30 Billy Carter – “The Dog”
Billy Carter’s immense and ferocious “The Dog” is a slick and hyper rock’n’roll anthem that throws all caution to the wind. While the majority of it is rooted in rock, the underlying percussion elements add a lot of extra flavor to the mix.
29 Wonder Girls – “Why So Lonely”
Release Date: 7/5/16
The lush vocals of the Wonder Girls might be standard fair, but the group’s decision to experiment with reggae in their comeback single “Why So Lonely” was a pleasant surprise to hear.
28 Crush – “우아해”
In this wobbly R&B number, Crush sounds his most progressive in a while. The singer’s voice dissolves beautifully into the air while the instrumental around him pulsates relentlessly as if attempting to maintain its form.
27 Nucksal – “악당출현 The Villains (Feat. ODEE, Deepflow, Don Mills, 우탄)”
Sometimes you just have to keep things simple to produce great music and that’s what leads Nucksal to success in “The Villains,” his massive omnibus of badassery. It’s a downright treat to hear so much hip-hop talent on one song.
26 Kwon Tree (권나무) – “물 (Water)”
Kwon Tree, who continues to keep things considerably bare in his music, figures out a way to win my heart this year with the simple, yet unusually hypnotizing “Water.” Songs like these are the reason why folk is such a hit in Korea.
25 HEO – “Pyre”
Release Date: 11/28/16
Haunting and riddled with layers of peculiar synth work, HEO’s “Pyre” is a sweet example of what electronic music sounds like when it isn’t afraid to go a little dark and experimental.
24 GFriend (여자친구) – “시간을 달려서 (Rough)”
Leeching off nostalgia never fails in Korea, and that’s exactly what GFriend did this year with “Rough,” the juggernaut girl group anthem that succeeds by remaining true to the bulletproof formula that’s worked for everyone from Girls’ Generation to APink. It’s innocent-sounding but sure pulls out all its trump cards the closer it gets to the finish line.
23 LADIES CODE – “Galaxy”
LADIES CODE is an underestimated girl group. Their dreamy “Galaxy” is one hell of a single, as it dabbles in jazz, soul, and ambient elements to produce an exemplary moment of genre fusion. This is what K-Pop sounds like at its most sophisticated.
22 Oohyo (우효) – “청춘 Youth (DAY)”
“Youth (DAY)” (there’s a NIGHT version, too) is a soothing soft-rock single that falls gently on the ears. The song is delivered in a near whisper by Oohyo, whose soothing vocals reverberate throughout without ever overwhelming the senses.
21 이상의날개 (Wings of the ISANG) – “붉은하늘 (Crimson Sky)”
Though Wings of the ISANG don’t produce an utterance until near the end of the song, “Crimson Sky” could have really continued without vocals and I would have been just as captivated by its scope and beauty. Yet, it’s precisely when the vocals enter that every semblance of composure comes crashing down.