2019 In Review: Day 11 – Crossover And World

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2019 In Review

1. Introduction + Best Album Art
2. Song of the Year
3. Album of the Year
4. R&B and Soul
5. Rock and Alternative
6. Rap and Hip-hop
7. Dance and Electronic
8. Pop and Ballad
9. Folk and Country
10. Jazz and Blues
11. Crossover and World
12. Best Collaborative Work
13. Rookie Artist of the Year
14. Artist of the Year
15. Other Recognition
16. Concluding Remarks

This year’s list in Crossover and World is very heavy in Korean traditional crossovers, at least at the very top. It was that kind of bountiful year for the scene, but as always, our selections are also peppered with excellence from opera, classical, bossa nova, reggae, tango, new age, folksong, ska, Latin, Celtic, and more.


  • The “next-best ten” and honorable mention lists are sorted by artist name.
  • The 2019 Crossover and World Genres Spotify playlist is here and also embedded below:


Best Crossover and World Album 2019

Onda - album caption version

Jambinai – Onda [read our review]

Jambinai surprised us by making vocals such a prominent part of Onda, but the heart of this album was still in the chaotic, violent, exhilarating sounds created by geomungo and haegeum flying across post-rock backing. It’s still unparalleled, what this band does: we’re used to it by now, but the brutal yet sorrowful riffs of “Sawtooth” and the duality of sentimental, slow-burning tracks like “In the Woods” and “Small Consolation” remain miraculous. The rapidly escalating scale at the end of the album – the power metal shades of “Onda” serving as exclamation point – was a tantalizing look into the future.

The Runner-up

Black String – Karma

The pervasive sense of tension in Karma is drawn by Yoon Jeong Heo’s geomungo plucks, which in turn give Black String its trademark sound. With that brooding tension as the glue factor, the quartet strung together an album that bubbles and boils for 52 minutes, never quite exploding, yet consistently dazzling.

It was a feat made possible by the variety of the added instruments on hand – from three different traditional flutes to daegeum and yanggeum strings to janggu and modern electronics – as well as stylistic inspiration that transcended borders. Black String transported us to South America, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Radiohead’s England, and more, shifting tones and time signatures in unpredictable twists throughout. In some sense, this Korean fusion album may also have been 2019’s truest world album.

The Next-Best Ten (Alphabetical)

2nd Moon – 팔도유람 (Paldoyuram)

Chang Kuei Yuan – 내 상상이 닿지 않는 곳으로 (To the Place Where My Imagination Doesn’t Reach)

Dongyang Gozupa – 곡면 (Surface)

NST & The Soul Sauce meets Kim Yulhee – Version

SB Circle – Topology

Seo Jungmin – Home

Sinnoi – The New Path

Soohyun April Jang – Inscape

Various Artists – 레드불 뮤직 서울 소리 (Red Bull Music Seoul Sori)

Yoonhan – European Fantasy


Best Crossover and World Song 2019

Park Hey-li – 넌 깊고 넓은 물 (You Are Deep and Wide)

Composed and arranged by Park Hey-li

Sea That Wished, a compilation album borne out of an environmental campaign and beachcombing initiative in the waters around Jeju Island, was full of introspective, touching, and beautiful music coming out of its ten participants’ stories of the ocean. For “You Are Deep and Wide”, Park Hey-li painted a warm and pristine seascape out of Irish whistle and accordion, a timely reminder of the beauty that underlies the pollution we face and the work to be done.

The melody soon rises to dramatic heights and surreal splendor (the triplet buildup following the interlude is a must-listen), reminiscent of Park’s work with 2nd Moon. Wordlessly and gently, Park offered comfort and inspiration alike on a bed of rolling waves.

The Runner-up

2nd Moon – 비나리 (Binari) (Feat. Chae Soo-hyun)

Composed and arranged by 2nd Moon

2nd Moon’s recent forays into Korean-traditional crossover – three full album equivalents in four years – have been a resounding success musically, and we can’t get enough of it. Paldoyuram was another all-around excellent album, with “Binari” perhaps its crown jewel.

The band’s string crew immediately generates a jig-like groove with traditional flavor, atop which sorikkun vocalist Chae Soo-hyun unspools an elaborate, ritualistic prayer for good fortune, based on a folk song from the Gyeonggi region. With driving instrumentation “Binari” reflected infectious hope; with delicious pacing and difficult-but-rewarding lyrics it practiced an art of patience. Today, we all could probably use a bit more of both.

