2017 In Review: Day 3 – Rock And Alternative

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2017 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 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. Other Recognition
16. Concluding Remarks

The way the chips fell in the rock scene in 2017, the songs and albums featured in the top 12 today are mostly by well-established artists and bands. Don’t let that discourage you from delving into the young guns this year; the vets were great, but there was also an incredible number of fleshed-out and developed EPs by rookies that could have gotten the bump up if only I had seen a little more. Style-wise, I felt that it was a banner year for alternative, but gems in postrock, metal, and garage, among others, were also plentiful. All of that is to say: be sure to check out the Honorable Mentions sections in these posts if you missed out on listening to this scene.

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 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 artist name.


Best Rock and Alternative Album 2017

Doe Jaemyoung – 토성의 영향 아래 (Under the Sign of Saturn)

Under the Sign of Saturn takes deep, slow breaths, and lets its stories marinate and rest. The titular lead single spends most of its seven minutes in spoken word over a simple piano-and-drum accompaniment as its primary method of delivery. “Diaspora” develops each of its movements for two and a half minutes apiece, in painstaking instrumental detail, before moving onto the next. When there are lyrics, they are not bound to choruses and sung in whispering pensiveness (“Phenomenon of October”, “Un Triste”). As a result, the impact is much more real when the album does betray emotion. Storms of buzzing guitars and frenetic snares eventually overtake three of the aforementioned tracks. The rousing and rapturous anthems so beloved during Doe’s days with Loro’s return, in all splendor (“On A Journey”, “Crime and Punishment”). But it all starts with the rest, the stillness, the contemplative moments – and that’s why Under the Sign of Saturn requires your full and undivided attention.

Runner-up Rock and Alternative Album 2017

yi sung-yol

Yi Sung-yol – 요새드림요새 (Yosedreamyose)

Together, Yosedreamyose‘s blues roots and Yi Sung-yol’s unpredictable arrangements and programming mean that there’s nothing else from 2017 that sounds quite like this. Stepping back from the edges of experimentalism that made his last couple albums divisive, Yi here makes rugged and grounded blues-rock his home and channels his penchant for crafting exquisite moments – ones that are surprising in their sudden, crystalline appearance out of the music. The resulting compositions of Yosedreamyose are at times beautiful (“Jinaganda”), reassuring (“Cupblues”), and weird (“Smmfot”). Under Yi’s sure-handed direction and confident writing, the album becomes one to cherish.

The First Ten Out

3rd Line Butterfly – Divided By Zero

The Black Skirts – Team Baby

Boys in the Kitchen – Out of the Kitchen

Hyukoh – 23

In the Endless Zanhyang We Are – 우연의 연속에 의한 필연 (Inevitability Under Consecutive Coincidence)

Jun Bum Sun and the Yangbans – 방랑가 (Vagabond Songs)

Lowdown 30 – B

Pakk – 살풀이 (Salpuri)

Silica Gel – SiO2.nh2O

Zitten – Uni-verse


Best Rock and Alternative Song 2017

Sister’s Barbershop – 너의 몸을 흔들어 너의 마음을 움직여 (Shake Your Body Move Your Mind)

True to its title, “Shake Your Body Move Your Mind” is danceable and, dare I say, even radio-friendly. Yu Jung-kyun’s lively bass and Im Joo-yeon’s crisp keyboard work dutifully support the Barbershop members’ groove, and Lee Suk-won sings with urgency during the tidy 3:45 running time. But at the same time, this is still Barbershop: it is maybe the year’s most melancholy track. The song’s Lee is a disillusioned man, devoid of dreams and resigned to what is unattainable and unknowable, but determined to do the work of living. His performance is tinged with a muted sadness, and a forlorn guitar riff is what powers the unforgettable main melody. It all comes together in a beautiful, emotional chorus that seems to end much too early. If this is the end for Sister’s Barbershop – and it seems that way, at least for a good long while – then they leave us with an outro equal parts striking and quintessential.

Runner-up Rock and Alternative Song 2017

Parasol & Silica Gel – Space Angel

These two bands are not exactly a pair that you naturally connect together, but their collaboration of disparate styles just works out. This second get-together (the first being a live performance in 2016) is a surreal vignette about experiencing wistfulness on a spaceship. Parasol opens up with a disarmingly lo-fi intro and leisurely scene-setting exposition, and it’s a triumph of melody-writing that the verse remains interestingly tense and even chilling despite the mundanity of what’s actually going on. Soon, Silica Gel barges in playing a rousing, charged version of the same intro melody, and they are characteristically much more sparse on words. As the common narrator says his goodbyes, Silica Gel drives the track into easy ambience and then electric frenzy, which sets the stage for all instrumentalists on both bands joining in for a massive and exhilarating instrumental section. This is an experience and a half.

