2016 in Review: Day 3 – Rock and Alternative

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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

2016 in Korean rock saw much-awaited comebacks (Mot, anyone?) as well as concerted and encouraging surges in blues-rock and related fields. My favorite thing about the year, though, was the number of extremely well-prepared and creative rookie bands that debuted. From Stereotype to Stellarjet, Reflex to You Are Amanda, these teams seemingly bypassed the typical growing-pains phase and walked right into today’s list with their debut efforts.

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, for example, there could be a rock 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 artists’ names.


Best Rock and Alternative Album 2016

Mot – 재의 기술 (Ashcraft)

Listening to Ashcraft (to this band, really) is an exercise in foreboding dread; its narrators are broken, its sounds discordant, its wordplay bitter. It’s the kind of album during whose sunnier moments you expect a turn for the storm, and you’re usually correct. Yet there’s empathy to be found here, not cynicism; these songs are about coping with loss, keeping on living, and reconciling memory with reality. The memory theme makes for some interesting stories, and there are moments of inspired courage (“Clouds Ahead”) as well as solemnity (“Two Bass Waltz”). The album is also an auditory treat, combining experimental soundscapes with eAeon’s disregard for predictable rhythm. Mot explore extreme tempos, complex time signatures, prop-based recordings, and seamless transitions from melancholy trance to packed explosion – and that’s just the first half of this achievement of an album.

Runner-up Rock and Alternative Album 2016

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

This is one of those long, long post-rock albums, but it never feels loose – thus Wings of the ISANG solves one of the defining challenges of doing this style. They do it in two ways: keeping the mood moving often and focusing on melody more than the fuzz tones and ambience. Relevant to the former approach, the album dutifully follows a buildup-explosion formula, but by strategic placement of the explosive parts, Wings are able to control tension. For the latter, the band writes some truly beautiful melody lines – basically every track contains at least one that sustains the track, from the dreamy (“New World”) to the wistful (“Ball”), always expansive and sweeping. It’s like taking Hollow Jan and Loro’s into outer space (just listen to “Eye”), and I think Wings of the ISANG’s pulled it off better than anybody that I’ve listened to.

The First Ten Out


Best Rock and Alternative Song 2016

Jun Bum Sun and the Yangbans – 아래로부터의 혁명 (Revolution)

“Revolution” is immediately attractive on the merit of its teasing opening riff, but then it goes on to just throw out any semblance of traditional structure. Jun Bum Sun’s vocalizations are coarsely rousing, but I think they ultimately serve as setup for the punchy interludes and frenetic solos – each announced by Jun’s dramatic declarations for an “upending”. It’s a distillation of what’s most appealing about the Revolution Songs album: themes of grand revolution and old-fashioned language coexisting with stories that are really very personal and modern.

Runner-up Rock and Alternative Song 2016

Stellarjet – Guiding Light

I like the attention to detail: the Britpop-like guitar reverb, pulsing synths, and the way the bass stays so active in the bridge are all ear-pleasers. It all works due to a home-run melody, one of 2016’s best, that walks the line between encouraging and defiant. Lead vocalist Ara puts in a fine performance on her own, but the track hits another gear when the backing vocals come in during the thrilling conclusion. And these guys are rookies?

The First Ten Out

Danpyunsun and the Sailors – 뿔 (Shofar)*

Huckleberry Finn – 남해 (South Sea)

Mahatma - New Justice

Mahatma – Deafness

The Mirror – 모두 주세요 (Give Me All)

Mot – Perfect Dream

Pia – 자오선 (The Meridian)

Pieta – Save Me

Reflex – 까맣게 (Getting Black)

