Although buying physical media is still how I add to my music collection, as circumstances would have it most of my actual music listening during 2017 turned out to be streaming via Spotify. One benefit to this is that for once I have somewhat reliable statistics of what I’ve actually listened to throughout the year via last.fm and Spotify’s 2017 Wrapped.
Due to different criteria for data collection, including different cut off times for 2017, the statistics from last.fm and Spotify respectively are not always in agreement. I should also point out that the below is only a representation of what I listened to during 2017. What I found extra worthwhile in music actually released during 2017 will be highlighted in later posts.
|1||The Black Skirts||The Black Skirts|
|5||Secret Asian Men||Secret Asian Men|
Long at last, The Black Skirts finally released the first part of his third album end of May 2017. Combined with The Black Skirts’ back catalogue getting re-added to Spotify after signing with HIGHGRND there were just so many great songs to listen to. I’m fairly confident it’s not just nostalgia that makes 201 seem like one of the best indie pop albums ever to be released in Korea.
parkjiyoon returned with her 9th album, parkjiyoon9, in the beginning of March. I liked the album just fine, becoming especially fond of “어디로 가고 있는걸까 (Everything Goes Away)”, but more so it reminded me that her 8th album, from 2012, had some really solid songs that I eventually ended up playing on repeat instead.
Rainbow99 has been an unusually prolific musician during 2017 with no less than three full-length albums and one EP released. Just listening through them all once meant quite many plays, but I also happened to like Alphaville quite a lot.
Most of Jaurim’s back catalogue was added to Spotify in 2017. Jaruim 04 in particular was really precious to me when it first came out and I really enjoyed getting reminded of earlier hits through the 2001 release Jaruim ‘True’ Live. And not just Jaurim’s own releases, but also the many amazing remakes from I Am A Singer (나는 가수다) turned up.
Tearliner is one of those artists I listen to during any given year, having been one of my favorite Korean artists since the release of his first album in 2004. 2017 saw the release of Love Bites, compiling various Tearliner singles, drama contributions, and previously unreleased tracks. Tearliner being the music director for the excellent tvN drama Argon (아르곤) helped further drive the increase in amount of Tearliner I listened to during the year.
While the majority of my music listening nowadays is just trying to listen to as much new music as possible, I occasionally allow myself new themes to listen by. There were a few songs from Secret Asian Men’s 2016 album Secrets Beyond The Room that I had listened to somewhat extensively, but after I prepared to list my favorite Electric Muse albums the entire album ended up on repeat. The release of EP Contrast in September definitely added to the count as well.
When parkjiyoon’s 나무가 되는 꿈 (Tree of Life) was released in 2012 I was very excited. Counting as her 8th full-length album, it was her second since moving away from her idol career, produced with support from members of Dear Cloud and No Reply. As I had gone without listening to it for several years, the release of parkjiyoon’s follow-up album reminded me of its existence. Turns out that five years later it’s still a great album.
I wish I had paid more attention to Secret Asian Men’s first full-length album Secrets Beyond The Room when it was released in 2016. Fortunately the 10th anniversary of Electric Muse prompted me to go back and give it another listen. While my favorite songs remain the same, I now consider the entire album to be a modern indie pop masterpiece.
As much as I like Korean hardcore, I’ve pretty much been listening to the same bands for the past few years. Enter Animal Anthem. Debut album Bones was released in December 2015, but it took me more than a year before I finally gave it a listen. When I did, more than half of the tracks on the album ended up on my rotation playlist, where “Epitaph” and “See” lasted the longest.
I really liked 9 and the Numbers 2009 debut album, but for some reason I’ve been struggling to really buy into the hype around the band since. Third full-length album 수렴과 발산 (Solitude and Solidarity) left me as confused as the second album, but I anyway added a few tracks to my rotation playlist. With repeated exposure I found myself randomly playing songs, especially “싱가포르 (Singapore)”, from the album in my head. I still haven’t been able to make up my mind about the album itself.
DABDA has been a name I’ve seen around for years, but it wasn’t until last year with the endorsement from PAKK that I finally begun to pay attention. Preparing for Zandari Festa 2017 I ended up playing DABDA’s 2016 debut EP 저마다 섬 (Island of Each) on repeat. Intriguing from first track to the last with an excellent display of musicality.
With my album top 5 consisting of all older releases, I looked a little further and found Shin Hae Gyeong’s debut EP 나의 가역반응 (My Reversible Reaction). I fell instantly for the whole thing when it was released in February 2017, keeping every single track around for repeated listening.
|1||Galaxy Express - "연안부두 (Yeonan Dock)"||Tafka Budaah - "人間事
|2||Tafka Budaah - "人間事 (Flatulence)"||Secret Asian Men - "Delayed"|
|3||parkjiyoon - "소리 (Sound)"||Doe Jaemyoung - "자장가 (Lullaby)"|
|4||Kim Sawol X Kim Haewon - "허니 베이비 (Honey Baby)"||parkjiyoon - "Quiet Dream"|
|5||parkjiyoon - "Quiet Dream"||parkjiyoon - "소리 (Sound)"|
Just a few seconds into Galaxy Express’ cover of “연안부두(Yeonan Dock)” it was clear that I was gonna have to listen to it a lot more. Few things are so instantly appealing to me as trot framed as rock, and Galaxy Express made it so well I had to blog about it as soon as I got home. According to last.fm this was not only the song I played the most during 2017, but also the song I played the most during one single day.
It took me a while to find Tafka Buddah’s latest album, the 2016 release 생각만큼 깨끗하지 않다. 생각만큼 더럽지도 않다 (Not clean as I thought. Not even dirty as it sounds) on Spotify as it was uploaded to all international streaming services under the name Tafka Budaah. When I did find it I was super excited to hear the album version of “人間事 (Flatulence)”. Sort of like bitpop mixed with 90’s K-Pop, with deb providing the vocals. So many things to love!
As much as I’ve listened to Secret Asian Men I still struggle to name a specific song as my definite favorite. According to Spotify I’ve listened more to the slow-paced “Delayed”, but last.fm has it tied with the more dance-friendly “Tonight”. Regardless, “Delayed” is an excellent song that I’d still be happy to listen to many times over.
parkjiyoon’s 8th full-length album Tree of Life follows a strange pattern. Whereas most albums commonly start with the strongest songs and get weaker, Tree of Life started out well and then just got stronger and stronger as it went along. “소리 (Sound)” is the very last song on the album and arguably the most unique of the bunch. This almost sacral piece, which grows more interesting with every minute, features Park Asher who also composed and arranged the track.
That Loro’s decided to finally disband was a disappointment to most fans. Fortunately it didn’t take long before vocalist Doe Jaemyoung started releasing his solo music. I first became extremely fond of “시월의 현상 (Phenomenon of October)”, which features Nahm Sang Ah, but when the full album was released in March I decided to focus on the new songs with “자장가 (Lullaby)” lasting the longest on my rotation playlist.
Kim Sawol X Kim Haewon was one of the best collaborations to happen in 2014. The follow-up single 허니 베이비 (Honey Baby) was released end of 2016 and offers more of the same sexy modern folk that made the duo’s EP so amazing. I kept returning to this song throughout 2017.
parkjiyoon’s “Quiet Dream” is the second to last song on Tree of Life and with that also qualifies as one of its very strongest tracks. Written by parkjiyoon herself and arranged by Dear Cloud’s Yongrin it’s a super lovely tune that works as well for active listening as it does as background music. It also makes for a great earworm.
Check out the playlist embedded below for more of what Spotify deems to be my top 100 songs of 2017: