Hey, everyone! This week, I’m bringing back “These Songs Are Rad,” a blog series in which I collect all of the songs that I’ve certified to be totally rad and share them with you on a monthly basis. Only this time I’m stepping up the content to include albums, underrated tunes, and, of course, music chosen by you.
As you’ll see below, this feature is now divided into several categories. Firstly, we have The Tracklist, a list of my 10 favorite songs of the month (organized alphabetically) spiced up with links to stream and download everything for your convenience.
Next is the Top Album On Rotation, a focus on my favorite album of the month. What Say The Charts will be a small section dedicated to chart activity, mainly in the form of this cool playlist I found on YouTube. Then there’s Under The Radar and The Leftovers, two areas where I’ll feature a few songs to highlight those obscure tracks I come across and (in the latter’s case) music that is so poppin’ it had to carry over from the month prior. Lastly, there is Fan Favorites. These are the songs that you have chosen as your favorites of the month.
From indie gems to surprising debuts, these are the songs I’ve had on heavy rotation in the month of January and all of your recommendations from social media.
Cue – START.
3rd Line Butterfly (3호선 버터플라이) – “Ex-Life”
3rd Line Butterfly exits January with top honors. Their latest album Divided By Zero is not only one of the most exciting things to hit the indie scene in a while, its lead single “Ex-Life” is by far one of their strongest efforts to date.
AKMU (악동뮤지션) – “Reality”
I like Akdong Musician best when they’re having a shitload of fun with their music and “Reality” really did it for me. It’s cute in that super Korean folksy kind of way. It even has a bit of a Western feel to it that triggers my Texan heart. *melts*
CHEETAH – “BLURRED LINES (Feat. 한해)”
Bluesy hip-hop is my shit, so of course the minute I listened to CHEETAH’s “Blurred Lines,” I fell in love. This is the kind of music I drink to. I can see this being played in a hip speakeasy filled with badass people looking to escape the noise of the outside world.
DAY6 – “아 왜 (I Wait)”
The voices in this group are pretty. So pretty, in fact, that I wish they’d veer towards a more electronic style to really elevate their gorgeous timbres. I don’t mean they should drop the rock thing altogether, but rather experiment with a stronger emphasis on electronic elements. This particular song lacks a bit of that for me, though I will say that I think the overall composition is ace.
Dreamcatcher (드림캐쳐) – “Chase Me”
Well, isn’t this just the fucking coolest girl group ever. I generally hop over to Japan when it comes to rock-themed girl group music, but I’m pleasantly surprised by how well Dreamcatcher manages to channel that same energy in their debut. It’s so different from everything out there and I think if they can hone in on this style, they’ll go places. ps: Is it too soon to stan them?
Dynamic Duo, Chen – “기다렸다 가 (nosedive)”
In a surprise collaboration, Dynamic Duo, with the help of vocal god, Chen, released “Nosedive.” This super chill track is very reminiscent of the more classic Korean hip-hop style I remember listening to back in 2009-2010. It’s not exactly dated as much as it is stripped down to the basics, which works for me.
Jessi – “울리지마 (Don’t Make Me Cry)”
Jessi might be the most extra rapper on the scene, but that in no way discredits her as an artist. Her talents extend far beyond rap, as the girl can actually hold a note in tune. Look no further than her latest single, “Don’t Make Me Cry,” for evidence of that.
Rain – “최고의 선물 (The Best Present) (Prod. by PSY)”
I know this isn’t the showstopping anthem a lot of people were expecting, but to hell with y’all because I’m absolutely in love with “The Best Present.” It’s smooth as fuck and exactly the style that works for Rain. Plus, I’ve been in need of a grown-ass man back in K-Pop to shake up the average age so I don’t feel so old.
Sam Kim, Loco – “Think About’ Chu (Prod. by 박근태)”
I made sure to include Sam Kim in my end-of-year list last year because I predicted he’d start rising up the ranks this year, and, sure enough, it’s happening. This collab with Loco is such a great release for Kim because it not only highlights his strong vocals but furthers his flexibility as a musician.
S.E.S – “Birthday”
While there’s nothing particularly amazing about S.E.S’s “Birthday,” a b-side off their reunified effort and 20th-anniversary album, I find the song to be perfectly enjoyable. It’s spunky and its groovy instrumental reminds me a helluva lot of the Spice Girls. It’s not over-sung or overly flashy, yet it still somehow comes together beautifully. You go, girls!
Top Album On Rotation
As I mentioned earlier, 3rd Line Butterfly is killing it. Not even a month into 2017 and the group has already released one of the year’s hottest albums. Divided by Zero is a gorgeous collection of music that stretches from electronica to rock and everything in between.
On one end of the spectrum, there’s “Put Your Needle On The Groove,” an eerie up-tempo that flirts with twisted vocal processing and a sonic landscape of pulsating synths that gradually caves in on itself. The dance-pop banger “Sense Trance Dance” is the kind of song you feel all the way through your legs. “안녕 안녕” and “감정불구” on the other hand will strike you right in the feels with their light-handed arrangements and wistful delivery.
What Say The Charts
I was going to put together a playlist of the songs that are charting in Korea in an effort to be all-encompassing in this post. Then I came across this playlist that is regularly updated with the Hot 100 songs in Korea on YouTube and I decided to embed that here instead.
Under The Radar
Here are a few songs I think flew under the radar in January but nonetheless deserve another round of spins. None of these are particularly exceptional, but I did find myself going back for seconds.
Dakshood (닥스후드) – “Chameleon (Feat. Justhis, Owen Ovadoz, Ja Mezz)”
Maybe I’m just into dark arrangements, but the overall groove of “Chameleon” is really up my alley. It’s slightly spooky and I think each rapper succeeded in the delivery of their bars.
J’Kyun – “흠뻑 (Soaking) (Feat. Cherry Coke)”
Release Date: 1/31/17
J’Kyun has a very gentle rap style. At least in this song. In that respect, I think it was a smart move to feature an equally tender vocal line with the help of Cherry Coke (?), whose chorus complements the rest of the song beautifully.
Mackelli (맥켈리) – “Diary”
Release Date: 1/26/17
I’m not familiar with Mackelli – I think this might be his first single – but after a few minutes of digging I found out he’s actually a singer/songwriter by trade and, like DEAN, has decided to promote his own music. “Diary” is a standard R&B song, but there’s something about it that I like and I can’t quite put my finger on it.
NIEL (니엘) – “날 울리지마 (Love Affair)”
Why didn’t y’all tell me NIEL had a comeback? And a solid one at that. “Love Affair” is like a tamer version of something SHINee’s Taemin would release, which is actually saying a lot. The subtle shifts in pace add interest and allow NIEL to go all out with his vocals.
BIGBANG – “에라 모르겠다 (FXXK IT)”
Does this song even need an introduction? Do I really need to get into BIGBANG and their legacy and how even at their weakest musical moments they still manage to outperform their K-Pop competition? I don’t think so. Listen to this fantastic single (if you haven’t already) and enjoy the magic.
Feel Kim (김필) – “I Feel You”
I’m a sucker for powerful ballads and huge compositions and Feel Kim’s “I Feel You” delivers on all those fronts. Of all the singers I came across last year, Feel Kim is one I’ve been keeping my eye on given the uniqueness of his voice and the profound emotions he expresses in his music. May 2017 continue to add to my ever-growing library of devastating ballads.
K.A.R.D – “Oh NaNa (Feat. 허영지)”
I wasn’t expecting DSP Media to come out so strong out of the woodwork at the tail-end of 2016, but they did the damn thing with their co-ed group, K.A.R.D. Perhaps it’s the dance-hall vibes or the overall concept of this song, but I’ve been obsessed with “Oh NaNa” since it dropped in December, and I’m sure it’s going to continue rotating throughout my queue for a while longer given how good it is. Let’s just hope there’s a future for this group because it would be a shame to see them fade away without reaching their full potential.
Thanks to everyone who shared their favorite songs of January with me on Twitter! If I weren’t restricting myself to 10 songs in my own Tracklist, I would have added a lot of these, honestly.