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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Infinite - Reflex

I've long admired 7-piece K-pop band Infinite, particularly for their lush, string-laden productions that expertly blend East and West. But, for some reason, I've hesitated when it comes to their full albums. After a quick preview, I stupidly dismissed their latest full-length, Season 2. But now that the album's been re-released as Be Back, with an excellent new title track, I was tempted to give it another listen. Thank god I did! I am in love with this album! I even like the ballads, which is rare for me. But Infinite's synth-drenched dance tracks are its bread and butter. Reflex is a late-album highlight that sounds like it's straight from the 80's. In fact, it reminds me of a K-pop group covering a Rick Astley song. Weird, I know, but it all comes together perfectly. Also check out their new single, Back, which has an awesome, cinematic action music video.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

JS16 & Erkka - Girls On Film

I'm usually all about the melody, but sometimes it just comes down to the beat. There are bits and pieces of a vocals in here, sampled tremendously from Duran Duran's Girls On Film, but they pale in comparison to the gargantuan, driving beat that propels this track. It sucks you in like a whirlwind and throws you out the other end dazed, dizzy and totally thrilled. It's simply all about the production. Fans of Duran Duran will probably get a kick out of it too, even if the band's contribution isn't huge. It's perfect if you're looking for a summer workout song.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Hedegaard - Happy Home (ft. Lukas Graham)

"We got a lot of love and a happy home"

This is one of those songs that really captivates you and forces you to stop whatever you're doing to listen. And even more impressively, it manages to do this with minimal production. It's all about the vocals, melody and lyrics. Hedegaard is a Danish DJ and this song was actually a huge hit earlier this year (#1 for 19 weeks!), but is still enjoying success because its soulful singer, Lukas Graham, is currently blowing up. Graham's own music isn't really my thing, but I am in love with the slightly electronic, completely emotional drama displayed here. I'm not sure how I missed this track when it was first released. For those of you that share this fate, I consider it my duty to feature it today! You will fall madly in love.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Friday, July 25, 2014

GOT7 - A

"I know you want me"

I don't know why I initially slept on this song. I think it's because GOT7's debut track earlier this year was a little underwhelming, and they're from JYP, which is my least favorite of the big three Korean agencies (although I love its president, Park Jin-young). Jin-young wrote this track, and it's pretty evident because it has that soulful, addictive beat and feel to it that characterizes the best of his music. It's a ridiculously catchy single, and the seven (!) band members carry it off perfectly. I particularly love the music video, which reminds me of an old musical or something. If this was in English, it could easily be a big hit in the States. Either way, it should feature prominently on your summer playlist.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the mini album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bleachers - Like A River Runs

"When I fall asleep, I can see your face"

In a summer that has been (for me, at least) entirely dominated by international music, Bleachers' debut album has been a nice American surprise. Bleachers is the side-project of Jack Antonoff (of fun. fame). The album was released last week after three amazing singles. Those singles remain the best portion of the album, but the rest of the songs aren't exactly slouchers. Maybe a little more mellow, but still good. Like A River Runs is a late-album energizer, with surging production and a shout-along chorus. It represents what I consider the best qualities of Antonoff's music. If you like this, you should also check out his work with the band Steel Train. The song Bullet, in particular, is a nice aural companion to this one.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Monday, July 21, 2014

G.R.L. - Ugly Heart

"Your face is a work of art"

I am shocked that his song hasn't been a total smash worldwide by now. Honestly, it's only a matter of time. It's already blowing up in Australia. I'm not a huge fan of girl groups, so it takes something special for me to stand up and pay attention. G.R.L. are that something special. From their attitude/charisma to their campy, fun style to their surprisingly amazing songs, they are bound to be the next big thing. Honestly, they remind me of the Spice Girls a little in that they're both incredibly refreshing and utterly packaged. Sometimes strong branding isn't a bad thing. Each of these girls seems to inhabit their own cartoony character. Oh, and let's not forget about the song. This is a solid gold hit, through and through. The melody is amazing, the lyrics are great, and the whole thing reminds me of classic, 90's pop goodness. Check out the fab music video below and find yourself converted.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Friday, July 18, 2014

