2015 in Review: Day 7 – Folk and Country

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[The 2015 in Review Series]

1. Prelude (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. Other Recognition
17. Concluding Remarks

There’s such a large volume of folk music out there in Korea, especially in the purely acoustic end of the spectrum, that things start to sound similar after a while. Here are some of 2015’s selections that do not blend in such a way. (And no, not only the pure acoustics!)

Important: as in previous years, 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 a folk album that isn’t being recognized on this page because it’s the album of the year. Also, note that all “First Ten Out” and “Honorable Mention” picks are sorted by artist name.


Best Folk and Country Album 2015

Kim Sa-wol - Suzanne

Kim Sawol – 수잔 (Suzanne)

Kim might be the fastest-rising young artist in all of Korea. She followed up her tremendous 2014 joint effort with Suzanne, her first solo work, again joining forces with Kim Hae-won as producer. A sense of sterile coldness characterizes much of the album, but it is not cynical; the greatest driving force is again Kim Sawol’s exquisite voice, straddling the line between youthful innocence and chilling wisdom and singling lyrics that do the exact same. The perfect string incorporation in “Exhale” and “Signal”, among others, as well as Kim Oki‘s subtle sax work in “Freak” not just straddle, but actively blend the line between folk and jazz and psychedelic. With each release, she is forming the future of Korean folk.

Runner-up Folk and Country Album 2015

Joung Saenansul - Way To Clapham Junction

Joung Saenansul – 클랩함 정션으로 가는 길 (Way To Clapham Junction)

Joung Saenansul might have musical heritage, but her music is fully independent from that of Joung Tae-chun and Park Eun-ok. Way To Clapham Junction is a folk album at heart, as evidenced by its lead single, but it tries a lot of interesting, nontraditional things within the confines of an EP. From the unpredictable a capella progression of “Thumb and Index” to the circus theatrics of “Became A Baby”, there’s nary a monotonous moment here, and the execution is excellent.

The First Ten Out


Best Folk and Country Song 2015

Jung Cha-sik – 연인 (Lover)

“Lover” is squarely on the gentle end of Jung Cha-sik’s spectrum, but even then you can’t contain the man: there is a certain wildness to the hand-clap beat and unbridled roughness in his curdled belting. I love the way the string-and-guitar rhythm keeps on moving, calm and uncaring and inexorable, regardless of the vocal mood; it fits right with the march of the seasons implied by the temporally confusing lyrics.

Runner-up Folk and Country Song 2015

People and People – 우주 (The Universe)

Another track with some hints of crossover, “The Universe” leans on shoegaze-like pads and layered harmony to create its dreamy atmosphere. Simple repeating lyrics build further ambience, and Jung So-yim‘s breathy singing feels like the notes are floating in that mood. There is not a ton that needs to be said – it’s a straightforward track with direct impact, the purest of love songs crafted here by People and People.

The First Ten Out

3rd Chair - Black River

3rd Chair – 검은강 (Black River)*

9 And The Numbers - Round And Round

9 And The Numbers – 빙글 (Round)*

Hayoo - Colorblind

Hayu – Colorblind

Hugh Keice - Benjamin Blue Who Stole The Moon

Hugh Keice – 벤자민 블루 (Benjamin Blue)

Jang Pil-soon - Bracken Monsoon

Jang Pil-soon – 고사리장마 (Bracken Monsoon)

Joung Saenansul - Way To Clapham Junction

Joung Saenansul – 클랩함 정션으로 가는 길 (Way To Clapham Junction)

Kang Suk-ho - 1st EP

Kang Suk-ho – 행신동 (Hangshindong)

Kim Sa-wol - Suzanne

Kim Sa-wol – 접속 (Signal)

Monoban - 청산 (Blue Mountain)

Monoban – The Ocean*

Shin Seol-hee - 일상의 잔상 (After Image)

Shin Seol-hee – 원 (Circle)

Honorable Mentions


3rd Chair – 춤 (Dance)
9 And The Numbers – 빙글빙글 (Round And Round)
Alice Writes Poetry – 별이 붕어빵보다 싸서 좋다 (It’s Great That Stars Are Cheaper Than Bunggeopang)
Cho Eun-hee – 바람에 (In The Wind)
Goni – 랄리구라스 (Lali Gurans)
Hansol – 오후 (Afternoon)
Hee Sang – 봄이 오는 길목에서 (On The Corner Spring Coming)
Hugh Keice – Benjamin Blue Who Stole The Moon
I:magine – Imagine You
Kang Suk-ho – 1st EP
Kim Do-yeon – 바다, 기억, 저편 (Ocean, Memories, Yonder)
Kim San – 나무 (Tree)
Kim Sun-wook – Stay Cold
Kwon Shin-je – 영화 (Movie)
Lee Song-mi – 봄비 그치는 소리 (The Sound of Spring Rain Ceasing)
Morish – 괜찮아 (It’s Okay)
Rino – 배역 (Role)
Romantic Wandering Band – 유랑 (Wandering)
Soyoungi – 스물넷 (Twenty-four)
Yoon Guitar – Time: Tears In My Eyes
Yunje – 지금까지 지내온 것 (What’s Been Lived)


ABon – 마음 (Heart)
Aurora Sting & Met – 변화에 대해서 (About Change)
Cho Eun-hee – 바람에 (In the Wind)
Cho Gil-sang – 월요일 낮 2시 (Monday 2 PM)
Cosmos Sound – 팔월의 빛 (Light of August)
Elaine – Won’t You Stay
Ele – 누군가와 이어지려 (Waiting For Someone)
Geune – 꽃이 진다고 그대를 잊은 적 없다 (Flowers Wilt But I’ve Never Forgotten You) (Vocal by Han Soo-yeon)
Goni – 랄리구라스 (Lali Gurans)
Ha Yang-soo – 하늘을 보네 (Look at the Sky)
IU – 마음 (Heart)
Jang Jane – 밥을 먹어요 (Eat)
Jang Pil-soon – 시간이 아프다 (Time Hurts)
Joyumn – 그대 그대 그대 (You You You)
Kang Huh Dalrim – 외로운 사람들 (Lonely People)
Kim Do-yeon – 바다별 (Ocean Star)
Kim Il-an – 나를 데리고 가시는 님은 (The One Who Takes Me With) (Featuring Jeongmilla)
Kim Il-an – 물속에 빠진 달 (Submerged Moon) (Featuring Big Baby Driver)
Kim Il-du – 개미 모빌 (Ant Mobile)
Kim Sun-wook – M
The Greatest Voyage – 한여름밤의 꿈 (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
Kwon Shin-je – 닮았어 (Resemble)
Lee Song-mi – 을왕리 해변 (Beach of Eulwang-ri)
Minju – 서울여자 (Seoul Woman)
Monoban – 청산별곡 (Blue Mountain Breakup)
Namooen – Beautiful World
Needle & Gem – A Thing That Used To Be A Home
Park Kang-soo – 동네 한바퀴 (A Lap Around the Neighborhood)
Sarasu – 꽃을 보았네 (Saw a Flower)
Shoon – 그립다 (Miss)
Song Jae-kyung – 문학소년 (Literature Boy)
Song of Books Seoyul – 바람과 길과 눈 (Wind and Road and Snow)
Sonia Choi – Hayfields
Soyoungi – 저기요 (Excuse Me)
Stacy – Can I Forget You/Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
Sunkyoung – 따뜻한 어둠 (Warm Darkness)
Urban Tree – 집시 (Gypsy)
Vayu – 바람이 부는 날엔 (On A Windy Day)
Yoon Guitar – 사랑이었네 (It Was Love)
Yunje – Animation
Yurang – Country Count

*Studio version not available on YouTube.

Sources: header image and album art from Bugs Music.

Editing by MaliVai Tjong Ayong

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