This article listing Anna’s favorite releases of 2008 was originally edited by Philip Gowman and first posted on London Korean Links
The Invisible Fish – Through The Glass Wall
For last year’s critics’ choice Bluedawn’s goodbye album was one of my picks. Though it still saddens me that Bluedawn is no more, the two members are doing well enough on their own to make the departure less painful. Let’s start with The Invisible Fish – the solo alias of Bluedawn’s ssoro. His first solo EP Through The Glass Wall–the first in a series of three–really was more than I could’ve wished for. Airy and extremely pleasant Bluedawn resonating songs paired with an experimental streak that led him both to sprawling folktronica and eerie drone pop. Dreamy and gorgeous. It’s not yet perfect, but it’s close enough for a first attempt.
Han Hee Jeong – 너의 다큐멘트
And so to Dawny, or Han Hee Jeong (한희정) as she would have it now that she’s a solo star. I am somewhat disappointed with 너의 다큐멘트–her first solo album. It’s nowhere near as brilliant as Bluedawn’s final effort, and some of the songs are even quite dull. Yet it’s one of my picks this year. Not because everything else was so bad, but because there is a lot to like about this particular album anyway. A few songs do revoke that Bluedawn feeling I had been hoping for. Han Hee Jeong’s voice is as lovely and soothing as ever. And MOT’s Aeon (이언) is not merely featured on one song, but the producer for the entire album – evidently he doesn’t mind lending the MOT sound to somebody else. While it might not always work on a track-to-track basis, as a whole I find this album very intriguing.
I&I Djangdan – Culture Tree
This summer I got to hear something that really caught me by surprise. I heard I&I Djangdan, talking about roots and culture with their Culture Tree EP. But it’s not just reggae with a piece of Korean culture. More importantly it’s high-quality dub. Now I don’t know a lot of dub, but I know good music when I hear it and Culture Tree was just what I needed to endure the summer heat. The bass is just incredible, the rhythms captivating and Jang Goon’s ‘Corean voice’ mesmerising. Astounding.
EE – Curiosity Kills
While digital releases usually taunt me with their inaccessibility, EE were kind enough to put their entire debut single, Curiosity Kills, up for listen on MySpace for anybody to enjoy. So rather than having to wait for a CD release, now already I can declare the foremost electropop act currently active in Korea to be EE. Lee Yunjoung again sounds like she did in PiPi Band and the ‘Total Art’ concept makes it all the more fascinating (just seek out the Curiosity Kills DJ Jinu electro mix music video). Admittedly the three mixes from Roller Coaster’s DJ Jinu are to blame for the extra layers of awesomeness, but the original versions of the 80s influenced title track and ‘B-side’ “Monkey Defense” are strong enough on their own.
Loro’s – Pax
This list will end as tranquil as it started. Listening to Pax–the first full length album of Loro’s–it’s difficult to imagine a better suitable title. It is harmonic, it is peaceful, and it is utterly serene. There’s a lot of focus on the instrumentals, and a cello is always a hit with me. If I were to name just one Korean band that I think could go on a world tour (as in the entire world, not just a different continent) and pull it off by musicality alone it’d be Loro’s. Not that I’ve even got a clue as to how Loro’s perform on stage, but because I know the overwhelming effect of music this well put together when experienced live. And music this post-rock-ish tend to have no borders.