, and the hook directly after the main chorus, create a powerful bubblegum confection that's really hard to resist. These girls are going places, and quickly.
I'm kind of on a mission. Not that there isn't enough awesome K-Pop to keep me going forever, but I'm also trying to dip a toe into the gigantic and sometimes very weird pool that is J-Pop. I don't think I'll ever be a massive fan for a number of reasons, including aural aesthetics that just don't completely align with my personal taste, but I want to get familiar. In my brief studies, I ran into a group called KAT-TUN that sounds a bit more on the K-Pop side. In particular, I've been giving a lot of love to their most recent full-length album. The title track reminded me of a Shinee single the first time I heard it. Then I went on wikipedia and, lo and behold, it's because it shares some writers that have worked on Shinee material in the past. Even so, Come Here is a dynamite slice of hyper active power pop. More than anything, it's a great bridge that will hopefully give me some confidence to continue exploring. I'm wondering, are any of my readers J-Pop fans? If so, what would you recommend? I'm dreaming of finding something that sounds like Infinite, but I'm doubtful that it exists.
We're going to travel back in time a couple of years today. Over the weekend, I started familiarizing with one of Korea's most popular second generation idol groups, SS501. They were active as a group until 2010, at which point the members started embarking on solo careers. I was already familiar with member Heo Young-saeng, because he did some awesome work with my favorite production team, Sweetune. But on Saturday, I started to get obsessed with the more theatrical work of Park Jung-min, who released his best recordings in Japan under the moniker Romeo. His album Midnight Theatre, in particular, is filled with extremely propulsive, well-produced dramatic pop/dance music. The soaring chorus of Give Me Your Heart is undeniable. The melody is gargantuan in scope, sung with a palpable sense of urgency and desperation. It's the kind of track I fell in love with based only on a 30-second clip. But lucky you! Because you've got the whole thing to enjoy below. I'd especially urge my fellow Melodifestivalen/Eurovision fans to give this a lesson, because it would fit right in on either of those programs.
It's gonna be a pretty K-Pop heavy couple of weeks, as tons of big new releases continue to be announced. SM Entertainment, in particular, seems hellbent on making sure every one of their artists gets a comeback before summer ends. Super Junior is certainly one of their most prominent groups. I'm not 100% on board with all of their material, but they definitely have their fair share of classics and a ton of awesome album tracks to back them up. Devil is the new single, and it's the kind of track that is so unbelievably catchy that it'll either capture you from the get-go or drive you crazy. I'm a bit obsessed with the chorus, but my god it's been stuck in my head for the past few days. So even though I love it, I'm also kind of pissed at it. Those harmonies, though! Just try to shake this from your head.
With each release, I've fallen more and more in love with GOT7's music. I was a little late to the party, skipping past their debut in early 2014, but then I became absolutely obsessed with last summer's A (still their best song). Then, group member Jackson joined my favorite (and sadly cancelled) Korean variety show, Roommate, and... well if you've watched any of Jackson's variety shows, you'll know that he's pretty much impossible to dislike. Last fall, the group released the supremely underrated and fantastic Identify album, and I've been waiting for a follow-up ever since. The weird thing about GOT7 is that they release totally different types of songs each time they comeback. Just Right seems to be a hybrid of the skeletal hip-hop of their debut Girls Girls Girls, and the summer-time, melodic pop of A. It's got an incredible hook, with a clever, relaxing melody and one of the best music videos of the year. While I was hoping for something a little more uptempo and in-your-face for the summer, I really can't help but adore what we ended up getting. It's quite an unusual, oddball pop song but it makes you feel oh so good.
Darin released his new single today in Nordic countries, and in doing so pretty much confirmed that he is fully committed to this new folk-pop sound (at least for this album). Juliet is slightly more uptempo than his last single, but otherwise sounds very similat. Honestly, very few people can get away with this kind of Mumford-and-Sons-lite music without driving me absolutely crazy. It's just not my thing. I did, however, love Darin's last release. This one doesn't quite measure up in comparison, but it's a fun summer song and I suspect that it's going to grow on me in a major way. If I'm being selfish, what I'd really like to see is this kind of sound fused with the anthemic club music he was releasing during his stint on Så mycket bättre in late 2012.