Stereotype - Come Back James

Stereotype – Falling

Swiimers – Woodstock

Honorable Mentions


13Steps – Venom
18GRAM – Maze
ABTB – Attraction Between Two Bodies
Animal Anthem – Bones
Annyeongbada – 밤새, 안녕히 (All Night, Safely)
bbdTRIO – bbdTRIO
Billy Carter – Here I Am
Billy Carter – The Yellow
Biuret – 세계의 끝 (End of the World)
Blue Eyelids – Sanctuary
Butterfly Flavor – Portable Exit
Champions – 낮선 시절 (Strange Days)
Cogason – Pop
The Cowchips – 귀가 (歸歌) (Return Home)
Dabda – 저마다 섬 (Everyone’s an Island)
Dead Buttons – Some Kind of Youth
Earthbound – Artown
Ego Function Error – EpEpShake
Honggap – 꿈의 편집 (Dream Edit)
In the Phobia – The Head of New Wave
Jannabi – Monkey Hotel
Jun Bum-seon and the Yangbans –
Kid Blues – 까맣게 칠해요 (Paint Black)
Mahatma – New Justice
Pieta – Save Me
Pure – The Light of Tornado
Riot Kidz – My Last Holiday
Queen’s Nest – Get To Move On
Reflex – Let’s Burn
Secret Asian Men – Secrets Beyond the Room
Starfish – 함께가자 (Let’s Go Together)
Stereotype – Come Back James
Swiimers – Swiimers
Theatre8 – 언제나 나는 너를 생각해 (I Always Think of You)
We Are The Night – 녹색광선 (Green Beam)
we hate jh – divert
Witches – Wonder Wheel
You Are Amanda – 열대야 (Tropical Night)


24Hours – Get It On
3rd Line Butterfly – 나를 깨우네 (Awakens Me)
9 and the Numbers – 엘리스의 섬 (Song for Tuvalu)
Achtung – Sad So
Adios Audio – 밤밤밤 (BamBamBam)
bbdTRIO – A Line in the Sky
BEARX – 밤그늘 (Night Shade)
Billy Carter – The Dog
Biuret – 세계의 끝 (End of the World)
The Black Skirts – Everything
Blue Eyelids – Play Ground
Boys in the Kitchen – 토이스토리 (Toy Story)
Broccoli You Too – 공업탑 (Gong-Eop-Top)
Butterfly Flavor – Devil’s Way
Bye Bye Badman – Genuine
Choi Hee-sun – Maniac
The Cowchips – 귀가 (歸歌) (Return Home)
CR Taegyu and the Besides – 니밥 (Neebob)
Dabda – Surfer
Danpyunsun and the Sailors – 그리고 언제쯤 (And When)
Earthbound – 짝 (Pair)
Eighteen April – Oceans Apart
The Electriceels – 미로 (Maze)
The Electriceels – 적도 (Equator)
Fantastic Drugstore – Scarlet
Goodmorning Kids – Weekend
Guten Birds – 다들 나를 만나는 날 (Across the Black Tunnel)
Haneumpa – 하울링 (Howling)
The Hans – Party Maker
Heynam Shin X Patients – 야간비행 (Night Flight)
Jannabi – 뜨거운 여름밤은 가고 남은 건 볼품없지만 (Summer)
Kei [Lovelyz] & The Solutions – Beautiful
Kiha & the Faces – ㅋ (Kieuk)
Lee Kyu-ho – Northern Lights
MOBAN – Nest
The Monotones – 여름의 끝 (Summer’s End)
Mot – Two Bass Waltz
Nell – Dream Catcher
Non-Dimensional Effects – 섬 (Island)
November on Earth – Human Era
Onnine Ibalgwan – 혼자 추는 춤 (Solo Dance)
Parasol – 멀어진 축제 (Distant Festival)
Phonebooth – 혜화 (Hyehwa)
Remnants of the Fallen – The Aggravator (Featuring Chris Gursong of Noeazy)
Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio – Take Me Out
Sears – 빨간풍선 (Red Balloon)
Secret Asian Men – I Want You Back
Silica Gel – 9
The Solutions – Ticket to the Moon
Sons of Tiger – 마음의 바닥 (The Bottom of Heart) (Featuring Yoo Sae-woo [The Veggers])
Sons of Tiger – 탐 (Covet)
Soum Band – 길 (Road)
Stellarjet – Right Before a Storm
Stereotype – Denmark
Sultan of the Disco – 니온 라이트 (Neon Light)
The Vane – Identity
we hate jh – 아스팔트 (Asphalt)
we hate jh – 표류 (Drift)
Whang Bo-ryung=Smacksoft – 저녁하늘 (Night Sky) (Featuring Asian Chairshot)
Wings of the ISANG – 의식의흐름 (Stream of Consciousness)
YB – 꽃비 (Raining Blossom)

*Studio version is not available on YouTube.

Sources: album art from Bugs Music, Stereotype header image from V Entertainment artist page

Read our past series:

2015 in Review

2014 in Review

2013 in Review

2012 in Review

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