2NE1 - Crush

Crush is the fourth single taken from 2NE1's newest album of the same name. Add to that the three promo singles the group released last year and they've been quite prolific of late. I've been enjoying/obsessed with vocalist Park Bom on the reality show Roommate recently, so that's pulled me back into this excellent album. Crush is the opening track, and for some reason initially I dismissed it as being a bit of filler. It's amazing what a dynamite music video can do for a song! My love for the chorus, in particular, has been reinvigorated. There's so much attitude and swagger. The music video is for the Japanese version of the track, but not understanding either language, I just subbed this version in for the original Korean version on the album. I actually kind of prefer the sound of the Japanese language on this.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

B1A4 - Lonely & Solo Day

B1A4 are my latest obsession in K-pop. They have one of the most random names out there (the b's and a's stand for the members' blood types... yes, really), but their singles run has been spectacular. They have a youthful, poppy energy about them, sort of like the Korean One Direction. Most impressively, nearly all their singles (ie: their best tracks by far) have been written and produced by their leader, Jinyoung. Jinyoung also has the kind of charismatic voice that really appeals to me. It kind of reminds me of G-Dragon. Lots of character and texture in the vocals. I want to post both of their singles from this year, because they're quite different, yet both amazing in their own right. First is Lonely, which is probably my favorite ballad of 2014 so far. I just can't stop listening to it. It's like a perfect 80's/90's boyband throwback, with a gorgeous melody. Then there's the new summer single, Solo Day, which is the perfect kind of song for a day at the beach. It just oozes sunshine.They're both great videos, too.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy their albums here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

f(x) - Vacance

I know that I just posted an album track by Korean girl group f(x) last week, but the album is so good that I've got to share another as part of k-pop week. Vacance (French for "vacation?") is a whopper of a track. It ranges from sugary bubblegum pop to new wave to surging 80's power ballad all within three minutes. The end portion of the chorus is my absolute favorite part, where it gets all dramatic. Melody is so important in pop music (I'd argue that it's the most important ingredient), and this is a masterclass in constantly changing, uber-effective melody. It reminds me of something UK production group Xenomania would've come up with for Girls Aloud. Excellent, addictive stuff!

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Henry - Fantastic

"It's gonna be fantastic"

Kicking off this week in k-pop is Henry's amazing new comeback track. Henry hails from Canada and, despite learning Korean, is a bit of a fish out of water in the country. He's parlayed this fact (and his natural charisma and charm) into an incredibly popular career as both a singer and an in-demand reality tv star. Check him out in the popular Real Men series and you'll see why. The guy's got a great, endearing personality. Not only that, but he's a savant at violin and piano. The former instrument makes a breathtaking addition to this new song, which is already one of my favorites of the summer. I LOVE when classical music mixes with pop and dance, and the fusion is absolutely brilliant here. This is ridiculously catchy stuff, full of personality and a mammoth beat. Unfortunately, while the accompanying mini album is still good, it doesn't sound at all like this title track. I'm of the opinion that all of Henry's future music should include the violin. And he should also be a worldwide star. Just saying.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

The Ten Reasons YOU Should be Listening to K-Pop

It's K-Pop week here at alienhits! Many of you longtime readers have undoubtedly noticed that more and more Korean music has been featured on this blog the past several years. It may seem like a lot, but I'm actually holding back. I'd say about 50% of the music I listen to nowadays is of the k-pop variety. So, I need a whole week to focus on my favorite new musical region, starting with an overview today. I present to you, the ten reasons YOU should be listening to k-pop.

1. It’s more diverse than you think
In other words, it’s more than Gangnam Style. Sure, the k-pop industry is built upon that highly produced hybrid of dance, r&b, electro and hip-hop, but delve a bit further and you can find pretty much every genre represented in the community. In fact, the last three albums released from YG Entertainment's (one of the biggest agencies and star-makers in Korea) artist roster range from quirky folk-pop, old-fashioned r&b and futuristic hip-pop.

2. They have the art of distribution down
There’s no endless waiting around for your k-pop fix. It's not uncommon to have an album announced a week or two before it's released, followed quickly by several music videos and a full-on promotional tour. It’s wham bam, thank you ma'am. And they've learned the art of mini-albums (or what we'd call EPs in the West). This allows for more music, year round. Plus, if you decide to buy the physical albums (and you should), you’re rewarded with mini-pieces of art, quite often packaged in elaborate boxes and innovative design.

3. Big budget music videos
Miss the days of impressive, futuristic promo videos like Michael and Janet’s Scream? Well, most k-pop mvs are like mini movies, filmed with a glossy look that puts Western videos to shame. I don’t know how much they spend on these things, but they look like they’d cost millions of dollars. Plus, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a new one the day each album, single or mini-album is released.

