‘ㅂㅂ’ by TFO
TFO’s new album ㅂㅂ is easily the boomiest thing you will listen to all year. Earbuds alone don’t do it justice. To get a good sense of what this album is going for, car speakers are your best bet at extrapolating every nuanced detail that trickles by, as TFO makes it clear that the music he’s concocted here is destined to shake you vigorously out of your comfort zone.
Influenced by trap, juke, and ambient electronica, TFO’s ㅂㅂ submerges listeners into a mist of hazy synths and heavy basslines that are equally intriguing as they are oddly unsettling. Songs like the trepidatious “Gold” and “원뿔” outline TFO’s delicate hand at crafting sinister beats that are effective at haunting the mind.
But as spellbinding as this album can be, at times the trance of it all dissipates at the hands of the very elements that make it successful. “빠짐” for instance is detrimentally over-processed. It’s bombastic with little regard for listenability, clipping throughout its three-minute lifespan as if thrown together by a first-year audio student who didn’t know better. Indeed, the album often creeps by striking directly at the nerves that make a person tick, but that’s the draw of TFO’sㅂㅂ. It’s abrasive, dark, and unabashedly so.
Genre: Rap/Hip-Hop | Release Date: 3/22/17
Discover TFO: iTunes
‘너의 파도’ by Bye Bye Badman
It’s easy to fall for Bye Bye Badman. The four-piece band’s allure lies in the smooth dream-pop vibe that you hear throughout the better half of their back catalog. One listen to songs like “Moon” and “Young Wave” off their last full-length album Authentic will easily lift your spirits, and the same could be said about their new EP 너의 파도 (Wave).
Frontman Bongil Jung’s vocals carry each track on this EP with a light sensibility that leads each into sweet and summary territory. Bye Bye Badman love this bright style of music, and they do it well. Lead single “Colin” is an enjoyable piece of work that feels both fresh and familiar thanks to its clear 80s inspiration. But for an even heavier dose of nostalgia, listen to the EP opener “Wave” or melodramatic “Mercury.” They’re outfitted with glistening 80s New Wave productions that are as addicting as they are comforting to listen to. Each song folds warm layers of reverb on top of each other, flange and all, that create a vivid landscape of glittery tones supported by playful melodies that echo throughout the album.
너의 파도 (Wave) is short — four tracks in total — but its songs are so irresistibly good, it’s hard to set it down after just one listen.
Genre: Rock | Release Date: 4/29/17
‘DUETTO’ by 듀에토 (Duetto)
In an interesting move, Starship Entertainment (home to Hyolyn and MONSTA X) debuted Duetto this year. Duetto, as their name implies, is a duo made up of singers 유슬기 (Yoo Seul Gi) and 백인태 (Paek In Tae) who were participants in the Korean singing competition 팬텀싱어 (Phantom Singer), a show that aimed to form Korea’s version of Il Divo. Phantom Singer debuted its first season last November and wrapped up earlier this year when 포르테 디 콰트로 (Forte di Quattro) were named the first quartet to win the show.
Yoo Seul Gi and Paek In Tae might have missed their chance on Phantom Singer, but they’ve found a home at Starship. With Duetto under their belt, Starship is now in the crossover business. And what better way to cross demographic lines than with these two talents at the helm.
Yoo and Paek’s tenor voices blend seamlessly across elaborate orchestrations on DUETTO, nowhere more potent than in the operatic lead single “Yearnings.” The song’s second half combines a fierce set of strings (electric guitar in toe) with Duetto’s vocal ferocity for an epic conclusion that won’t fail to send chills down the spine of anyone who listens to it.
The duo lightens their touch in their cover of Jimmy Fontana’s “Il Mondo,” which, like the original, crescendoes to a breathtaking finale. What the rest of the album offers is equally striking. For the most part, Yoo and Paek channel the heart of classic Italian opera in DUETTO–perhaps a bit more dramatic in execution than anything, but all the same in its romantic wiring and uplifting arrangements. This self-titled debut mini-album is undoubtedly one of the most exhilarating bodies of work to drop this year, and thanks to Duetto, you, like myself, will have the opportunity to rediscover a genre of music that is often forgotten through the lens of fresh Korean talent.
Genre: Crossover | Release Date: 5/17/17