Quick Reviews: Kim Sat-byeol, Slow 6, and Son Sue-kyung

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Kim Sat-byeol – 운동 (Exercise)

Release: August 16, 2012
Distributor: Feel Entertainment
Genre: Indie pop, ballad

Exercise is a debut album produced with social funding, so it’s not exactly a big-budget project. It is a tremendous credit to Kim Sat-byeol that you wouldn’t be able to tell that right away. There is real quality here in both songwriting and sound fidelity. Exercise’s ballads – 바람필게 (Going To Cheat) and 4분만 울게 (I’ll Cry For Just Four Minutes) are standouts – are austere, often set only to tender piano and programmed string, but Kim’s airy voice and calm melody unload plenty of emotion. The sounds in uptempo and experimental tracks rely more on electronics, and amidst the merely-adequate selections, there are gems like the ambient-acoustic explosion of 우주여행 (Space Ride). The sometimes quirky, sometimes somber, and always incisively creative lyrics lift Exercise from “laudably close reproduction of big-name pop” to “laudably unique pop”, not least in its highly entertaining, titular lead single. It’s a promising, if not filling, debut effort.

Tracklist (recommended tracks listed in bold)

1. 운동 (Exercise)
2. 2012 (기정이에게) (To Ki-jung)
3. 막춤 (Freeform Dance)
4. 바람 맞다 (To Get Blown Off)
5. 바람필게 (Going To Cheat)
6. 우주여행 (Space Ride)
7. 라디오를 켠다 (심야식당) (Turn On The Radio (Late Night Restaurant))
8. 언제 어른이 될까 (When Will I Become An Adult)
9. 4분만 울게 (I’ll Cry For Just Four Minutes)

Slow 6 – Somewhere

Release: August 22, 2012
Distributor: Danal Entertainment
Genre: Indie pop, acoustic

There are few hard edges within Somewhere. Slow 6‘s (pronounced “Slow June”) third studio album in eight years is filled with mellow ukulele and almost-whispered vocals and tracks that flow right into each other. It is also hopelessly romantic. Slow 6 sings of giddy young love (Aloha), a late seaside conversation with a familiar yet heart-fluttering partner (Jamboree), an ambiguously literal and figurative walk down memory lane (Norway), and a lighthearted, petulant jealousy for seemingly abundant love in the air (Ode To Dating). And this barely scratches the surface of Slow 6’s richly sketched stories.

For all that, a lot is left unsaid. The album’s ‘plot’ is open-ended, with plenty of in-the-moment consciousnesses and abstractions to leave things up for interpretation. And neither Slow 6’s voice nor the instrumentation steps up to claim the substantial space left empty by the other. Even the album’s title is ambiguous. But I think this is for the best; these things help make Somewhere steady instead of up-and-down, continuous instead of choppy, timeless instead of transient. They make the amaranthine nature of this (uncharacteristically stale) lyric from 그대와 왈츠를 (Waltz With You) seem happily real: “Our story, which won’t ever end // I’ll become a song for you, a heart full of joy // Though time may pass // My heart, with you forever”.

Tracklist (recommended tracks listed in bold)

1. Aloha
2. Baby It’s You
3. Jamboree
4. It’s All Right
5. 4월 이야기 (April Story)
6. Norway
7. Bambi
8. 그대와 왈츠를 (Waltz With You)
9. 연애찬가 (Ode  To Dating)
10. April – Featuring Yeonjin of Linus’ Blanket
11. Baby It’s You (Reprise)
12. 그대와 왈츠를 (Waltz With You) – Instrumental
13. Norway (Reprise)

Son Sue-kyung – I Am

Release: August 27, 2012
Distributor: Universal Music Korea
Genre: Crossover, instrumental

Having no technical expertise with the violin, I can’t tell you certain things about electric violinist Son Sue-kyung‘s debut album. I can’t tell you whether the Britain’s Got Talent Series 3 semifinalist, who turned heads last year with a single plus guest appearances in I Am A Singer among others, is playing at an extremely high level. I can’t tell you how difficult her compositions are, how proficiently she handles things, or how impressed you should be at her technique.

I can, however, tell you that I Am covers an impressive array of styles, even for a crossover album. I can tell you that some really impressive names were involved with it – Jung Tae-chun being the most surprising example. I can tell you that Son’s performance is more than evocative enough, not only in a familiar high-energy, rock-based piece like Chaos but actually more so in heavier, more ponderous compositions. I can tell you that one such piece, 청야비가 (Song of Blue Night and Sorrow), is four minutes of 2012’s most frigid, profound reflection in violin and zhonghu. I can tell you that I Am knows how to be trendy, bringing out the best traits of its featured artists in vocal tracks like mood-drenched Flashback as well as brightening up for pleasant instrumentals 첫 키스 (First Kiss) and I Wish. I can tell you that while Son’s violin work obviously takes center stage, the amount of other dazzling ear candy in I Am is staggering. And I can tell you all this is very well-packaged and -presented.

Or I could simply tell you that I Am is one of the top crossover albums of the year so far. But what’s the fun in that?

Tracklist (recommended tracks listed in bold)

1. Chaos
2. 첫 키스 (First Kiss)
3. Flashback – Featuring Dynamic Duo,
4. 청야비가 (푸른 밤 슬픈 노래) (Song of Blue Night and Sorrow)
5. 아직도 널 (You Still) – Featuring Yoon Do-hyun of YB
6. Espresso Girl – Featuring Phantom
7. 이별전야 (Night Before Parting)
8. Rush
9. 즉홍여행 (Impromptu Trip) – Featuring Jang Hyo-suk
10. Stand Up For You – Featuring Son Seung-yeon, Yoo Sung-eun, Woo Hye-mi, Ji Se-hee (Top 4 contestants of Voice Korea)
11. I Wish

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

Sources: Photos – Bugs Music (1) , maniadb (2) (3)

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