The kings of Korea are back! I'm definitely biased, because Infinite are my favorite band on the planet right now and it's not even close. Over the past year or so, they have entered the hallowed pantheon of god-like artists in my mind, sitting comfortably beside Janet/Michael Jackson and The Ark. As they started teasing for their comeback last week, I was a little disappointed that they seemed to be going for more of an urban sound this time. While I love urban music, it's not why I like Infinite. Because of this, Bad will probably never be my favorite Infinite single, but I was so pleased that the song isn't just some hip-hop trend-follower. No, the classic Infinite drama is there, from those powerful, emotive vocals to one hell of a string section. If the first portion of this song doesn't get you pumped up, then I just don't know how to fix you. I've even come around to that "bad, bad, bad, etc" hook, despite my dislike of choruses that simply repeat one word over and over again. It's certainly no Back, but it would be unfair to raise expectations that high for two singles in a row. I still adore it, and I'm hoping for a lighter, more melodic song to follow up (dare I dream of something as mind-blowingly perfect as a The Chaser sequel?). Oh yeah... and the music video is super badass.
You can thank a long, serpentine night of itunes browsing for this one. I love taking the rabbit hole down "artists you may like" and discovering new music. Smallpools are an indie power-pop band who specialize in fizzy, hyper-catchy rock music, and this is best evidenced by their fantastic single Killer Whales. Now, just to be clear, I personally don't like the band name or the song name, but if I forget all of that and just listen to the track, I'm brought back to some fantastic power pop of the late 70's and early 80's. That chorus is just massive, and should be a staple on modern rock radio this year (but it probably won't). It's certainly going to find its place on my 2015 Summer Beach playlist!
It's been quite awhile since we've heard from Ollie Wride. He's one of this blog's favorite indie artists, and has recorded some truly awesome tracks that I choose to believe were huge pop hits in another dimension. This week, he resurfaces as a guest vocalist for producer TimeCop 1983's new album. He features on the final track, a wistful, spacey slow burn that (unsurprisingly) screams 80's. The track has me interested in visiting TimeCop's full-length, which luckily is streaming on soundcloud for free. Ollie would do well to feature on tracks like this more often. He's a brilliant vocalist and fits electro/club music like a glove. In a perfect world, these kind of featurings would give him the fame an notoriety that he deserves and launch that long-gestating solo career so that we can all bathe in his epicness.
So I haven't yet listened to this new Giorgio Moroder collaboration album, but I did manage to hear this track and instantly fall in love. The album is full of far more notable/famous guest vocalists, but from the little I've heard, this dramatic slice of string-laden pop is bound to be the biggest standout for me. Mikky Ekko is most well known for guesting on Rihanna's Stay. He's also released some solo stuff to minor success. But to be honest, I probably would've liked this track regardless of who was singing, because it's all about that production... especially when it gets very dramatic and intricate towards the end. More of this sound from Mikky's solo projects and I'd certainly be forced to pay attention!
I've recently started getting into Nine Muses's back catalog. They've worked extensively with my favorite producers, Sweetune, so that was the initial impetus to check them out. But now they've gone and released the spectacular Hurt Locker and really sealed the deal for me. Hurt Locker features one of my favorite things in pop music... that wall of sound at the end of the chorus formed by layers of intense vocals. Despite this not being a Sweetune production, it's one of their hallmarks and lends an enormous amount of power to what could have otherwise been a normal (albeit extremely catchy) dance track. If you like this, seek out Action, which is one of their album tracks from two years ago. It's got a very similar, epic sound. Definitely one of the better girl group releases of the year.
About a month ago, I wrote one of my more critical posts about Bigbang's Bang Bang Bang. Against all odds, that song has somehow made a rebound and become one of my most played songs of the summer so far. In other words, it took a long time to click. Sober, the group's newest single in their summer bombardment, clicked pretty much instantly. Doesn't mean it's any better or worse, but it is definitely one of Bigbang's styles that I prefer. In a lot of ways, Sober's rock influences make it sound like a sequel to G-Dragon's Crooked. In fact, GD had even performed a bit of the track as an intro to Crooked two years ago. Though the songs share a lot of aural similarities, Sober is nowhere near as good as Crooked (though to be fair, not much is). It's a high water mark, and I'm fine settling for a lesser copycat if it means we get more Bigbang tracks that sound like this. The song's under fire for plagiarism accusations of The Wanted's Glad You Came. Honestly, I don't hear it and I don't care. What I do like is the 90's alternative-style music video and the entire last third of the song, where it really travels into rock territory.
