Video of the Day: The Scandinavian-Pop Edition

This past week has seen some interesting and unexpected videos from some of Scandinavia’s best pop star. I really enjoyed Robyn and Royksopp’s Do It Again (see it here),though it’s not at all what you’d expect to go with this sort of song it is very atmospheric and somehow it works. Lykke Li’s Gunshot  (watch it here) just seems as though it’s being weird for the sake of it; a very disappointing video because I love that song.

I wasn’t excited for this album at all, the previously released tracks were decent but they didn’t really do anything for me. Having heard the full album now I am pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed it. All of the best moments come from previously unheard tracks (Sexotheque, The Feeling, Silent Partner) but even the singles, that I found so disappointing before, work well in the context of the album. It’s nothing groundbreaking (I personally think that both Metronomy and Little Boots do this kind of retro-pop sound much better than La Roux - and are more forward-thinking about it too) but it is one of the most consistent and cohesive pop releases of the year so far, and some of the choruses are totally addictive.

Song of the Day: Infinite - Back

For the first minute of this song I was thinking “this is nice, but not at all what I want from an Infinite song”. However, by the end this was very clearly an infinite track, maybe a little more sombre than their usual fare but still full of the synth-based dance sound that has become their trademark.

The song has an unusual structure, just building and building instead of having the peaks and troughs of a verse-chorus form. This is a bold step that’s allowed them to do something new without having to break from their signature sound so, though it’s not their best work, it’s still solid and, at least, trying to be a bit different - in an industry as manufactured as K-Pop something different (even if it misfires, which Back doesn’t) is always welcome.

Album Review: B2ST – Good Luck

Since their 2011 album Fiction & Fact launched B2ST into the top tier of K-Pop boybands they have been maintaining their position with hit singles from a mini-album (Midnight Sun in 2012) and a second full-length album (last year’s Hard to Love, How to Love). With these two releases B2ST cemented their position and, with the increased involvement of member Yong Junhyung in composition and production, broke the K-Pop mould. Whilst this unusual move (it’s makes them almost unique amongst K-Pop groups) saw them achieve a consistent quality and style that’s rare to see in Korean Pop music they failed to capture that little extra something that made Fiction & Fact one of the best pop albums of 2011. Midnight Sun delivered a massive follow up hit to cement their position as industry leaders but it didn’t do provide anything better than what we’d already seen and heard before. Hard to Love, How To Love saw them striving to put out something different but, whilst still being a consistent album, it wasn’t quite the leap forward I’d hoped for and, overall, was an underwhelming second album. Their latest mini album (their 6th overall!) Good Luck once again see’s Junhyung taking the reins on the majority of the songs production and writing and, this time, B2ST have managed to deliver a hit song and equally good album tracks whilst also developing their signature sound in new ways. I’m not going to lie, my interest in them was waning  after their last album, but Good Luck has breathed new life into the group by giving them their best title track to date (currently enjoying a deserved and unprecedented, for B2ST at least, 11 music show wins) and an album that is, at the very least, their most consistent and possibly even their best outright.

 

Track #1 – We Up

Kicking things off is the bold and bouncy We Up. The powerful vocals from each member perfectly match the synth line that drives the song making this a confident and assured opener for the album, really you’d expect nothing less from a well-established group like B2ST. The prevalence of electronic sounds in the song recalls earlier B2ST tracks like Bad Girl, Shock, and Soom whilst the funky guitar line brings the sound up to date by giving the song a trendy disco-vibe. Dongwoon’s section in the chorus is a particularly noteworthy moment but the rest of the song does become a little repetitive. It’s too good to be just an intro but it still has that aura surrounding it. It might be an awkward middle-ground between intro and fully-fledged song but it’s more good than bad. 3.5/5

Track #2 – Good Luck

The title track continues with the electronic sounds of We Up but is far more successful. Yoseob’s powerhouse intro marks this out as a B2ST song but the rest of the song, whilst sounding unlike anything they’ve ever done, is still unique and vibrant. It sounds undeniably current but it also doesn’t fall into the trap of mimicking the popular tracks of the moment. Each section - the verses, the bridge (once again Dongwoon delivers the songs best moment), the rap break – have a distinct rhythm that keeps the song from becoming repetitive and the production ties all these parts together in a seamless package. The song flows well across its length without becoming muddied and indistinct (one of my major gripes with their last title track, Shadow). The real cherry on top is the chorus which is one of their catchiest ever. 5/5

Track #3 – Dance With U

The most “Current” sounding track, once again exuding a modern-disco vibe, on the album is also one of the best. The pairing of the upbeat sound with a heart-broken lyric keeos the song interesting and ensures that the song isn’t out of place in B2ST’s catalogue. The song, again, flows really well and I actually think the production and backing track is better than Good Luck, which can be a bit kitchen-sink at times. However, I can see why this song isn’t the title-track, it does a lot better than Good Luck but, whilst still being solid, its chorus isn’t as much of an earworm. However, this is just swings and roundabouts; they’re both great tracks, just for different reasons. 5/5

