2014 in Review: Day 3 – Rock and Alternative

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[The 2014 in Review Series]

1. Introduction and Best Album Art
2. R&B and Soul
3. Rock and Alternative
4. Rap and Hip-hop
5. Dance and Electronic
6. Pop and Ballad
7. Folk and Country
8. Jazz and Blues
9. Crossover and Other
10. Best Collaborative Work
11. Rookie Artist of the Year
12. Artist of the Year
13. Song of the Year
14. Album of the Year
15. Staff Picks
16. Storylines and Other Recognition
17. Concluding Remarks

2014 again showcased the incredible depth in the Korean rock scene, across all spectra of heaviness and experimentalism. There were a few real heavy hitters at the top, ranging from Seo Taiji to Kiha and the Faces, but this is never a top-heavy scene; its strength is encased in the sheer numbers and consistent quality that you’ll find below. (This category contains more honorable-mention albums than any other.) It’s always a struggle to even keep up with it all, what with the indie gems being so common, but I think you’ll agree that the effort is worth it.

Important: same as the last two years, the Album of the Year and Song of the Year (and their runner-ups) are not included in the genre categories. That means that, for example, there could be a rock album that isn’t being recognized on this page because it’s the album of the year. Also, note that all “Next Ten Out” and “Honorable Mention” picks are sorted by artist name.


Best Rock and Alternative Album 2014

Hollow Jan - Day Off

Hollow Jan – Day Off

Is Day Off an exercise in post-rock mannerisms? You could argue that, but I don’t think so. Hollow Jan’s comeback was familiar in its shoegaze ambiance, exhausting roars courtesy of Im Hwan-taek, and tightly orchestrated harmonies. Great stuff that you might also find elsewhere. But crucially, the death-themed Day Off retained the band’s greatest strength: catharsis that hits hard like no other band’s work. As “The Day Before” and “The Day After” build towards their stormy, explosive climaxes, Im speaks for both the living and the dead; though they are tracks apart, the longing of the former and the regrets and powerlessness of the latter converse with each other. While the emotionally charged moments are most readily found in tracks like these and “Poem of the Ocean”, even the album’s ebbing tides – the tense and lonely “Invitation of the Wind”, the unoccupied space of “Return To Universe” – are provocative. This moving emotion is what Hollow Jan (still uniquely) brings to the table, and this cohesive narrative the gripping beauty of Day Off.

Runner-up Rock and Alternative Album 2014

Loro's - W.A.N.D.Y

Loro’s – W.A.N.D.Y

W.A.N.D.Y is a long album – twelve tracks, many of them over six minutes long – and it’s easy to get lost in it, in a good way. The album’s progressive-influenced compositions mostly aim to sustain long and unbroken measures of melody, rather than build up to a climactic explosion. Ergo, the consistently enthralling “Undercurrent” and the chameleonic “Homo Separatus”. There are still some exquisite individual moments, like the massive third act of “춤을 추자” (“Let’s Dance”) and cello solo of “Senna”, but they are organically placed and are not the album’s focal point. The flourishing presence of Jane Ha‘s string performances can’t be understated, either. W.A.N.D.Y‘s sophisticated pieces and vibrant execution are a reminder of why this band has quickly become one of the best in the business.

The Next Ten Out


Best Rock and Alternative Song 2014

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Asian Chairshot – 해야 (Dear Sun)

“Dear Sun” is not a remake of Magma‘s legendary 1980 hit of the same title (of which there have been many), but I do feel like they are spiritually similar. Both operate on hard-rock principles, eschewing finesse for bold riffs and straight-up pounding snares. A ponderous opening (though this one’s got a boisterous intro) turns into a speedy intermission and then a supercharged rendition of the earlier section. Asian Chairshot vocalist Hwang Young-won even sounds a bit like Cho Ha-mun, with both possessing a little carefree twang and grating belts. And just like the elder “Dear Sun”, this is a hugely satisfying number that hearkens back to the best of psychedelic rock – it just so happens that our pick also benefits from modern polish and production values.

Runner-up Rock and Alternative Song 2014

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The Solutions – Movements

Like other top electro-garage bands today (Glen CheckThe KoxxIdiotape, and so on), the Solutions’ sound is sometimes indistinguishably close to modern electronic. “Movements” is a track that mixes the best of both worlds: here is the driving vitality of rock and clean crispness of EDM. Attractively carved synths meld seamlessly with atmospheric guitars, and the rousing rhythm survives intermissions to continue churning until the very end. Lovely.

