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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Track-by-Track: Infinite - Be Back

Infinite has been a group I've admired for a few years, but for whatever reason I didn't connect with any of their full or mini albums. That has changed completely, and the strength of Be Back has even caused me to revisit their older albums with a new perspective. A note about any K-Pop review I do: I am not a Korean speaker. I search out translations of the lyrics when it interests me, but lyrics are definitely not something I'm focusing too heavily on in these reviews.

1. Season 2 - As with many K-Pop albums, this one starts with an intro. I don’t score intros, but for what it’s worth, this is actually my favorite intro Infinite’s ever done. Something about the piano. It also segues perfectly into the first actual track.

2. Last Romeo - When this was released as a single earlier in the year, I wasn’t too crazy about it. Boy, has that changed! Hearing it as a proper kick off to the album really highlights the power and energy of this song. I love the squealing guitars in the background and just the general relentlessness of the production. 10/10

3. Back - What more can I say about this song that I haven’t already? It may very well be my favorite Infinite track ever. The progression from haunting ballad to all out orchestral dance track is so, so well done. It possesses a sense of drama and structure that most pop songs lack, and boasts that tremendous breakdown after the first chorus that’s nothing short of aural euphoria. 10/10

4. Diamond - One of this album’s greatest hallmarks is that its ballads, which are not usually my favorite, are actually really strong. Diamond is a new track for the album’s reissue, and is very deserving of its place here. A lush, string-laden ballad with a real sense of dynamics, it suffers just a bit coming after the two tracks before it. Still, excellent stuff. 8/10

5. Follow Me - The first word I think of when listening to this track is “galloping.” It has a very unique start/stop beat that rarely maintains the same tempo for long. I can’t think of anything else to compare this to, but it sounds like a fantastic mix of the very old and the very current. Lots of strings going on here, too. I love the processed fade-out towards the end, before launching back into that full-voiced hook. It’s a very inventive track. 9/10

6. Rosinante - This is more of the classic, Sweetune Infinite sound, with an extremely strong, synth-drenched chorus. It’s a major uptempo to rival Last Romeo in energy. As with most of the songs on this album, the production is lush as hell. 10/10

7. Breathe - Other than the singles, this was the instant standout for me when I first listened to the album months ago. It’s all due to that chorus, which is definitely one of the album’s catchiest. The song itself is more typically K-Pop than most of the songs on the album, reminding me somewhat of Beast’s Breath. 9/10

8. Light (Sungkyu solo) - Sungkyu is my favorite member of the group and I absolutely love his solo work. That said, I find this to be one of the least memorable tracks on the album. It’s almost too pleasant and mid-tempo to leave much of an effect. Then again, I don’t ever skip it either and it certainly gets more interesting vocally as it goes on. 7/10

9. Alone (Infinite H) - Now this, I loved instantly and I still love now. A complete 180, this is a mellow but super-catchy hip-hop track with one heck of an earworm hook. I haven’t loved much of what subgroup Infinite H have put out before, but this is an album highlight. 10/10

10. Memories - We’re in mid-tempo/ballad territory again, but this one builds into one huge anthemic chorus, making it the kind of ballad that I definitely prefer. Those “doo doo doo doo doo” bits in the verses help things out, too. Sometimes it’s those little melodic touches! It’s definitely a more standard pop song than most of the tracks on the album, but that’s no bad thing. The guitar in the middle eight is pure, rousing power ballad bombast. 9/10

11. A Person Like Me - This is a much more traditional, slower ballad where an emotional vocal is the biggest highlight. I much prefer the verses over the chorus. I just find the progression of the melody to be much more interesting and catchy. 7/10

12. Reflex - Okay, this sounds like a K-Pop group covering Rick Astley or some other Stock, Aitken and Waterman track from the 80’s. It has the best, synth-driven 80’s production and melody in the chorus. Very unique for K-Pop, and very memorable. Classic layered Infinite vocals, too. In a lot of ways, this feels like the successor to Be Mine, one of their best singles to date. 10/10

13. I'm Going Crazy (Infinite F) - This is a new subgroup, and they bring a slightly experimental, off-the-wall production. It feels like some indie electronica gone pop. The melody is not the highlight here, though it’s certainly not bad. It’s just an odd duck, sonically. 8/10

14. Close Your Eyes (WooHyun solo) - This syrupy ballad was not of interest to me until the massive guitar kicked in just after the two minute mark. That’s some grade-A drama for you, right there. It reemerges a couple minutes later for an enormous climax of guitar, vocals and strings. Of course, me being a lover of bombast, I wish it had even more of that! 8/10

15. Shower - A strong uptempo to close the album, we’re back to that bright, densely produced Infinite sound. It’s got a strong chorus, particularly the b-section with its shout/sung vocals, and feels kind of like a lost single tacked on to the end of the album. 9/10

Album Grade: 8.9/10 Highly Recommended

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