4. Prolific album releases
Speaking of releases, it’s not uncommon for one group to release several mini-albums, or even several albums, a year. This means consistency in quality is sometimes an issue, but with so much music to prune from, who’s complaining? Multi-year waits between your favorite artist’s music releases are rare, while they seem to be the norm in the West.

5. They look damn good doing it
Beyond the gorgeous aesthetic appeal of most of these Idol Bands, their avant garde fashion and styling is compelling all on its own. You could put a G-Dragon video on mute and still be riveted just by the visuals. Plus, the dancing (and there’s a lot of it) is always on point.

6. It’s East meets West
More than any other Asian country or region, Korea's musical output is a real melting pot. It has that traditional Eastern appeal, and obviously the lyrics are mostly Korean, but it borrows heavily from Western inspirations as well. That makes it the most approachable Eastern music to foreigners. I don’t speak the language, but I still feel I understand most of what’s going on, especially from an aural perspective. Plus, a lot of the songs are co-written or produced by Europeans and even Americans. In fact, one of this blog’s favorite Danes, Thomas Troelsen, was my initial bridge into the world of k-pop with his great work with the band EXO. It’s an amazing, worldwide collaboration.

7. You can find a translation for almost anything
Many music videos feature English subtitles now, and if they don’t, it’s usually pretty easy to find them. Compare this to regions in Scandinavia, which are very tricky to find subtitles for. I wish they subtitled Sweden’s Melodifestivalen like they do many Korean shows.

8. Their “American Idol” equivalent is about fifty times better than ours
It’s called K-Pop Star, and it’s amazing. The judges actually know and critique music and music theory, the talent is unbelievably impressive, and it’s producing stars left and right -- most recently with Akdong Musician and Lee Hi at YG Entertainment.

9. The multifaceted talent is incredibly impressive
Much of the music might seem highly produced and processed, but behind the scenes, many of these superstars are ridiculously talented. It’s not uncommon to find a singer/dancer/rapper/composer/multi-instrumentalist. They take their music seriously in Korea.

10. It's a big pool, and you'll get addicted
It might seem overwhelming at first, but start with the big two agencies (SM and YG) and move from there. You'll quickly fall down the rabbit hole and have a hard time clawing your way back up!


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sub Focus - Close (ft. MNEK)

"I become obsessive and fanatic"

This is kind of an older song--almost a year old, in fact--but I was unfamiliar with it until I heard it last week while I was out shopping. I was instantly hooked by the garage-esque production and fast moving hook. It is one of those songs that require not even a full listen to stick in your head. Better yet, the vocalist on the track is none other than MNEK, who released the excellent Every Little Word earlier this year. I think the version that was playing in the store was the radio edit, which has a different vocalist. Funny enough, given my love for MNEK's voice, I actually think I prefer the radio edit. I guess it's because that's the version I heard first. But whoever's singing it, this is a dynamite dance track for the summer.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

f(x) - Dracula

SM has always been a reliable entertainment agency when it comes to awesome k-pop, but for some reason I've never been able to get fully on board with f(x), one of their successful girl groups. Luckily, after hearing such excitement in the build-up to its release, I decided to check out their newest album and it's amazing. When scanning the credits list, I noticed a lot of Scandinavian names. It’s so funny to me when two of my favorite musical regions combine forces, but SM uses quite a few Scandinavian songwriters with their roster of artists. This definitely explains why so many of the melodies on the album have that sugar sheen to them. Dracula is the standout to me, with a beat that would make Michael Jackson proud. That hook is EVERYTHING. It’s a massive, theatrical wall of aggressive dance beats and cheesy sound effects. I’m in love, and it'll be even better come Halloween-time.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Monday, July 07, 2014

Teflon Brothers - Maradona (kesä '86)

Over the past couple of years, Finland has emerged as a major music center (at least for me). There are just some languages that sound awesome when delivering pop songs, and I think Finnish is one of those. Unfortunately, I've got no idea what this track's about since I haven't been able to find a good translation anywhere, but from the sound, title and music video, I think it's safe to assume that this is a major 80's flashback. And Maradona is the last name of a famous footballer. So there you go. Extrapolate. The Teflon Brothers have been rattling off excellent dance single after excellent dance single, but this is heads and tails above all of them. That chorus! That production! Those little background elements that pop up here and there! I was hooked instantly, and it only gets better with each listen. Even if you can't understand the language, give this a try because the inherent greatness of the song is universal.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Friday, July 04, 2014

Alcazar - Good Lovin

"Tell me what it means to you"

It's a Swedish assault these past two days! Just after I recovered from the Fooo's new song, I gave the new Alcazar single a listen. Of course, it's an amazing example of cheesy, balls-to-the-wall schlager pop. That said, Good Lovin is definitely more modern than their Melodifestivalen entry this year. It has an irresistible summer sheen and huge dance beat, smothered by those layered Abba-esque vocals that the trio are so well known for. Simply put, we can always do with a bit more Alcazar in the world. I'm hoping this means that there's an album on the way.

