2013 in Review: Day 5 – Dance and Electronic

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[The 2013 in Review Series]

0. Prelude – Best Album Art
1. Introduction
2. R&B and Soul
3. Rock and Alternative
4. Rap and Hip-hop
5. Dance and Electronic
6. Pop, Ballad and Folk
7. Jazz, Crossover and Other
8. Best Collaborative Work
9. Rookie of the Year
10. Song of the Year
11. Artist of the Year
12. Album of the Year
13. Staff Picks
14. Miscellanea and Loose Ends
15. Concluding Remarks

After an exceptionally strong 2012, I think the collective output of dance and electronic took a step back this year. There weren’t clear front-runners like last year’s eAeon or 2011’s Idiotape, and the depth wasn’t what it was before, either. That latter part probably has a little to do with the gradual diversification of mainstream K-pop, which is taking away a chunk of the once-large pool of great idol-group dance releases. (And the EDM scene doesn’t seem quite ready to accept the mantle.) Still, it wasn’t hard to find solid dance and electronic releases in 2013.

Important: same as last year, 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 an electronic album that isn’t being recognized on this page because it’s the album of the year. Also, note that honorable mention picks are sorted by alphabetical order of artist names.


Best Dance and Electronic Album 2013

F(x) - Pink Tape

F(x) – Pink Tape [read our review]

Four years running now, F(x) has put out a release worthy of year-end consideration. Pinocchio (2011) and its lead single as well as Electric Shock (2012) have all been featured in this space before, and Ice Cream would have been right in the mix for 2010’s best dance track if I had been writing that year. After that string of consistency, SM Entertainment did things a little bit differently in Pink Tape: a large part of the group’s unique character, personality, and quirk built up over the years was removed, and the zany narratives became less ambitious. While disappointing, in the end these things made Pink Tape a more well-rounded album – still instantly recognizable as F(x) but no longer alienating listeners. Meanwhile, the true accomplishment of the album was its sound quality. The kind of immaculately polished SM synthpop compositions that we’ve been spoiled by were at the core once again, packed with a seemingly endless list of embellishments and curve-balls that made Pink Tape one of the year’s most sonically pleasing albums. Will we see F(x) here again in 2014? Probably a good bet.

Runner-up Dance and Electronic Album 2013

Rainbow99 - Dream Pop

Rainbow99 – Dream Pop

The dream pop genre isn’t all about fuzzy tones and ambience, and producer Rainbow99 understands that. His appropriately titled album sure sounds and acts like dream pop, but more than that, it evokes emotions and sensibilities that only this kind of music can. Tracks like Cicada 2, New Year, and Dad deliver moments that are difficult to neatly box away – moments when emotions are turbulent and volatile, vagueness and uncertainty are constants, and hope and despair are two sides of the same coin. Dream Pop (the album now) leaves a lot to the imagination by design, often leaving open swaths of sound between its diffusive synths and ringing bells, and its evocative nature is the reason why it still succeeds.

Honorable Mentions

Clazziquai Project - Blessed

Clazziquai Project – Blessed [read our review]

Electricity Flowing - Guilty Pleasure

Electricity Flowing – 길티 플레저 (Guilty Pleasure)

Oh Hee-jung - Everybody Here Wants You Back

Oh Hee-jung – Everybody Here Wants You Back

SHINee - The Misconceptions of Us

SHINee – The Misconceptions of Us [read our reviews of Part 1 and Part 2]

Smells - Up And Down

Smells – Up And Down

VIXX - Jekyll

VIXX – Jekyll

W&JAS - New Kid in Town

W&JAS – New Kid in Town

Yukari - Echo

Yukari – Echo


Best Dance and Electronic Song 2013

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F(x) – Airplane

Airplane was and is a seminal single for F(x): it’s a compact culmination of what this group has accomplished over the years. The sound polish is better than ever – bold synth steps, breathtaking drops, and exquisite pacing made for a striking backdrop. The performances are tops – Amber was an unexpected star, and Luna and Krystal defined “bittersweet”. The lyrics, blending abstraction, nostalgia and gorgeous expression into an airborne metaphor, continue a tradition from the group’s pop ballads and incorporate a little of that F(x) quirk. An unforgettable melody, sing-along refrain, nuanced lyrics, tasteful production; Airplane was a triumphant achievement, and the summer’s best single.

Runner-up Dance and Electronic Song 2013

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Yukari – Just Friends

If Rainbow99 maximized the open-ended emotional potential of dream pop, Yukari took the eAeon route and fleshed out its introspective potential. Just Friends was one of the more subdued tracks even on Echo, and the rookie artist makes copious use of distortion and keeps ponderous pace en route to a blinding finale. It’s three minutes of shattered, shuttered, stuttered synths and airy vocals. This song epitomizes the album’s (and Yukari’s) identity: vulnerability, healing and other sensibilities that are not far from the Hongdae indie standard, but expressed through a very different medium. Yukari finds a fitting sonic outlet to voice these things, and she executes to perfection. Just Friends’ thematic focus separated Yukari from any other solo female artist out there – including electronic frontrunners like Neon Bunny and Heureun – and instantly made this debut memorable.

Honorable Mentions

BlackcatBB – Day Moon (Featuring Yoo Seo-young)
Brown Eyed Girls – Recipe
Clazziquai Project – 그녀는 위대해 (She Is Great) (Featuring Christina, MYK)
Demicat – Locked in the Dream (Featuring Koonta)
Electricity Flowing – 우주를 스테이지로 (Space As Our Stage)
F(x) – Step
F(x) – 미행 (Shadow)
FIESTAR – Whoo! (Featuring Eric Benet)
Girls’ Generation – Express 999 [read our album review]
Hyoo – 빈바다 (Empty Sea)
Kara – 숙녀가 못 돼 (Damaged Lady)
The KoKos – I Know
Lim Kim – Goodbye 20
Midnight Monsters – Voyage to the End of the Universe (Featuring Zuhan, Han Gyul)
Nami – 보여 (Voyeur)
Odd Eye – Follow Me
Oh Hee-jung – 나른하다 (Relaxed)
Ookoorookoo – 그렇게 시작해 (Start Like That)
Park Ji-yoon – 미스터리 (Mr. Lee) (Featuring San E)
Rainbow99 – China Town
Rainbow99 – 매미 (Cicada) 2
Rainbow99 – KTX (Featuring Hwang Bo-ryung)
Seo In-young – 나를 사랑해줘 (Love Me) (Featuring Gaeko)
SHINee – 1분만 더 (One Minute Back)
SHINee – Dynamite
SHINee – Everybody
SHINee – Why So Serious?
Smells – Listen To Your Heart (Featuring Neon Bunny)
Smells – Up And Down (Featuring Son Seung-yeon)
Spica – Tonight
VIXX – 어둠 속을 밝혀줘 (Light the Darkness)
VIXX – 저주인형 (Voodoo Doll)
W&JAS – 별을 쫒는 아이 (Star Chaser)
WhoWho – Bye Bye
WUJUD – Paradise
Xia – Incredible (Featuring Quincy Brown) [read our album review]
Yoo Sung-eun – Healing
Yukari – Yule

Sources: Photos – Yukari and album art from Daum Music; Videos – YouTube

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