Best Albums of 2017
selected by Guwon Jeong

Decadent (데카당) <BR> “ㅔ”

Decadent (데카당)

It is dangerous job to mix two or more genres in one music together. Two reasons exist. There is high possibility that the music cannot capture any appeal of those genres, and there are already numerous musical acts that did the mix of genres successfully. But sometimes, we miraculously find the new artists who success to present the magical amalgamation of several genres.

Decadent is one of those team. Falsetto of vocal Jin Dong-Wook creates uncontrolled energy bursting through muddled disorder of various sound. You may remind Talking Heads or Pere Ubu if you listen to them, as the band display the prismatic composition of broad genres from post-punk, blues rock to R&B, soul, funk and jazz. Although EP “ㅔ” (pronounced É) is composed of four songs, it seems there is no limit for Decadent to entangle the various elements with unstrained spirit.

In the 19th century, Western European Decadent movement demolished conservative traditions and pushed up for transgressive, sensual expression. Borrowing the name from this movement, the band Decadent also brings subversive approach to rock music. I wonder where will this rampant energy go to.

♪♫ Listen: “A

Decadent on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Grack Thany <BR> “8luminum”

Grack Thany

The new album by TFO (look down this list) was one of the best releases in South Korea in 2017, but their crew’s fresh LP was also great. Composed of Sylarbomb, B.A.C., Vanda, HNGIN, Moldy, Syunman, nopitchonair and Vonlin Yoon, Grack Thany is the most leftfield collective in this country. Their turbulent love for various genre like bass, techno, footwork, and glitch blended into the funnel of hip-hop, and “8luminum” is their first official compilation.

You will immediately notice the uncomfortable sound from the start of album, “Demolition” by HNGIN, but this uncomfortableness is far from failure as they’re ‘playing with’ the uncomfortableness they made. The total theme of the album is solidly combined to draw one direction and identity, but there is also clear diversity shown by each artist, which is the successful dialectic for the method called “compilation album.”

“8luminum” is the successful first statement for promising young crew that will expand the musical boundary of South Korean music scene. At the same time, it is one bold testimony for local manifestation of global underground dance music trend. As Grack Thany’s slogan ‘Taken from Internet’ says, the trend of crushing and distorted sound also vigorously alive in South Korea.

♪♫ Listen: “Airplane” + album stream

Grack Thany on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Facebook, Instagram.

Hippy was Gipsy (히피는 집시였다) <BR> “Tree” (나무)

Hippy was Gipsy (히피는 집시였다)
“Tree” (나무)

2017 was the year of neo-R&B/Soul explosion in South Korea. Rad Museum, offonoff, Rico, sAewoo in YUNHWAY, Minje, Ku One Chan, etc. Various new R&B/Soul artists with different sense have emerged. Emotional eruption got cooled down, but sound became much deeper and à la mode compared to the past.

Among those impressive new wave of R&B/Soul, Hippy was Gipsy is the shining light of 2017. Consists of singer Sep and producer Jflow (also producer of Wavisabiroom), HWG call its music as ‘Asian Alternative’. But their music is far from superficial abuse of ‘Asian’ sound like Korean traditional string or 5-key scales. The production is based on trendy PBR&B, but gradual pace and prudent use of discreet sound create the originality of duo. The combination of sensible sound and deep voice of Sep shapes some kind of spiritual feeling, which highly reminds the concept like Śūnyatā or Wu Wei.

“Tree” demonstrates new concept about ‘Koreaness’ (or ‘Asianess’) in musical world. Without direct reference of Korean factor, HWG gently grant the natural spirit of Korea in the name of R&B and soul. Truly wise, and genuinely soothing material that Korean R&B/Soul scene has ever made.

♪♫ Listen: “Korean Flower” (한국화) + album stream

Hippy was Gipsy on Soundcloud, Facebook, Instagram.

Intheendlesszanhyangweare <BR> “Inevitability by Consecutive Coincidence”

“Inevitability by Consecutive Coincidence”

Intheendlesszanhyangweare (끝없는잔향속에서우리는). What a long name for a band, so let’s call them as ‘Zanhyang’. The word ‘Zanhyang’ has two meaning in Korean: ‘reverberation’ and ‘remaining scent’. Both meanings go well with this post-rock act. The recursive, endless wave of sound leave unforgettable scent in our ears.

Lead singer and keyboardist Ahn Da-Young released her first recording, “Wave, Smoke, River” in 2014, and after three years she returned with her second material as a formal band with new name. The music of “Inevitability By Consecutive Coincidence” (우연의 연속에 의한 필연) repeat airy sound of guitar, drum, voice and noise to generate ethereal space. It is highly sophisticated procedure, and the listener dive deep into their fragrance.

Zanhyang described their music as ‘Slow Dance’, and it is perfect self-description for their sublime post-rock. Slowly but potently, they present the aesthetics of repetition in warm-hearted way. Maybe it’s the word that would come after band’s name. In the endless zanhyang, we are slowly dancing, with reverbing sound, with reoccurring scent.

♪♫ Listen: “#

Intheendlesszanhyangweare on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Kirara (키라라) <BR> “KM”

Kirara (키라라)

In the literal sense, remix is mixing the certain musical record in a different way. But of course, there are much more possibility in remix. Remix is the most direct way to unveil the musical color of one musician. Some remix enthusiastically introduces the new music, or old music in fresh way.

“KM” does both. Kirara, the most exuberant electronic producer from South Korea, remixes the tracks of grateful musicians in her life. And alike the album artwork, the mixes are full of Kirara’s signature sounds, such as colorful piano and shining fractured beats. Genres of original musicians are varied from electropop (Saebyeok, Yukari), rock (Danpyunsun and the Sailors, Pavlov), shoegaze (Shin Hae Gyeong), and you will become joyful if you know the original tracks. Or, you may want to check the original recordings after you listen to “KM”.

That is the point of this remix compilation. “KM” is the active curation of boiling South Korean indie scene by talented producer. It is interesting that this kind of introduction is more attractive than the mere selection of each track. If you need some advice to local music in South Korea, “KM” is one of the best way to meet them. Oh, and don’t forget to check the music of Kirara herself.

♪♫ Listen: “Aurora” (KIRARA Remix)

Kirara on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter.

Lowdown 30 (로다운 30) <BR> “B”

Lowdown 30 (로다운 30)

Blues rock and hard rock are old music in these days. Only dads can endure that outdated guitar riffs and manly voice.

But sometimes, you cannot help but mesmerized by a kind of craftspersonship those genres deliver to you. It is the closest style to the origin of rock, and thus we can directly feel the viscous sound of rock music. Guitar, bass, and drum only. What else we need for our delight?

Lowdown 30’s third album, “B”, is fresh reanimation of good old rock music. Led by veteran guitarist Yoon Byung-Joo, who started his career in 1990s as band Noizegarden, the irregular drum of Choi Byung-Joon and funky bass of Kim Rak-Gun capture the essence of rock music in various ways. From groovy rhythm of “Hotter” (더뜨겁게) to deranged noise-epic of “Necronomicon”, there are full of solid performance in “B”.

Every element in this album has a meaning.

♪♫ Listen: “Why?” (그땐왜)

Lowdown 30 on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

PAKK (팎) <BR> “Salpuri” (살풀이)

PAKK (팎)
“Salpuri” (살풀이)

The evil world is collapsing in PAKK’s first studio album, “Salpuri”. South Korean heavy-psych act PAKK drive out the malicious energy with blazing, thunderous roar. The word ‘Salpuri’ is traditional exorcism of ancient Korean culture by shaman-priest called ‘Mudang’, and that is exactly described in pseudo-folk painting of album art. Cut the head of wicked energy, or ‘Sal’, by the blade made of furious rock.