Track 4 – No More

The Pre-release ballad is one of their finest to date, and that’s saying something because no one does ballads like these guys. This is classic B2ST, through and through. The pairing of the piano and lush strings typical of ballads with a strong beat and interesting beat is something that B2ST do very well but this song isn’t just another typical ballad. The harmonies in the bridge are wonderful and, along with a strong melody, they really make the song soar. Special mention must go to Junhyung’s rap, he continues to be one of the best idol-rappers – delivering heartfelt-emotion while others just play at bravado and swag. 4/5

Track #5 – History

Things stay slow for the fifth track, it’s not an outright ballad but a more sensual track. With lyrics penned by B2ST’s own Gikwang the group continue show their ability as an almost autonomous unit. The chorus does fall into some of the clichés of this genre but things are saved by perfectly matched vocals and a catchy melody. The little, chiming melody that plays throughout the song is particularly lovely and rather atmospheric. History is far from a stand-out track, but that’s more because the songs around it are so good, it’s still far better than most other tracks in this style. 3.5/5

Track #6 – Tonight, I’ll Be At Your Side

The penultimate track is the only misstep on the album. It’s not that bad, it’s just not that good either. Its worst crime is being totally out of place and interrupting what had been a great run of quality tracks. Perhaps it’s the fact that this is the only song without input from Junhyung that makes it stick out so much. Either way, the mini-album would have been no worse off without it. It’s perfectly okay, but it’s also totally forgettable, leaving no lasting impression. 2.5/5

Track #7 –Sad Movie (Korean Version)

Thankfully Sad Movie, a Korean version of their previously released Japanese single, picks things back up and finishes things off in style. For an old song it fits remarkably well with the other songs on this mini-album. The pairing of the electronic and acoustic sounds creates a nice middle-ground between the first and second half of the albums, hugely fitting for a closing track. As always, the vocals are fantastic and the song is catchy throughout. What I really like about it is the lilting, almost folky, violin that plays in the chorus. It gives the song an interesting sound and marks it out as something new for B2ST without losing any of their own style, hopefully this a sign of things to come. 4.5/5

 

Overall, I’m tempted to say this is B2ST’s best album to date, it’s easily their best since Fiction & Fact, and one of the best K-Pop albums of 2014. Their signature style remains whilst current musical trends are seamlessly blended into the mix (Good Luck, Dance With U). Even more impressive than that is the development of their own sound with some really unique musical flavours (Sad Movie). Some songs may be only a little better than average but, as an overall package, it’s the most consistent and seamless K-Pop album I’ve heard in a long, long time. The songs average score would amount to about 4/5 but, for working so well as an album, I’m awarding an extra half a point.

Score: 4.5/5

My New Music purchases

  1. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - Pika Pika Fantajin: Yep, Kyary’s third album is quite disappointing as a follow-up to Nanda Collection but the photobook is as awesome as always (I especially love the stickers) and that alone is almost worth the price of the CD imo.
  2. Hiromi - Spiral and Time Control - Never thought I’d be posting about midern jazz-fusion on here but Hiromi has completely taken over my music in the past month, I love her ^_^ (though, these two albums aren’t her best). 
  3. B2ST - Good Luck: I always enjoy any release from my favourite K-Pop Boyband but this new mini-album is especially good. And it seems they’re no longer signing their photocards but putting lip prints on them instead which is… nice :/

I’ll have reviews for all of these coming up shortly, as well as some exciting news. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy listening to the albums and writing them ^_^

p.s. I can’t believe I’m the only cross-over between these artists and genres, that’d be impossible. Is anyone else out there listening to all of this music too?? (Not a rhetorical question btw; I really, genuinely, would like to know ^_^)

p.p.s. so proud of my 100% professional and classy looking edit -_-

pondewaywayway:

Another little list of the albums I will be reviewing in the coming weeks. Again this is mainly just to ensure I actually stick to a schedule :P

  • 12/07/14: 2NE1 - To Anyone (requested by scottthenarwhal)
  • 19/07/14: B2ST - Good Luck
  • 26/07/14: Perfume - Complete Best (requested by

Just adding a little alteration to this, if anyone is actually interested :P

My review of Perfume - Complete Best will now be posted on July 30th because that is Pondewaywayway’s 1st Birthday and I gotta have some Perfume on my blog’s B-Day ;)

Song of the Day: Lee Hyori - Bad Girls (Remix)

How am I only just seeing this great performance? Lee Hyori’s Monochrome was one of my favourite albums of 2013 and Bad Girls was one of the best tracks on it.

This performance highlights what I love about Hyori; she may not be the best singer or dancer but she still commands the stage like no one else. And this rock version is even more badass than the original.

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu: Nanda Collection World Tour in Europe

Got my copy of Pika Pika Fantajin in the post today and was a bit miffed that the Nanda Collection Tour documentary didn’t include the European shows but then I found this video on Youtube. It seems that a lot of the performance clips are actually from the date I attended ^_^ (That would be a good thing except I caught site of myself and I looked really miserable, hahaha)