Following up the last years tradition I would love to introduce you to some of the Korean albums, outside of the idol and mainstream spectrum, you may have missed and that are worth your time. Hopefully you will find some artist you have not heard about before or albums you missed, which is ever so easy with the amount of music being released even among the global pandemic.
At first I would love to share soothing albums with jazz, indie and ambient influences that I found absolutely wonderful and at the same time not as talked about as I think they deserve.
ARTTICHOKE – TANG TANG!
If you love some Norah Jones with a hint of James Bond soundtrack, or even better the mood of film noir, you will absolutely adore this full album by Korean singer and songwriter going by name Arttichoke. It’s an easy-listening album with memorable melodies and songs that are just perfect for this time of the year. The songs have symphonic undertones with very clear vocals over it, making it more upbeat than you would perhaps expect from the genre category.
Freshly released “Tang Tang!” is first full album from 아티초크, which is simply the word ‘Arttichoke’ in it’s original form. I wish I could tell you more about this wonderful singer, but even the Naver profile did not give me anymore information. I hope you give her a listen though and enjoy the noir style of music.
STELLA JANG – STELLA I
Jazz/Indie | LISTEN | BUY | FOLLOW
Similar and yet so different. First truly full album, after many briliant EPs, from Korean singer Stella Jang. And I must say ‘STELLA I’ is one of my favorite albums of this year in general. It has such a beautiful sound to it, that makes you pop to lovely small café somewhere around France with little vibe from jazz, little vibe from chanson and little vibe from indie. It’s a combination of many sounds and the whole album is absolute feel-good and yet it gives you sound of melancholy as well, since the album follows story of humans, their flaws and experiences from perspective of Stella Jang in her late 20s.
I would absolutely recommend this album to any fans of Zaz, Birdy or Cyn. Stella Jang (Jang Seong-eun – 장성은), the singer and songwriter, is also a member of a girl group CSVC. This project girl does not play your everyday kpop, instead they take you back to past with Korean pop music inspired by the 90s.
SAMUEL SEO – UNITY II
Lounge/Jazz/Ballad | LISTEN | BUY | FOLLOW
Another favorite artist of mine would be Samuel Seo. I almost missed his album, not expecting new one this year after the brilliant “The Misfit”, released last year. Alas, Samuel Seo had a comeback with full album (nay extended play) “UNITY II”. I really don’t know why I am surprised, he’s been releasing music steadily every year. Either way, another brilliant ballad album with jazzy undertones. Seo has a certain attractive colour to his voice that spreads all over the range not only key wise but also style as Seo is as good vocalist as he is rapper. Going to heights from lower tones feels so soothing when he does it. Perfect night-listening, also thanks to the keyboards and lounge like beats that are accompanying this extended play, available only digitally.
Samuel Seo (Seo Dong-hyeon – 서동현) yet again impresses me with his chameleon-like ability to create music of many styles. Combining lounge with jazz and ballad UNITY II is truly briliant album with songs of hope and endurance and the clear message that these perilous times too will pass. I hope you can give this album a listen with open mind, as the album is fully in Korean, but music transcends the language and you can feel it from the songs Samuel Seo wrote alongside with 허아민 (Keyboard), 최준영 (Bass), 권한결 (Drum), 한덕용 (Guitar).
off the menu – contact
Something little more lively this time around. This Korean band has not been around for long, releasing their first EP in 2020. “Contact” is also technically mini-album but I really wanted to include it in this list. To me the biggest representation of indie in South Korea has always been band HYUKOH. While HYUKOH have more of a gentle and experimental indie sound, off the menu have more classic upbeat indie sound while finding their own unique sound with gentle guitar and upbeat songs. This mini-album truly shows their growing potential and I think they would be great next band to discover for fans of The Wombats or Grouplove.
off the menu (오프더메뉴) is a South Korean indie band whose members are 안정준 (synth, vocals), 이형섭 (bass, chorus) and 이승민 (bass, synths). The first mini album “Contact” is a good-feel album about which the bassist said for Vibe “People’s emotions change and according to those emotions, our songs change too.” which sums up the album really well as the songs warry over the emotional spectrum, delivering overaly very good-feel chillwave album.
onthedal – °C dal
Back to chill, lounge indie vibes, this time with more electronic feel. The last album I would love to introduce you to is the debut album from South Korean singer and songwriter onthedal. Her debut album ‘°C dal’ is absolute joy to listen to. Again, it has very chill vibes accompanied by lounge/chill wave style beats with guitar being the key sound connecting the music arrangements with onthedals vocals.
The name of the album itself is inspired by the many changes in temperature which can be applied to people as well. The album tells stories of many emotions within people, the warm and the cold.
Later on I will make one with more upbeat and hyped music but this time I wanted to separate the list into two parts, since I found so many amazing albums and EPs from South Korea this year. Do you have a favourite one I did not mention? Or like one of the mentioned ones? I’d love to hear about it.