The Next Ten Out

Blue Paprika - Longest Night

Blue Paprika – 긴긴밤 (Longest Night)

Core Magazine - Rude Banquet

Core Magazine – 달리 (Differently)

Guten Birds - Reticent X

Guten Birds – 돌고래와 헤엄치기 (Swimming With Dolphins)

Kiha and the Faces - A Person's Heart

Kiha and the Faces – 사람의 마음 (Human Mind)

Life and Time - The Great Deep

Life And Time – 호랑이 (The Tiger)

Metamorphosis - Artificial Disaster

Metamorphosis – For What All Might Do

Nunco - Skyland

Nunco Band – 퓨처럽 (Future Luv)

Romantiqua - Revenge

Romantiqua – Small Words, Big News

Small o - Temper of Water

small o – 마의 산 (Into The Wild)

Yellow Monsters - The Van

Yellow Monsters – 빨갱이 (Commie)

Honorable Mentions


Blue Paprika – Longest Night
Buzz – Memorize
Core Magazine – Rude Banquet
Crying Nut & No Brain – 96
Emon – In Your Sight
Gwamegi – Conviction
Guckkasten – Frame
Guten Birds – Reticent X
Hlin – Glint Back Light
Hollins – Something
Hologram Film – Into The Wild
Hoochus – 우리는 (We)
Kiha and the Faces – 사람의 마음 (Human Mind)
Kim Bada – Moonage Dream
Kim Choo-ja – It’s Not Too Late
Love and Peace – No. 9 Rebirth
Metamorphosis – Artificial Disaster
Monni – Follow My Voice
Nell – Newton’s Apple
Pavlov – 26
Phonebooth – Wonder
Romantiqua – Revenge
Silent Eye – Dirty World Of Angels
Sinzo Eumke – Revive
small o – Temper of Water
Unchained – 가시 (The Thorn)
we hate jh – officially, we hate jh


A’zbus – Monster
Cherry Filter – 안드로메다 (Andromeda)
Combative Post – The Ghost
Crystal Tea – 보이즈 캐러밴 (Boys’ Caravan)
Dancensingalong – 다 컷대도 (Even Though You’re A Grownup)
Danpyunsun and the Sailors – 순 (Bud)
Emon – 비껴간 마음의 거리 (The Street of Missed Hearts)
From The Airport – Chemical Love
Gate Flowers – 저 (Those)
Glittering Blackness, Fall – 3-3
Guckkasten – 변신 (Metamorphosis)
Gwamegi – Conviction
Ha Dong-qn – 틈 (Gap)
Hanumpa – 곡예사 (Acrobat)
Hlin – 기억나무숲 (Remember Tree)
Hollins – Something
Hollow Jan – Day 3: The Day After
hyukoh – 위잉위잉 (Wi Ing Wi Ing)
Ironic Hue – Fantasy
Julia Hart – 옆집소년효과 (Neighbor Boy Effect)
Jung Joon-young – Teenager
Kim Bada – Moonage Dream
Kim Choo-ja – 몰라주고 말았어 (Never Knew)
Kim Sa-rang – Love Up
Lee Jang-hyuk – 칼집 (Sheath)
Lee Sora – 나 Focus (I, Focus)
Lee Sora – 좀 멈춰라 사랑아 (Would You Stop, Love)
Litter – I Do
Loro’s – U
Maybe Lee Ja-ram Band – 나의 가난은 (My Poverty)
Messgram – Every Moment
Nell – Dear Genovese
Reasco – In The Night
The Roosters – Come To Me (Featuring Yeomsoongi)
Roundheads – 서울, 시끄럽다 (Seoul, You’re Too Loud)
Seo Taiji – Christmalo.win
Shin Hae-chul – 단 하나의 약속 (Only Promise)
Silent Eye – Dirty World Of Angels
Sinawi – 밤이 늦었어 (It’s Late At Night)
The Solutions – Answer
The Solutions – Jungle In Your Mind
The Solutions – Sailor’s Song
Spicy Soda – 텅빈거리 (Empty Street)
Startline – Time Goes By
Swimming Fish – 안녕 (Goodbye)
Waikiki Brothers Band – 뱃노래 (Sailor’s Song)
we hate jh – 기회주의자 (The Opportunist)

Sources: Photos – Loro’s from lllyejlll.blog.me, album covers from Daum Music; Videos – YouTube

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