It’s been a month since the year of 2015 came to an end, so it’s well about time to summarize the year. In what has been a trend of recent years, I didn’t listen to as much music as I should have–something I’m working to change in 2016. Even so, I must say 2015 was a great year for Korean music. I may not have listened to much, but most of what I did listen to was absolutely excellent. And that goes for all genres.
I already listed some of my favorites of 2015 for Sounds of the Korean Underground, so let’s keep this short.
Best Album: Eastern Sidekick – 굴절률 (Total Reflection)
Eastern Sidekick‘s second full-length album 굴절률 (Total Reflection) was released on October 29. It showed up on Spotify soon thereafter, and I was blown away already by the first few seconds. I’ve been keeping a keen eye on Eastern Sidekick since their first EP, but only really liked the occasional song. Total Reflection on the other hand is an awesome, awesome album without a single weak song. From 10 tracks total a record-breaking 8 ended up on my New Listens rotation playlist, where 6 tracks remain three months later. This album made me wish for an Eastern Sidekick SHAKE game, just like the Guckkasten SHAKE I couldn’t get enough of a few years ago.
Best Song: Hwang Shing Hye Band – 짬뽕 2015
To be perfectly honest I can’t really name a favorite song of 2015. Most of the songs I ended up playing extensively during the year had been released several years earlier, and out of those actually released during 2015 there were just too many good ones. So instead I picked the song from 2015 that made the biggest impression on me–Hwang Shin Hye Band‘s updated 2015 version of the 1997 hit “짬뽕“, recorded for the Indie 20th Anniversary compilation. I first heard it while listening to the CD while out driving alone. I ended up playing just that song for the last 40 km or so of my drive, singing along like a crazy person. It’s just too much fun not do it.
Best Performance: Jambinai @ Clandestino Festival, June 5 2015
I’ve been a fan of Jambinai since the very beginning. It’s one of the bands I’ve seen live the most times, and it’s without competition the band I’ve travelled the most to see. Throughout the years I’ve seen them not only in Korea but also in Finland, Norway, and Denmark. In spite of extensive touring in Europe over the past few years, it was not until 2015 that Jambinai made it to Sweden the first time. Their show at the Clandestino Festival in Gothenburg was the last on the first leg of their 3 tours to Europe that summer and they were noticeably tired from touring the continent, but the sound was perfect and I was just so happy to finally get to see them in my home country.
Best Festival: Modern Sky Helsinki
I’ve already written a full blog post explaining why Modern Sky Helsinki August 28-29 2015 is the best music festival I have ever attended. Needless to say it qualifies well and beyond for best festival of 2015.
Best Music Video: Goonam – 젊은이
The first couple of months of 2015 I made a habit out of checking new YouTube uploads the first thing I did every day coming home from work. After a few weeks of other distractions, this habit disappeared and in the end I barely saw any of the videos that came out. Even so, I was on Twitter in time to be alerted to the release of the music video for Goonam‘s “젊은이”. Such a simple yet brilliant concept. Usually I will keep videos on for background watching, just to listen to the song, but this video I could not look away from. Still makes me want to dance every time I see it.
Best Drama Score: Heart To Heart (하트 투 하트)
Tearliner has been one of my favorite musicians for over a decade. Not only is he a gifted songwriter, but he’s also an outstanding music director. With his work for tvN drama Heart To Heart beginning of the year he outdid himself, perfectly matching both old and new works of his to the scenes of what coincidentally was also the best Korean drama I’ve seen in years.
For more of my choices from 2015, check out Angle Magazine’s half-year series wherein I also recommend Sunkyeol‘s 급진은 상대적 개념, Flash Flood Darlings‘ Vorab and Tesoro, Pope X Pope‘s The Divinity And The Flames Of Furious Desires, and Say Sue Me‘s Big Summer Night.