Good Lovin by Alcazar on Grooveshark

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Thursday, July 03, 2014

The Fooo - All Over The World

"You gotta dance like that"

It's the Fooo! Need I say more? After their album was released in April, I figured that would be all we'd hear from them until maybe the Fall. But amazingly, this track popped into my facebook feed this morning. It, and its globe-trotting video, is utter pop bliss. The beat is actually pretty hardcore in places, but then that cotton-candy, singalong chorus rears its head and the track becomes yet another slice of pop perfection from the guys. I'm a little confused why they haven't broken out of Sweden yet. I mean, it's gonna happen. They're practically bred for worldwide stardom. But maybe it's better that this music remains a Scandinavian secret. All I ask is that they compete in next year's Melodifestivalen and clean the floor with all the other acts!

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Alexander Rybak - Into A Fantasy

"I will be with you every step"

When I want this specific kind of folksy-euro-old-fashioned pop music, I always know where to go. Alexander Rybak, even post-Fairytale, is always reliable. His music is earnest and irony-free, and very timeless. It just makes me happy. This track is from the Norwegian soundtrack of How To Train Your Dragon 2, which is really a perfect fit. I'm actually surprised he hasn't done more work for soundtracks. On first listen, I thought this was a little too Mumford and Sons-ish, but it's grown on me immensely, as most of Rybak's music does. His vocals are full of character and power, and the message is uplifting. It's perfect for kids, but also for those who will always be kids at heart (like moi).

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Monday, June 30, 2014

5 Seconds Of Summer - Long Way Home

"You know this is the way it's supposed to be"

So, I've been really enjoying the newly released 5 Seconds Of Summer album. It's a bit surprising, since I don't normally enjoy this type of teen punk/pop, but the fact that the guys wrote or cowrote almost anything gives the songs a lot of authenticity. I know music snobs will shout at me that there's nothing authentic about this kind of young, major-label band, but there are different kinds of authenticity. What I mean is that this actually sounds like teen music written by teens. And besides, I've never pretended that I'm into serious hipster indie music. I like pop with a capital "P." The bigger the chorus, the better. And these guys have a knack for churning them out. Take Long Way Home, for example. That chorus is melodically sticky, but is complemented be a second refrain that adds an extra punch. It's great stuff, and has a summery California vibe that's addictive.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Bade - Hide No More

"Hello, hello, c'mon"

Region restictions, region restrictions, region restrictions. I cannot tell you how much I HATE region restrictions. I've wanted to post this excellent track by Dutch artist Bade for months now, but every single link to the video has been restricted. Funny, because none of these links seems to have more than a couple of hundred views. Maybe more people would watch it if IT WASN'T REGION RESTRICTED. Why do you record labels make it so hard to be a music fan?? Ugh! But enough of that. This is an excellent, bubbly, catchy slice of pop that kind of reminds me of something ELO might come up with if they were just starting out in today's music scene. Today, you're gonna get an embedded a link to a video from some weird Asian site, because it's all I can find. Still, enjoy, because this song deserves to be heard worldwide.

Click here for the video

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Chaz McKinney - Girls & Boys

"Maybe we just keep this secret"

I feel like this blog has sort of adopted Chaz and his music. I don't feature a lot of super-indie artists on here, mostly because I favor a real professional production that tends to cost a lot of money to create. But, despite being totally independent, Chaz creates pop music that's glossy and polished, while still maintaining an artistic integrity that's all his own. I confess that I haven't had time to listen to his newly released album in its entirety, but I've sampled it and I've definitely been pulled in by the opening track in particular. Girls & Boys has that type of propulsive chorus that attracts me like a bug to sugar. I just love it, and I wish there was more of it on this album (again, I haven't delved in that deeply, so I could be wrong). But, if you haven't given McKinney's music a listen yet, this is a great place to start!

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.