2016 in Review: Day 13 – Album of the Year

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[2016 in Review]

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 Crossover
9. Best Collaborative Work
10. Rookie Artist of the Year
11. Artist of the Year
12. Song of the Year
13. Album of the Year
14. Staff Picks
15. Other Recognition
16. Concluding Remarks

Album of the Year 2016

2nd Moon - 판소리 춘향가 (Pansori Chunhyang-ga)

2nd Moon – 판소리 춘향가 (Pansori Chunhyang-ga)

Produced by 2nd Moon; additional credits to Kim Junsoo and Koh Young-yeol

Building upon the success of last year’s “사랑가” (“Song of Love”), which combined traditional pansori singing with the group’s string-and-acoustic instrumentation, 2nd Moon chose to adapt the entire Chunhyang-ga tale – the best known of the five extant pansori narratives. There’s a fair amount of crossover music that incorporates traditional Korean instruments, but pansori crossover is rare due to how jarring the style is; undeterred, 2nd Moon and a team of sorikkun experts succeed where others have failed. 2nd Moon incorporates beautiful melodies wrought from jazz, classical, and everything in between in bringing Chunhyang and Mongryong’s story to life, and Kim Junsoo and Koh Young-yeol mix in the belting, twisting pansori vocals with a healthy dose of straight singing as they narrate that story. My jaw hit the floor as I listened to the 11-year-old melody of the band’s own “얼음연못” (“Frozen Pond”) revived to serve as the emotional, chilling backdrop to “이별가” (“Song of Parting”), to “신연맞이” (“New Year’s Welcome”) almost rapped out by Koh atop frenetic guitar and violin in a bluegrass-tango arrangement, and to the triumphant explosion of “어사출두” (“The Royal Inspector Appears”). These 14 tracks respect the source material and the conventions of pansori, while also encapsulating 2nd Moon’s incredibly broad genre range. After all, they normally perform music from all corners of the globe as an ethnic-instrumental team; this time turning their attention inwards to the historical soul of Korea, 2nd Moon apply their expertise in these novel, unpredictable, exciting iterations of a classic tale. It’s the must-listen effort of 2016.

Runner-up Album of the Year 2016

Danpyunsun and the Sailors – 뿔 (Shofar)

Produced by Danpyunsun and the Sailors

I wrote a little yesterday about the earnest but off-kilter mode of narration of “Lover”, Shofar‘s best single. Truth is, that eccentricity permeates the entire album. The adventurous lyrics range from the poetically cryptic (I’m not sure where to begin interpreting imagery-laden “Shofar”) to the mundanely grounded (“Lover”, and in some sense the life cycle of”낮” (“Daytime”)). The best lyrical moments occur at the balance point, where Danpyunsun dares to dream big: both the touching larger-than-life narrative of “거인” (“The Giant”) and the eon-spanning scale of “그리고 언제쯤” (“And When”) produce downright hypnotic experiences. As interesting as the words are, I see yet greater achievement in the sounds: Shofar is astonishing at every turn, crafting beautiful frenzy and memorable melody with remarkable variety. It’s an unbelievably fully packed mayhem at the hands of just four people, and while new violinist Jang Soo-hyun is easily the star with multiple enrapturing performances, Jang Do-hyuk‘s percussion and Choi Woo-young‘s bass more match the madness and sentimentality. Pitch-perfect contributions from Kwak Pureunhaneul and Kim Sawol open up giddy prospects for future work. I have no idea what this band is going to do next, but two albums is enough proof: I’m fully expecting to be blown away.

The First Ten Out

Savina and Drones - Our Time Lies Within

3. Savina and Drones – 우리의 시간은 여기에 흐른다 (Our Time Lies Within)

Composed/written/arranged by Savina and Drones; mixing by Lee Chang-sun; mastering by Hwang Hong-chul; additional production credits to Lee Seung-hwan and Noh Sang-jun

Echae Kang - Radical Paradise

4. Echae Kang – Radical Paradise

Produced by Echae Kang; additional credits to Koh Sang-ji, Evan Veenstra and Mathias Minquet

5. HEO – Actress

Composed/written/arranged/mixed by HEO and Boyeong Kim; mastering by Mute

Jambinai - A Hermitage

6. Jambinai – A Hermitage (은서;隱棲)

Produced by Jambinai; additional credits to Ignito

7. Mot – 재의 기술 (Ashcraft)

Produced by Mot

8. Jo Dong-jin – 나무가 되어 (Become a Tree)

Composed/written by Jo Dong-jin; arranged by Jo Dong-jin and Jo Dong-ik; string arrangement by Park Yong-jun, conducted by Park In-young, performed by LA String Ensemble; additional credits to Lee So-rim, Shin Seok-cheol, Choi Sung-kyu, Min Young-ae, Kang Hye-in, Kim Eun-mi, Kim Dong-ha, Jang Pil-soon, Oh So-young, Heo Sung-hyuk, and Yun Jung-oh

9. Wings of the ISANG – 의식의 흐름 (Stream of Consciousness)

Produced by Wings of the ISANG

10. Neon Bunny – Stay Gold

Produced by Neon Bunny; additional credits to Demicat, Cliff Lin, and Mark Redito

Nahzam Sue - Till the Sun Comes Up

11. Nahzam Sue – Till the Sun Goes Up

Produced by Nahzam Sue and Baek Chang-yeol; additional credits to Kim Ji-yin and Nucksal

Hwaji - Zissou

12. Hwaji – Zissou

Written by Hwaji; produced by Young Soul; mixing by Jay Cry; mastering by Park Kyeong-sun; additional credits to Ugly Duck, Deepflow, The Suite, Hong So-jin, Paloalto

Sources: album art and 2nd Moon header image from Bugs Music

Read our past series:

2015 in Review

2014 in Review

2013 in Review

2012 in Review

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