2014 in Review: Day 7 – Folk and Country

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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

Here’s the first of our two new genre categories this year. Folk never truly went away in Korea, but it seems that we are seeing a particular resurgence in recent years as more indie artists find it easier to break into this genre than others. That has partly led to an over abundance of unoriginal and derivative folk music, but the cream of the crop is stronger than ever due to this quantitative increase. Korea’s small and niche country scene also makes a few contributions today. Here are 2014’s best in each genre.

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. This means that, for example, there could be a folk 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 Folk and Country Album 2014

Gonne Choi - I Was, I Am, I WillGonne Choi – I Was, I Am, I Will

Gonne Choi’s first full-length album is raw. From the unkempt mixing of “Storm” to the wildly screamed scat outro of “No Energy” to the lo-fi backing and narration of “타만네가라” (“Taman Negara”), the album’s minimalist production philosophy is clear. And by employing things like one-take recording, minimal post-production and live audience interactions, Choi brings I Was, I Am, I Will a step closer to nature: it sounds “closer” to the listener than perhaps any other of 2014. Atop this, crisp melodies and sharp writing (“Why are we not forests to each other,” croons Choi in “Bom”) build up an album of many influences but unique character.

Runner-up Folk and Country Album 2014

Monoban - Ghost Ship

Monoban – 유령선 (Ghost Ship)

Sometimes, an interesting instrumental combination is enough to make a band noticeable. Monoban certainly has that with their guitar-cello-cajon lineup, but they also put these instruments to very creative use. The cello and guitar often share the rhythmic role as the cajon adapts to each song, and clever composition as well as nuanced play result in uniquely heady tracks like “Dandelion” and “Tututu”. From the way they play, speed and vivacity comes almost naturally, but Monoban also flashes some moments hearkening back to traditional folk topics with slight twists. There’s a whole world of possibility that is made possible by this lineup, and this EP is but a tip of the iceberg.

The Next Ten Out


Best Folk and Country Song 2014

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Sarasu – 언덕 위에 작은 집 (Little House On The Hill)

Scale is the name of the game for Sarasu’s debut single. “Little House On The Hill” features a soaring performance by vocalist Sak, upon which harmonious choral tracks are layered. Its unpredictable structure and driving piano give it a flavor of progressive rock, but its attitude, subject matter and basic sound are recognizably folk. Singing of the modern worker’s desire to escape from routine, the band’s natural imagery is reminiscent of Panic‘s work. Here’s a refreshing breakaway from formulaic folk sounds, and an inspired new direction for the scene.

Runner-up Folk and Country Song 2014

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Gonne Choi – Monster

We very nearly had a sweep of this category by Gonne Choi; this and Sarasu’s track were neck-and-neck for the top spot. “Monster” is another manifestation of the aforementioned rawness that Choi brings to the table. It doesn’t sound like much at first: harsh drum strikes and imposing acoustic plucks are constants and the song is built on the strength of one riff repeated ad infinitum. But there’s a strange persuasiveness to this. The rhythm of that riff and the pounding snares are in constant dialogue, forming an unlikely harmony despite the messiness in each. As Choi whispers and belts her way through a cryptic set of lyrics, you can perhaps hear a younger Nah Youn-sun‘s attitude. It’s a captivating three minutes.

The Next Ten Out

Big Baby Driver - A Story Of A Boring Monkey And A Baby Girl

Big Baby Driver – Baby You

CountryGB - CountryGB 1st EP

CountryGB – December

Devil_E_So_Marko - 아무것도 아닌 이야기 (A Story About Nothing)

Devil_E_So_Marko – 그대 잘못이 아니야 (It’s Not Your Fault)

J Rabbit - Good Feeling

J Rabbit – 기분 좋은 느낌 (Good Feeling)

Kim Chang-gi - An Ordinary Man's Childish Song

Kim Chang-gi – 평범한 남자의 유치한 노래 (An Ordinary Man’s Childish Song) (Featuring Park Sang-wook)

Kim Sa-wol X Kim Hae-won - {비밀} ({Secret})

Kim Sa-wol X Kim Hae-won – 비밀 (Secret)

Ggotjam Project - Smile, Burp

Ggotjam Project – 뜨거울 나이 (Age To Be Hot)

Monoban - Ghost Ship

Monoban – 유령선 (Ghost Ship)

Roy Kim - Home

Roy Kim – Home

YellOwe Jam - YellOwe Jam

YellOwe Jam – 하나 둘 셋 (One Two Three)

Honorable Mentions


10cm – 3.0
9 and the Numbers – 보물섬 (Treasure Island)
Bae Yoon-jin – 어떤 숨 (A Certain Breath)
CountryGB – CountryGB 1st EP
Dalacoustic – Crazy Concert
Gaho – 안녕, 언젠가 (Goodbye, Someday)
Kim Chang-gi – 평범한 남자의 유치한 노래 (An Ordinary Man’s Childish Song)
Kim Jung-gyun – 달동네 (Slums)
Kwon Namu – 그림 (Painting)
Leeluly Project – 노래를 불러 줄게요 (I’ll Sing You A Song)
Morrie – 낮과 밤 (Day And Night)
Shinsege Project – 바람의 집 (House Of Winds)
Yang Chang-geun – 5am


10cm – Stalker
Bily Acoustie – 고스란히 (Intact) (Featuring Cho Won-sun)
Blue Paprika – 고백 (Confession) (Featuring Kingston Ludisca)
Classical Suggestion – Float Time
Daehyun – 사레 걸린 척 (Pretending To Choke)
Dalacoustic – 봄이 오면, 그녀는 (When Spring Comes, She)
Gaho – So, I Say
Han Chae-yoon – 느리게 피어나는 꽃 (Slow-Blooming Flower)
Imagine – 그냥 그냥 그냥 (Just Because)
Imagine – 나의 우주 (My Universe)
Im Kilo – 만추 (Late Autumn)
Jeon Hyo-jin – 봄밤 (Spring Night)
Kim Chang-wan Band – E메이져를 치면 (Whenever I Strum E Major)
Kim Il-An – 머리에 민들레꽃을 피운 (Dandelion In Hair) (Featuring Kwak Pureun Haneul)
Kwon Namu – 어릴 때 (When Little)
Lee Ji-hyung – 느낌적인 느낌 (Feeling Like A Feeling)
Leeluly Project – 노래를 불러 줄게요 (I’ll Sing You A Song)
Megan Lee – 8dayz (Featuring Yong Jun-hyung)
Morrie – 그렇게 너와 꿈꾸고 싶어 (Want To Dream With You)
Park Sung-do – 벚꽃극장 (Cherry Blossom Theater)
Roh Basaem – 꽃이 피기까지 (Until The Blooming)
Sweet Sugar – 왜 그렇게 우린 힘들었을까 (Why Was It So Hard For Us)
Yangyang – 노래는 (Songs)
Yozoh – 끝에는 끝없이 너와 나 (In The End, Endlessly You And I)

Sources: Photos – CountryGB from EBS and album covers from Daum Music; Videos – YouTube

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