It's always interesting to see what band members create after a group breaks up. In the case of the Ark, lead singer Ola Salo went solo with music very similar to that of the band. He was always the face, though, and seemingly the driving force behind most of the Ark's music. Jens Andersson and Mikael Jepson played keyboards and lead guitar, respectively, and have brought both of those skills to this new track that they produced under the moniker NGHT. Redefine is a departure for the guys. It's far more influenced by dance and club music than anything the Ark did. But it's not the newer, trendier EDM that they're taking as inspiration. Instead, it seems to be the simpler, campier stuff that was popular in the late nineties. The high pitch of the vocals in the chorus reminds me a little bit of Scooter, but not annoying like most Scooter songs were. Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about the song as a whole yet. It has a very inorganic, produced feel that kind of puts me off, but I do love that hook and beat.
This is definitely not a new song. In fact, it was released over three (!) years ago. But it is Darin's best song, in a career of pretty awesome songs. I was always upset that it never got a music video back in 2012. The thing about brilliant songs, however, is that they're bound to get discovered and revived eventually. This time it's Asia, with its excellent taste in music, who has taken to Nobody Knows. With this new push comes the big budget music video the track always deserved. Justice doesn't always happen in pop music, but this whole story has made my day. The track sounds as brilliant now as it did three years ago.
VIXX has had an interesting year so far. Instead of coming back as usual, they released a cover track back in February and now this unit track, which combines two of the more recognizable (yet very different) members. Honestly, I didn't know what to expect, and I kind of just wished they'd come back as a whole group. It turns out that the new mini album is a mixed bag. There is one full group track, which is very good, and then a couple of middling solos. The title track itself is a nice dramatic ballad, with a heavy American influence. The best thing about it is actually the artistic and dark music video, which is beautifully shot and acted. The visuals grab you from the get-go, especially the lonely piano surrounded by the blackness of night. It makes me thirst even more for a full-group comeback.
As summer starts to wind down, I'm still looking for those perfect tracks for the hot weather. The unfortunately-named Dickpunks have released a few this season, despite being all but ignored by the k-pop fandom at large. We Young was a dance-infused departure for them that paid off big time, but Let's Play In The Han River may just be better. It's a bouncy, uber-joyful throwback track that displays what I love most about this band. The vocals, the singalong melody, and the pure musicianship just put me in a great mood from start to finish. It's one of those timeless tracks that could easily slot itself in any decade it wanted to. Lucky for us, the guys decided to release it this year. It's quickly become my favorite song they've recorded.
Earlier this month, K-Pop group Shinee got "Married to the Music." Even before that, though, J-Pop group w-inds. was "In Love with the Music." I like to think that these two songs are related, and it's not just because of the titles. Both groups are mining a very discofied, MJ-before-he-was-MJ style of 70's dance pop for their latest releases. It's actually a trend I've been noticing in Asian music for the past few months, and while I can't say it's my absolute favorite decade to throw back to, the trend has resulted in some pretty awesome songs. Now about w-inds... I've been exploring the vast world of J-Pop for the past month or so. It's super exciting, but pretty difficult due to the fact that Japan doesn't make it as easy as Korea for foreigners to discover new music. Recommendations are always helpful, but sometimes the itunes store is also my friend. Much of the poppier side of J-Pop doesn't seem to be available there, but I discovered w-inds. through the store. I don't think they'll be the type of band where I end up loving every single thing they release, but this most recent single is pretty undeniable. It's so catchy and summery, and I love the big drums in the breakdown.
Swiss Lips are back with a new track on their soundcloud feed, and as usual I'm inclined to share it here. This is a band that never broke out big, despite releasing a string of excellent synth-rock tracks. And now they've unfortunately announced their disbandment. Sadly, they just never produced that one song that'd become a hit for them, despite a discography full of excellent material. Got It Bad may be their best song yet, particularly that grand, intensely jubilant backing track. I talked about Sound Of Arrows last Friday, and the music in the second half of this reminds me of something those guys would have created. It has that vast, slightly interstellar feel to it (if music can be described as "interstellar"!). The song is taken from their upcoming second (and last) album, which from the samples sounds like it could be quite good.
