The Korean music year of 2017 was off to an excellent start with the release of 3rd Line Butterfly’s fifth full-length album Divided By Zero already on January 6th. As the year progressed I found my attention gravitating more towards singles and EPs than full-length releases, but the last couple of months of 2017 illustrated well why I should stick to my principle of not writing about the best albums of any year until it is actually over.
PAKK – 살풀이 (Salpuri)
PAKK’s debut 곡소리 (A Wail) was the release I listened to more than any other during 2016. PAKK’s first full-length album 살풀이 (Salpuri) was released with more unfortunate timing with regards to my listening regimen–it was end of August by which I had both Electric Muse’s 10th anniversary and Zandari Festa to prepare for. It is a brilliant album, however, and under different circumstances would likely have followed A Wail as my most listened to album 2017.
It’s loud. It’s noisy. It’s melodic. It has everything that characterizes a masterpiece from one of Kim Daeinn’s bands. There are all of the psychedelic twists and turns. There’s that intense drive. And then there’s the special blend of all that that sets PAKK apart. It’s pretty much everything I could’ve asked for and more. The biggest surprise came with the clever choice of featuring DABDA’s Kim Ji Ea on “유 (䰰, Melancholy Criest of Ghost)”. Her vocals give the song a distinctly different feeling than what could’ve been achieved by Kim Daeinn himself, yet it is the song that for me most strongly conjures flashbacks to his solo work under the alias Jelly Boy. Just before Salpuri is over comes “재 (再, Re-)” in the direction of the kind of post-rock I thought was lost after Apollo 18 moved on from Red. PAKK’s Salpuri is the best album of 2017, all categories.
Flash Flood Darlings – Fewchie Vs. Wolflove
Flash Flood Darlings offered the strongest debut album of 2015 with Vorab and Tesoro. His sophomore album Fewchie Vs. Wolflove was finally released in December 2017. It’s a synth heavy release with a strong retro feeling, oftentimes very dance-friendly. Catchy melodies and catchy lyrics makes it both fun and energetic. While the songs all make for great listens individually, the album is at its very strongest when listening from beginning till end.
Kang Taegu – bleu
I had completely missed out on Kang Taegu until 2017, but I was smitten with “그랑블루 (bleu)” from the first time I heard the song. The release of the album with the same name followed a week later, November 26th. The sparse folk arrangements–primarily based around acoustic guitar, violin, and piano–give all the songs a sense of familiarity, reminding me of some of the Swedish folk oriented music I would listen to when younger. Every song on this compelling album is beautifully structured, and the way Kang Taegu delivers the lyrics makes me wish I had an acute understanding of Korean. The one major flaw of the album is what initially pulled me in, namely that “그랑블루 (bleu)” is so good that I can barely stop playing it on repeat to listen to everything else.
Car, the garden – Apartment
When Mayson The Soul was getting all the hype a few years back I didn’t really care. Not much for soul music myself, I took the name alone as reason to steer clear. It’s funny how much is in a name. When I first came across Car, the garden’s “Little By Little” I didn’t know to biased against it. I found the song to be strangely addictive in spite of the style being rather different from my usual listening.
Although having learned since that Mayson The Soul and Car, the garden are one and the same I was happy to have a listen to Car, the garden’s first full-length album Apartment when it was released in December. Nahzam Sue has mixed the majority of the songs on the album, whereas Oh Hyuk, Parasol, Sunwoo Jung-A, and O3ohn all contribute their talents to a song each. But it doesn’t just sound good on paper, it also sounds amazing on record. Car, the garden’s attractive vocals make up the common thread as he shifts between genres, resulting in a cohesive album that sustains repeated play exceptionally well.