Over the past few months, Beast have quietly been building one of the year's best batch of songs. Ever since March, they've been releasing one Japanese-language track a month. These have been remarkably consistent. In fact, I'd actually say they've been getting better each month. This Is My Life, released a few days ago, is my favorite of the bunch. This was confirmed almost immediately, with that gorgeous, funky synth opening. Then the song itself sets in and has a vaguely African feel (maybe that's just me, though?). As longtime readers know, I'm a sucker for African instrumentation in a pop song. Blame too many viewings of The Lion King growing up. The melody is also just exquisite, rising and falling with the flawless production. It's the kind of song that sneaks up on you and reveals its brilliance the more you listen to it. Now we just need a Korean comeback!
I've been wanting to write about this track from rising Finnish pop star Benjamin for weeks now, but was unable to find any means of legally streaming it for you guys (hence the live performance below). But streaming or not, make sure you track down this song. It's simply too good to miss. The EDM + Country-esque combo has been super popular ever since Avicii hit it big with Wake Me Up. Usually, these tracks come off as just what they are: cheap knockoffs. But Benjamin has borrowed just enough of that sound for Young and Restless and, more importantly, fused it to an actual pop melody. He recently released his first EP, which is pretty solid. But this is by far the standout track.
As evidenced by Tuesday's post, summer music has fully bloomed in Korea. The theme (at least visually) this year seems to be neon 80's colors, as seen in Teen Top's fun new video for ah-ah. The song itself is a smooth throwback to the day when Michael Jackson ruled the airwaves. For some reason, to me it sounds like a track that would've been played to death at roller rinks. At first it may seem a little underwhelming, but it's a total grower (same thing for the accompanying album). It's also a welcome step back onto the dance floor for a group that's released more subdued music for the past year or so. And that fancy footwork! I love it.
Though it won't be out in the States until early fall, Carly Rae Jepsen's newest album was released in Japan earlier this week. To be honest, I didn't pay much attention when the first single, I Really Like You, was released. But then I started hearing awesome things about the album as a whole, and I got really excited to check it out. I'm so glad I did. Song for song, the album feels like nothing short of a sugary 80's pop masterpiece. Despite being seventeen tracks long, the consistency of the track's massive hooks is very, very impressive. Chief among them is the transcendent Making the Most of the Night. Even on the first listen, this is the song that stood out most. The ridiculously catchy and uplifting hook is so perfectly produced and performed that it turns into something quite epic. And it gets better the more you listen to it. Best of all, the song itself is just pure positivity. No twerking or "dranking," just unadulterated joy. Whether or not Carly will find widespread success with this album or remain a one-hit-wonder in most people's minds, I'm just glad she was able to release songs like this with the big budget needed to make them really shine.
The floodgates have officially opened and now that it is summer, K-pop season is well and truly upon us. I love how every year around this time we get handfuls of bright, summery tracks from South Korea. One group that's been known for these types of singles is girl group Sistar. Sistar is enormously popular in Korea (and I'll be seeing them live in about a month as part of KCON), but for whatever reason I've been slow to connect with them. Shake It will probably be the song that tips the scale for me. It just sounds like summer, with hook upon hook. In fact, it doesn't really have a chorus in the traditional sense. It's more like one of those Xenomania-produced Girls Aloud tracks where it's literally three or four choruses constantly repeating. Unfortunately we don't get this kind of music in America any more. Thank god for Korea!
...Transmissions come in from outposts all over the universe... Unfamiliar melodies stream into our radios... Fronted by colorful aliens with big voices... The music begins to catch on ... It's in our heads and it refuses to leave... And we like it...
Submissions: If you are an artist or label and would like to send mp3's for posting, email me. If you read Alienhits, you know what type of music I write about. I will not review or respond to submissions that do not fit on this blog, however good they might be.
I post music on this blog out of love for the artists and in the hope that I can promote the singers and bands that I am so passionate about. If you are (or represent) an artist and would like any content taken down, don't hesitate to email me at the link above and it will be removed immediately.