The First Ten Out

ABTB – 무임승차 (Free Rider) (link)

Adoy – Laika (link)

Asian Chairshot – 산, 새 그리고 나 (Mountains, Birds and Me) (link)

Boys in the Kitchen – See the Sun (link)

In the Endless Zanhyang We Are – # (link)

Life and Time – 차가운 물 (Cold Water) (link)

Lowdown 30 – 네크로노미콘 (Necronomicon) (link)

Vassline – Ferocious Reality (link)

Wings of the ISANG – 향 (Incense) (link)

Zitten – S.O.S. (link)

Honorable Mentions


Adoy – Catnip
Bitgwasoeum – Irregular
Bye Bye Badman – 너의 파도 (Wave)
Cheonn – 정적의 춤 (Dance of Silence)
Dasutt – 漠 (Mak)
Day6 – Sunrise
Dear Cloud – My Dear, My Lover
Ears – Me and My Mirror
Faulocity – Yellow
Flying Dog – 입문자용 하드로크 (Hard Rrrock 101)
From the Airport – The Boy Who Jumped
HarryBigButton – Man of Spirit
iamnot – Hope
Julia Hart – 서교 (Seogyo: Songs from the Western Bridge)
Kim Chang-hoon and the Black Stones – 김창완 (Kim Chang-wan)
The Koxx – Red
Lee Yong-won – No God
Magna Fall – Mad Metropolis
National Pigeon Unity – Hero
O.O.O – Garden
Psychemoon – Ghosthouse
Raw By Peppers – Cosmos
Secret Asian Man – Contrast
Se So Neon – 여름깃 (Summer Plumage)
Shin Hae-gyeong – 나의 가역반응 (My Reversible Reaction)
Shirts Boy Frank – 내 무른 행복 곁에 남은 방 (The Chamber Only Left With Staled Bliss)
Telefly – 달빛에 눈먼 자들 (Blinded by the Moonlight)
The Vane – Round
The Veggers – Bluegill


3rd Line Butterfy – Ex-Life
88 – 동양 (The East)
Bitgwasoeum – 무당 (Mudang)
The Black Skirts – Big Love
The Black Skirts – 나랑 아니면 (Who Do You Love)
Bluepaprika – 길 없는 길 (The Road With No Way) (Feat. Lee Jong-min of Kiha and the Faces)
The Bowls – 놀음 (Play)
Bye Bye Badman – Monolove
CNBlue – 헷갈리게 (Between Us)
Danpyunsun and the Sailors – 국가 (National Anthem)
Day6 – 아 왜 (I Wait)
Day6 – 어떻게 말해 (How Can I Say)
Decadent – 봄 (Spring)
Doe Jaemyoung – 여로에서 (On A Journey)
Doe Jaemyoung – 토성의 영향 아래 (Under the Sign of Saturn) (Feat. Lee Jaram)
DTSQ – Mind Game
Eighteen April – Wolfpack Rounds
Faulocity – 꽃바다 (Ocean of Flowers) (Feat. Cho Dong-hee
Flying Dog – 영웅이 필요해 (We Need a Hero)
Galaxy Express – The Way
Hail – Carol
iamnot – Fly (Feat. Yi Sung-yol)
In the Endless Zanhyang We Are – 제목 없음 (Untitled)
In the Endless Zanhyang We Are – 야광바다 (Nightglow Sea)
Jannabi – She
K.afka – Never-Ending
The Koxx – 부르튼 (Blister)
Lips Bite – 우리 사랑하는 동안 (And While We Were Here)
Magna Fall – A Big Drag
National Pigeon Unity – Stargazer
Nell – 부서진 (Broken)
Nell X GroovyRoom – 오늘은 (Today)
O.O.O – 나는 왜 (Why Am I)
Pakk – 겁 (Cowardice)
Parasol – 경마장 다녀오는 길 (Road Back from the Racetrack)
The Poles – Home
Raw By Peppers – Star of Soul
Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio – Punctum
Scarlet Forest – Reperfection
Secret Asian Man – Time
Seoulmoon – 파인애플 (Pineapple)
Se So Neon – 긴 꿈 (A Long Dream)
Shin Hae-gyoung – 다나에 (Danae)
Shirts Boy Frank – 침전의 방 (Sediment Chamber)
Silica Gel – 낮잠 (Nap)
Song Boram – 바다야 (At the Seaside)
Song Hong-sup – 바람처럼, 구름처럼, 강물처럼 (Journey) (Feat. Yi Sung-yol)
Telefly – 구원하소서 (Hallowed Be Thy Name)
The Vane – Round & Round

Sources: album art and Silica Gel header image from Bugs Music

Read our past series:

2016 In Review

2015 in Review

2014 in Review

2013 in Review

2012 in Review

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