2015 in Review: Day 1 – Prelude (Best Album Art)

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[The 2015 in Review Series]

1. Prelude (Best Album Art)
2. R&B and Soul (coming January 15)
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. Other Recognition
17. Concluding Remarks

It’s that time of year again, folks. We wade through the sea of excellent musical releases over the past year to recognize and celebrate the cream of the crop. The fifth annual Hellokpop Year In Review is back.

…That is, it will be back in a couple more weeks. This year, the series is being pushed back to mid-January – look for the first genre category, R&B and Soul, to be posted on January 15. Still, let’s get the preliminaries out early:

Series Structure

As always, we sort the first half of the series with genre categories. After the addition of two categories last year, there are no new ones for 2015; at this time, the current categories seem like a good mix. We continue with general categories in the second week of the series. In addition to my picks and commentary, back again this year are selections from other Hellokpop staff on Day 15. We also have some unorthodox (to put it mildly) award categories to offer on Day 16.

Notes and Figures

We restrict our attention to songs and albums released between December 1, 2014 and November 30, 2015. Using release trackers from Daum Music (which went defunct during the year) and Naver Music, I logged and reviewed 3,149 single releases this year. It is a huge decrease from last year’s logged count (7,103), but more than the number that was actually reviewed last year (2,002). I tabbed a total of 429 albums (many under incomplete review) and 945 songs (both single cuts and otherwise, so many are not part of the 3,149) during the year for the list, and after making cuts, the final tally will reflect between a third and a half of each figure.

The structure of the genre categories remains unchanged from last year. There are winners, runner-ups, “next ten out”, and honorable mentions for each category. However, the number of honorable mentions will be larger than in previous years (over 80 in Pop and Ballad) as a result of fewer rounds of cuts for that section. I believe that they are still worthy of recognition.

The usual disclaimer now: the review pool is not even close to complete. Many of those singles came out of albums that were not reviewed in detail and many niche scenes were only superficially covered. Every year there are dozens and dozens of excellent, deserving releases that I only learn about after publishing the series.

Best Album Art

As is tradition, we kick off the series with a collection of album art. Here are 100 of my favorite cover images from 2015, ranging from beautiful to evocative to weird.

1. The list is organized in alphabetical order of artist name. (Korean names are Romanized.) Mouse over each image to view artist and title.
2. The below images have been resized downwards, but the original high-res images can be found at Bugs Music.
3. Many of these albums are going to be represented in some way (whether through the album, a song in the album, or the artist) in the main Year in Review series – making this a very partial sneak peek.
4. There were 156 pieces of album art that I originally tabbed throughout the year, before trimming. Needless to say, there are many more pieces of great cover art out there even beyond my initial 156. If I’ve missed or omitted any of your favorites, please share in the comments!

Gallery: Best Album Art 2015 (click for larger image)


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