Kim Dae-In, the musician who created PAKK, was also the main member of indie pop/shoegaze project Jellyfish Boy (해파리소년) and hard rock band Apollo 18. His music has become heavier and heavier, and PAKK is the fiercest project ever. Based on heavy psychedelic rock, “Salpuri” combine the elements of various heavy rock such as stacking-up structure of post-rock, raging screaming of screamo, and abrupt change of pace like mathcore.

Fury is the important emotion in rock history. That’s because the bands established on fury do not just throw out their own rage, but resonate their wrath with people who listen to their music. PAKK exactly knows how to deal with fury with our emotion. The power of “Salpuri” compels the evil.

♪♫ Listen: “Sal” (살)

PAKK on Facebook, Instagram.

Se So Neon (새소년) <BR> “Summer Plumage” (여름깃)

Se So Neon (새소년)
“Summer Plumage” (여름깃)

I already covered Se So Neon in October, and things have progressed pretty hot during late 2017.

They released the first EP “Summer Plumage”, and all shows including album release showcase have gone soldout with enthusiastic crowd. Besides two hit singles “A Long Dream” (긴 꿈) and “The Wave” (파도), “Summer Plumage” cleverly presents the classic rock sound with new mind and deep sentiment. “I See The Newly Emerged Lonesomeness” (나는 새롭게 떠오른 외로움을 봐요) is the perfect example for that, a subtle ballad that control one’s emotion with temperate sound and structure.

The rave for Se So Neon represents our eagerness for the new kind of “Rock Star” who departs from past figures. We don’t need stereotypical rock star who gushes unpleasant masculinity or machoism in musical way or in the attitude of one’s life. Se So Neon borrows the good old legacies of rock sound, but subtracts the hackneyed custom and embellish them with new wave of zeitgeist.

People who respond Se So Neon’s music are capturing the very moment of the present rock music.

♪♫ Listen: “I See The Newly Emerged Lonesomeness

Decadent on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

SOWALL <BR> “Favorite”


Lee Sowall, aka SOWALL, started her musical career as a jazz drummer and released several materials as solo and part of indie pop band Temperature of Saying “hi” (안녕의 온도). But she has also made electronic music with drum pads, and her finger drumming drew several attentions of listeners, including FACT Magazine.

“Favorite” is her first solo EP as electronic musician. Although she made fame with skillful finger drumming, “Favorite” exhibits wide range of electronic music from ambient, glitch pop and even jazzy approach. Guest vocals and raps from Sunwoo Jung A (선우정아), Mxxg and others gives assorted hues to the album, and SOWALL mingles the voice and sound in firm structure.

Female electronic musicians in South Korea such as CIFIKA, Miiin, and YESEO have released decent recordings these days. “Favorite” is another example of this trend. With solid composition and detailed soundmaking, SOWALL manifests the great consolidation of deep emotion and anomalous electronic.

♪♫ Listen: “I’m Thinking About What Love Is

SOWALL on Facebook, Instagram.

TFO <BR> “ㅂㅂ”


The best South Korean hip-hop album of 2017.

TFO, the duo of rapper B.A.C. and producer Sylarbomb construct the dark and deep chaos field of experimental hip-hop. What you find in this ‘red room’ are nihilistic voice, crushed samplings, irritating noise and effects shine like rust steel. Challenging, isn’t it? But despite those strenuous elements bombarding listeners’ ears, TFO deliver their filthy sound with non-rejectable energy.

This is rare attitude in South Korean hip-hop scene, which is highly Americanized and tasteless trap, cloud rap and swag is everywhere. Even TFO seems to know that they’re rare species, as B.A.C. mocks “OVO-like sound is necessary to / get some money in Korea they said” (“빠짐”). But whether others make beat like OVO or not, TFO don’t give any fuck about it

Instead, they create their own red room, cone, chaos, “ㅂㅂ”. Sure, we know we’re in chaos, and we dance to this album.

♪♫ Listen: “Cone” (원뿔) + album stream

TFO on Bandcamp, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter.