Indieful ROK introduces: Korean Twee Pop

At the very end of March, I was asked through the shoutbox in the Indieful ROK sidebar to provide a few recommendations on Korean twee pop bands. Now I might not be a master of recognizing genres, but I have seen the connection enough times to know that the first obvious recommendation is Linus’ Blanket. And I also know the history of BMX Bandits well enough to know that they more than qualify for the label, thus making Yeongene & BMX Bandits the second obvious recommendation.

Up until then, twee in my world had been about the ultra sweet, simple (yet far from plain) music of acts such as Kawaii, the pancakes and My Little Airport – so as I found myself listening to the similar artists radio of The Orchids, The Sea Urchins, Talulah Gosh, The Cat’s Miaow and the C86 tag radio at I became quite surprised. I ended up recommending five bands in particular, and after having at least four of them approved long at last I will also share my recommendations here on the blog.

So far all of my chosen artists have only had one official release each. For every release I’ve listed two songs in particular that I consider good examples of the “twee-ness” of the artists in question. If you’d like to suggest any other Korean artists that could fit under the twee pop label you are more than welcome to list them all in a comment. (And should you be looking for recommendations in some other genre I’d be happy to see what I could come up with.)

달콤한 비누 - AppetizerSweetsoap (달콤한 비누)
Appetizer (Beatball, 2008)
– 새벽 3시 [download]
– 걸음걸음마다 [download]

I can not recall why I did not include Appetizer on my list of the best releases of 2008 because it’s such a sweet EP very deserving of any attention it can get. It might not sound all that special the first time around, but listening to it a few times more should lift it immensely. Lovely, catchy pop pieces with both male and female vocals.

피리과 - Butane Gas Mon CherPirigwa (피리과)
Butane Gas Mon Cher (Beatball, 2007)
Pajama Party [download]
– 이름 모를 귀염둥이 미용실 언니 [download]

On the only EP ever to be released by the seven member strong Pirigwa, there is cute pop with flute and glockenspiel and keyboard sounds reminiscing hammond organs. The vocals are delivered by an ultra cute, whispery female voice that can only be rivaled by Hockee. Unfortunately Pirigwa is no more, but a few of the members now offer twee pop material in Pigibit5 that EP debuted last month.

스마일즈 1집 Strawberry T.V ShowThe Smiles (스마일즈)
Strawberry T.V Show (Beatball, 2007)
Cooky Tale [download]
Love So Fine [download]

I had not yet heard the music of The Smiles (that’s another seven member band for you) myself when making this recommendation – which was based on 1) the album cover; 2) occurrences of “60s pop” and “bubblegum sound” in the album info; 3) realizing that people listing The Smiles as one of their favorite artists primarily had other bands falling within the twee category on that same list. In retrospect (that is after actually getting a copy of Strawberry T.V Show myself) I should probably not have included them on the list (and this is the one artist for which I have yet to hear something from the person the recommendation was originally addressed to) as The Smiles offers even more 60s sound than I’d hoped for this time around. (Album review and a generous amount of samples at allmusic.)

피들밤비 1집 밤비록스Fiddle Bambi (피들밤비)
Bambi Rocks (Beatball, 2005)
My Melody [download]
– 엄마, 화장실 [download]

Psyche pop with something of a garage sound. Melodies with an appealing retro feeling. Male and female vocals in something like harmonies. Don’t really know what else to say about it, except that it’s great music.

메리고라운드 1집 Merry Go RoundMerry Go Round (메리고라운드)
Merry Go Round (Cavare, 2000; Dreambeat, 2002)
– 랄랄라 [download]
– 주사위 [download]

Defining the sound of Merry Go Round is the use of a keyboard with that previously mentioned hammond organ reminiscing sound. The self titled album has one lovely song following the other from beginning to end and is truly a gem. I spent years desperately hoping I’d ever be able to find another album like it (and got to hear plenty of the Japanese Merry go round in the process) before realizing they were gone. Kim Mingyu later went on to form Plastic People (perhaps Plastic People too should’ve been on this list?), but the rest of the members are all unaccounted for as far as I’m aware.

Beatball - The Grooviest Sound In The World
The songs from Sweetsoap, Pirigwa, The Smiles, and Fiddle Bambi have been made available for download with permission from Beatball Records.

Lo-fi cavare sound
The Merry Go Round songs have been made available for download with permission from Cavare.

As you might have noticed, 4/5 bands above belonged to Beatball Records so checking out other Beatball artists – perhaps starting on MySpace – may prove a very good idea if you’re looking to find more music of the kind.

A recent band considered for the list, but eventually excluded was Broccoli, you too?. More like “regular” indie pop, I thought then, but now I would’ve happily exchanged them for The Smiles (not that I don’t like The Smiles – they just weren’t as perfect for this as I had hoped). This YouTube search should present plenty of videos to give a taste of their music if you have yet to hear it.

Another band I considered was Eunhee’s Noul. Some of their songs (Son of a Beach off Noulpop in particular) could definitely be labled twee, I think, whereas I’m afraid many others could not. Still, if you ever feel like looking up some older high quality Korean indie pop it’s a name not to forget.

4 Comments Indieful ROK introduces: Korean Twee Pop

  1. 장지훈

    Although it’s not precisely twee pop, artists like Yozoh and Humming Urban Stereo often capture the “cuteness” aspect that’s often present in twee pop.

  2. helikoppter

    @장지훈 Indeed there are several Korean artists with plenty of cuteness – sometimes even bordering on too much just like a fair bunch of twee pop acts. Perhaps I should try to recommend a few lesser known acts in this category some other time… What do you think?

    @Uncle Tomato: Merry Go Round sound samples are being negotiated with Cavare right now, I believe. Haven’t heard anything from Beatball yet though.

  3. brian so cow

    Always nice to see Fiddle Bambi and Pirigwa get a mention. Saw The Smiles at a Beatball night a few years back. Pretty good, not exactly my thing though. Will check out those two other groups now.


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