Best Albums of 2015
selected by Guwon Jeong

Ankle Attack <BR>“The Silent Syllable” EP

Ankle Attack
“The Silent Syllable” EP

Attack is three-piece “Rock Band” from Korea. I add quotation marks because they are a fucking rock band, really.

To borrow words from their fellow musician Danpyunsun (단편선), their music sounds like “a film which gathers the most brilliant moments of rock music history and reconstructs those moments as a highlight”. They collect the most primitive sparks within rock music.

“The Silent Syllable EP” is part of an art exhibition called “The Silent Syllable” (묵음). It’s their collaboration with sculptor Kim In Bae (김인배) and artist group Jokketa Project (좋겠다 프로젝트). Ankle Attack take a more post-metallic approach in this EP compared to their previous releases. Long and spacious soundscapes meet furious drumbeat and raging noise.

Total madness runs through this EP like an unchained beast, but it’s madness embraced by a certain kind of chaotic aesthetic. And yes, that’s what rock music lives for.

♪♫ Listen: “SSAA, 5423

Ankle Attack on Twitter.

Flash Flood Darlings <BR>“Vorab And Tesoro”

Flash Flood Darlings
“Vorab And Tesoro”

I first saw Jay Song, AKA Flash Flood Darlings, at his album release showcase. Before the performance of the first track, “Byeol” (별, Star), he talked about how this song was born. How he emigrated from Korea to Christchurch, New Zealand when he was young. How he felt difference between him and other boys. How he looked upon stars when he felt deep loneliness. How he first realized that he was gay.

After brief talk, synthesizer fell down like starlight. Light glowed right next to my ear, and through my heart. Warm wave of solitude and bright flood of teardrop swayed across my body.

Musically, “Vorab And Tesoro” is elaborately formulated chillwave album. Luminous layers of electronic sounds unfold on dreamy beats. But that kind of depiction only explains half of this album’s grace. Jay’s experience as gay, as adolescent, as immigrant, is deeply permeated into his voice, lyrics, and synthesizer melody. That experience truly makes this album as solitary, sentimental journey.

But at the end of the last track, eventually, you will find that you’re not alone at all. “Vorab And Tesoro” does have the power to alleviate one’s loneliness.

♪♫ Listen: “별 Byeol

Flash Flood Darlings on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Giant Bear<BR>“Man Without A Dog”

Giant Bear
“Man Without A Dog”

Since Ramones and Sex Pistols rose from the ashes of rock music, stupid punk rock has always given us plenty of pleasure.

Not only from the western music scene, but everywhere around this tiny planet. That’s because we love to get a bit foolish whenever we tumble into a three-chorded ruin.

Giant Bear (자이언트베어) is also one of those stupid, yet provocative, punk bands from South Korea. Their second album, “Man Without A Dog”, rolls like a drunk middle-aged men who heard Ramones first time in his life.

Its sound is messy as hell, but you cannot help the feeling of a strange pathos in their music. So sing along. “Everybody work for USA! Freedom, opportunity, diversity!” And don’t let your head stand still.

♪♫ Listen: “Work for USA

Giant Bear on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

Hail <BR>“Worldview”


In the South Korean indie scene, excellent post-rock acts have always existed. Although it was only small amount of bands who played this kind of music, the pedigree of post-rock has never been cut off, fortunately.

Hail (해일), which means “tsunami” in Korean, is one of those remarkable bands that keep alive the torchlight of South Korean post-rock scene. As the name indicates, their music comes and goes between placid moments and surge of guitar noise.

But they don’t only follow the traditional post-rock structure, but also struggle to create good melodies, based upon 90s British shoegazers (Ride, Slowdive) and the early Korean indie rock bands (언니네 이발관Sister’s Barbershop, 챔피언스Champions).

Memorable melody is always a precious gift to rock bands. And as “Worldview” (세계관) shows, it is no exception for post-rockers like Hail.

♪♫ Listen: “Santa Fe

Hail on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud.

Kim Sawol <BR>“Susan”

Kim Sawol

Remember Kim Sawol X Kim Haewon, introduced early 2015 on beehype? One-half of the duo, Kim Sawol (김사월), released her debut album in October. “Susan” (수잔) is a record of Kim Sawol’s experiences and feelings when she was in her 20s.

She delivers this album with classical folk sound, influenced by 1970s-1980s female singer-songwriter such as Linda Perhacs, Nico, and Françoise Hardy. Her voice goes through various personas. Sometimes it sounds like a helpless young girl, but other time the voice comes like a cold wind blowing in a desolate field. Numerous images can be derived from her fragile yet talented voice.

Other instruments, such as acoustic guitar, flute, violin, cello, make beautiful harmony with her voice, thanks to performers and the producer Kim Haewon, the other half of the duo. “Susan” will help you withstand this cold, harsh winter, if you accompany it with Kim Sawol’s voice.

♪♫ Listen: “Bedside” (머리맡)

Kim Sawol on Facebook, Twitter, www.