I apologize for missing a couple of days. Itunes screwed up the album artwork on my iphone for the second time this summer, so I've been spending the past 24 hours re-embedding artwork one album at a time. A process that will, charmingly, take weeks. Ugh. Now, I've shared this brilliant, brilliant remix before, but I thought it was appropriate to draw attention to it once more because of the recent news that Sound Of Arrows may be coming back with new material for the first time in four years. For those who don't know, Sound Of Arrows released one of the best pop albums of the past 20 years when they unleashed Voyage on us in 2011. The song below was the album's climax, though not in this remixed form. Be sure to check out this new interview with them, and if you haven't given the album a spin, what are you waiting for? Catch up before it's too late!!
Swedish pop genius Robyn has taken a page from the Korean music industry and opted for the concept of mini-albums over full lengths. Her newest is a journey through 90's-inspired dance and club music. It's loose and somewhat freeform, with an emphasis on groove over rigid song structure. As such, it's not likely to have as wide an influence as her best material. I'm hoping, though, that it'll have some nice staying power instead. I'm already impressed with the ridiculously catchy Got To Work It Out. The groove itself is enough to rave about, but Robyn has always been an expert at riding a song and imbuing every last word with a palpable attitude. It's so good to have her back, and I hope that mini-album releases mean we won't have to wait as long for new music next time.
Upon first listen, I was a little worried about the new B1A4 single. They are one of my absolute favorite K-Pop groups, particularly because they tend to honor strong pop songwriting over following trends. Sweet Girl, which is very much a 70's disco pastiche, isn't really what I wanted from them. And on first listen, the song itself didn't sound hooky enough at all to be a single -- especially one we've had to wait over a year for. However, it's growing on me. The guitar solos, in particular, really elevate it into something special. I think I might prefer the second track on the mini album, though. Despite its somewhat cringe-worthy title (which is frequently repeated in the chorus), the song is an energetic, extremely well-produced pop song. It maintains the 70's feel that highlights the bulk of the album, but it has a rockier backbone than most of what B1A4 have produced. I'd actually label it "power-pop" more than anything, which is a refreshing genre for mainstream Korean music to explore. Whatever you'd call it, it's a big track with an incredibly anthemic hook. In fact, the entire mini is more impressive than I'd first given it credit for.
Sometimes you just want a nice song. It doesn't have to be earth-shattering or different or even standout. Sometimes "nice" is all that's needed. And in Bigbang's relentless summer of genre-hopping, I was very happy to hear Let's Not Fall In Love, which sounds a little like a few of their past singles thrown into a blender. It's a subtle, gentle track, but has an excellent melodic core that never strays into unnecessary showboating. It's a particular, moody sound that Bigbang excels at. And the video? It's just as simple and just as effective, with the guys looking better than they have all summer.
I'm a bit ashamed to admit that, beyond their more obvious singles, I've never really followed Wonder Girls. I know that they're pretty much modern K-Pop legends, but I just never really explored their music before. So, when they announced that they were coming back this year, I didn't really know what to think. Then they announced the fact that they were returning with an 80's synth band concept, and my interest was suddenly piqued. I'm happy to report that the end product is even better than I would have expected. The entire album is incredibly strong and committed to the late 80's sound that their new single, I Feel You, displays so brilliantly. The hook is great, but the verses are what really kill me. I can't tell if the melody/delivery reminds me of a specific late-80's track or every single late-80's track. Either way, it brings up all manner of warm and fuzzy nostalgic feelings. The girls have really hit a home run here. I wish all of their back catalog was 80's inspired!
I came back from the awesome experience that was KCON 2015 just yesterday, and it really made me even more obsessed with K-Pop than I was before. I didn't think it was possible, but I was proven wrong. Even better, when I returned from the convention, there was handful of new releases waiting for me. The one I was most excited for was Shinee's new single. Their View, despite initially underwhelming, has wormed its way up to my most-played song of the year so far. I'm not sure that Married To The Music can top that. It's just not as catchy. However, its overall sound inches closer to what I love and expect from Shinee's music. It actually sounds kind of like a slightly less awesome version of Exo's Love Me Right, which was released two months ago. In other words, it's heavy on the MJ-inspired funk. The real reason I wanted to mention it, though, is so that I could post the fun and crazy music video. It's so bizarre, yet you can't turn away. You've just gotta watch it.
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.
...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.