The Next-Best Ten (Alphabetical)

Dongyang Gozupa – 터널 (Tunnel)

Jambinai – Sawtooth [read our review]

Jinsun – 밤의 환상곡 (Night Fantasia)

Kim Yunji X Rainbow99 – 영원 (Eternity)

NST & The Soul Sauce meets Kim Yulhee – 흥타령 (Song of Yearning)

Roots Redeem – 구름과 바람의 노래 (Cloud & Wind)

SB Circle – Rain, Grey

Solip Han – 늙은 디지털 (Old Digital)

Soohyun April Jang – 양면 (Both Sides)

Sunji Lee – Glint

Honorable Mentions


Forte di Quattro – 아르모니아 (Harmonia)
Gainplay – Vomenu un Bossage
Gyepy –  동요집 ‘빛과 바람의 유영’ (Children’s Songs ‘Swimming in the Light and Wind’)
Gyu Ho – The Goot Vibe
Hyeyoung Oh – 순간은 순간 (The Moment)
Hyeyoung Oh X Mia Lev – Improvisation (Dialogue – Speak in Harmony)
Jinsun – 밤의 환상곡 (Night Fantasia)
Kim Yunji X Rainbow99 – 소요 (Soyo)
Lee Eura – The Song of Songs
Nuz – Island Songs
Roots Redeem – 영남 Vibe (Yeongnam Vibe)
The Ska Jazz Unit – Jazz Goes Ska
Solip Han – 사라진 것들로부터 (From Things Disappeared)
Sumi Jo – Mother
Tale – 물결 (New Waves)
Yekyul Band – 놀량 (Let’s Play)
Yoon Joo-hee – Mother Nature


2nd Moon – 육자배기 (Yukjabaegi) (Feat. Kim Jun-su)
Chang Kuei Yuan – 내 상상이 닿지 않는 곳으로 (To the Place Where My Imagination Doesn’t Reach)
Choi Sun-bae & Min Se-jeong – 가을로 가는 길 (The Road to Autumn)
Eonhee – 몽혼 (夢魂) (Dreamsoul)
Gyu Ho – 꿈꾸는 거문고 (Dreaming Geomungo)
Hyeyoung Oh X Mia Lev – Take 5
Ioah – 빙글빙글 (Bingle Bingle) (Feat. Sumin)
Jambinai – 나무의 대화 (In the Woods)
Jambinai – 온다 (Onda)
Jambinai – 작은 위로가 있는 곳에 (Small Consolation)
Jinsun – 파노라마 (Panorama)
Kim Yunji X Rainbow99 – 북두칠성 (The Big Dipper)
Ko Yeong-yeol Band – 사철가 (Sacheolga)
Latin Factory – Lafac Rumba
Lee Eura – 미소자락 (Zany)
Lim Kim – 민족요 (Minjokyo) (Entrance)
Mosica – 서교아리랑 (Seogyo Arirang)
NST & The Soul Sauce meets Kim Yulhee – 정들고싶네 (Jeongdulgosimne – Veridikal Serenade)
Own – Inna Di Babylon (Feat. Brown Tigger)
P-dul – Moai
P-dul – 구름 (Cloud)
Sangheum – 달빛 아래 (Under the Moonlight)
SB Circle – Twilight
Seo Jungmin – 먼동이 틀 무렵 (At the Break of Dawn) – Ver. 2
Shin Jiho – Marionette
The Ska Jazz Unit – Jazz Goes Ska
So-hee Song – 아리라리 (Arirari)
SongSong Sisters – 어랑 (Aurang)
Sonia Choy – Nocturne Part. 1
Soohyun April Jang – Sorrow
Soohyun April Jang – 침묵 (Silence)
Taeseok Yang – 야그르두타 (Yagrdoota)
XenaBeat – Dancing in the Stars
Yekyul Band – Song of Gra’Sona
Yoonhan – Ponte Vecchio (Feat. Koh Sangji)
Yoon Joo-hee – Mother Nature

Lyric translations by author. Artist profile and album cover images from Bugs Music.

Read our past series:

2018 In Review

2017 In Review

2016 In Review

2015 In Review

2014 In Review

2013 In Review

2012 In Review