Quick Reviews: EXID, Phantom and Kara

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EXID – Hippity Hop

Release: August 13, 2012
Distributor: Loen Entertainment
Genre: Pop

EXID‘s greatest strength, even after its member overhaul since Holla earlier this year, is its depth in capable vocalists, and they know it. Hippity Hop continues to exploit this strength with mid-tempo pop tracks like 하나 보단 둘 (Two Rather Than One) and Think About. These are songs that don’t work nearly as well without consistent (read: not merely good) performances from the vocals, and EXID is up to the task. There’s little falloff between parts in either track. I have little gripes – the unnecessary melisma in Whoz That Girl Part 2 takes away from the song’s austere merits – but overall, the vocal displays as well as LE‘s rapping are solid.

The sound is richer than that in most idol music nowadays, as producer Shinsadong Tiger chooses to emphasize acoustics and real session over electronics. Still, the impression is that the composition doesn’t take advantage of the arrangement; these tracks are attractive, and you want to like them, but they just don’t stick because there’s substance that’s missing. Fortunately, with the versatility and depth they show here, it looks like EXID has some options for the future that most others don’t.

Tracklist (recommended tracks listed in bold)

1. 하나 보단 둘 (Two Rather Than One)
2. I Feel Good
3. 전화벨 (Ringtone)
4. Think About
5. Whoz That Girl Part 2
6. I Feel Good (R.T Remix)

Phantom – Phantom City

Release: August 16, 2012
Distributor: Loen Entertainment
Genre: Pop, Rap/Hip-hop

There’s probably been more hype surrounding Phantom than every other hip-hop rookie this year combined. For its part, Phantom City meets expectations. The trio takes pains to make sure its uniquely broad spectrum is reflected in the EP. Their already-proven penchant for sugary-sweet melodic rap is confirmed further in 미역국 (Seaweed Soup) and 어딘데 (Where Are You); there’s heavier (but still up-tempo) hip-hop in the trilingual and quad-hooked city rapping fest of Homeground; there’s even an unexpectedly genuine effort at American-tinged pop rock in Burning. Phantom’s versatility as vocalists and rappers carries them through this. The only time when they feel out of place is in Homeground, where the presence of Verbal Jint and Swings pushes Phantom members around, but few artists could hold their own with those two on the same track. Here’s guessing that they’ll be much harder than that to displace on the charts.

Tracklist (recommended tracks listed in bold)

1. Phantom City – Featuring As One
2. Burning
3. Homeground – Featuring Verbal Jint, Swings
4. 미역국 (Seaweed Soup)
5. 어딘데 (Where Are You)
6. ICE
7. 얼굴 뜷어지겠다 (Could Poke A Hole In Your Face)* – Remastered version
8. Burning – Instrumental

* As in, “because I stare at your face so intently”. It’s an expression.

Kara – Kara 5th Mini Album <Pandora>

Release: August 23, 2012
Distributor: CJ E&M
Genre: Pop

If you’ve been with us for a while, you might remember our review of Kara‘s Step (and how enamoured I was with the lead single). In the conclusion, I wrote:

“So long as DSP keeps Sweetune paired up with this group, we’re certainly going to see above-average results from the combination.”

Surprising nobody, DSP did pair Sweetune with Kara again, and we again see above-average results. The headlining tracks are Way and Pandora; the key concept in both is theatrics. The former features BPM bordering on the extreme and pairs the tempo with an old-school melody that oscillates between urgency (frantic springs, punchy drums) and groove (fairytale imagery, subdued electric piano). The latter employs rock and brass sounds extensively, as Sweetune has done recently, and its sense of sweeping climax is as good as ever.

The EP is no more than that, though. Top to bottom, this is one of Kara’s better albums to date, but nothing here even sniffs the almost magical exhilaration of Step, let alone go further than that effort. This is familiar ground, retreaded more than just once. I’m going to quote myself again:

“If Kara is going to break out of the mediocre, though, we need something more extraordinary. More of Step (the song). They’re going to need to keep achieving more of that potential.”

It’s not a good sign when I can repeat a previous review and still mean every word of it.

Tracklist (recommended tracks listed in bold)

1. Way
2. Pandora
3. Idiot
4. 그리운 날엔 (Miss U)
5. Pandora – Instrumental

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely of the individual and not of hellokpop as a whole.

Sources: Photos – maniadb (1) (2) (3)

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