Parasol <BR>“Someday the Day Will Come”

“Someday the Day Will Come”

Crumbling snare drum and dazed guitar. The debut album of the three-piece psychedelic act Parasol (파라솔) starts with those kind of sound. Bassist and vocalist Ji Yoonhae (지윤해) sings the lyrics like this: “At court / At court / we’re going to meet at court / pretending to be more pathetic / we’re going to meet / at court”.

Sarcastic and derisive tale about somebody’s divorce, but when the music goes through a loose tunnel of psychedelia, don’t give any interest in cynical storytelling.

That kind of irony is the most pleasant aspect of “Someday the Day Will Come” (언젠가 그 날이 오면). Parasol utilize psychedelic rock not to make fever and trippy feeling, but to convey cold and drowsy atmosphere.

As a result, they create quite an original area in psychedelic music world, contrary to similar famous Western bands like Dungen or Tame Impala. Therefore, I suggest you try their unconventional saggy melodies and a weird Korean sunday worship.

♪♫ Listen: “Your Posture” (너의 자세)

Parasol on Facebook, Twitter.

Pope X Pope <BR>“The Divinity And The Flames Of Furious Desires”

Pope X Pope
“The Divinity And The Flames Of Furious Desires”

“When you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche bequeathed this famous aphorism. In South Korea, 2015, two musicians called Pope X Pope opened a gate into a profound abyss. The name of this gate is “The Divinity And The Flames Of Furious Desires”.

It is hard to define the genre or context of their music. Definite thing is, the sound in this album is the most malicious and grotesque one you’ve ever heard in your life. I can hook some keywords like middle age, 20th century avant-garde classical music, British painter Francis Bacon, black metal, etc. But they only scratching the surface of this eerie doom.

Therefore, I suggest you feel the dark soundscape Pope X Pope created before think about it. If you’re lucky enough, there will be a moment when you’ll feel this album gazing back into you.

♪♫ Listen: “Satan Summoning his Legions

Pope X Pope on Facebook, Twitter.

Sunkyeol<BR>“Radicalism Is a Relative Concept”

“Radicalism Is a Relative Concept”

Sunkyeol (선결) describe their music as “Headphone Music”. And listening to their loose shoegaze, you’ll understand why they used this term.

Gently weeping guitars, calmly muted bass and muffled drums make meticulous layers of sound. You can only catch those layers by listening right next to your ears. And suddenly, an unique atmosphere will surface in your headspace.

These three-piece shoegazers also made an experiment about album’s way of sale. For a month after release of the album, “Radicalism Is a Relative Concept” (급진은 상대적 개념), it was sold for 5.000 won, half or quarter price of regular CD price in Korean music scene. Result? 1,000 copies sold in January. Quite a sales for a low-profile indie rock band like them.

Sunkyeol didn’t only make a breakthrough in Korean shoegaze music, but also proposed the new way of survival as indie artist in Korea.

♪♫ Listen: “마음을 둘 곳

Sunkyeol on Soundcloud, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube.

we hate jh<BR>“The Naive Kids”

we hate jh
“The Naive Kids”

Yes, I have to admit. Some people think the term “Emo Revival” is boring and tedious. But to the person who has a nostalgic feeling about emo (like me), it is exciting when new emo bands rise from the ground of a dead scene (which is devastated by the bands like My Chemical Romance, Finch, and so on).

Korea is no exception to the wave of revival. we hate jh delivers such a wonderful emo sound on their debut, “The Naive Kids”. Clear acoustic and distortion-free guitars make sweet yet sentimental melody. Singer Park Ju Hyeon (박주현) sings juvenile frustration and sorrow, with his mild and honest voice. Good old emo sound is pleasantly blended with the tradition of Korean indie rock.

Remember 90’s? Remember when Sunny Day Real Estate and The Promise Ring shined like forever youth? If so, this album will be a nice little present.

♪♫ Listen: “바다” (Sea)

we hate jh on Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp.

Young, Gifted & Wack <BR>“3 Little Wacks”

Young, Gifted & Wack
“3 Little Wacks”

Young, Gifted & Wack (영기획) is a little electronic label from South Korea. “3 Little Wacks” is their three-year anniversary compilation album. In Seoul, self-employed people shut down their business in three years on average. Therefore, it is good to see this non-EDM electronic label alive in Korean music scene after three years. Many reasons can be chosen for their survival, but above all, there were great music and talented musicians co-worked with Young, Gifted & Wack.

“3 Little Wacks” is a proof of what this label went through during that time. From chillwave through ambient to leftfield techno, ten assorted artists fill the compilation with their own colors. But at the same time, these ten tunes formulate strong organic structure, which is not easy to find in an ordinary compilation album. That’s because this little label has built strong musical base during the last three years.

The title of the compilation is taken from Bob Marley’s classic “Three Little Birds”. So, let me wish this gifted wacky label run for a long time, ’cause every little thing gonna be alright.

♪♫ Listen: 75A – “taipei” + album stream

Young, Gifted & Wack on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, www.