2019 In Review: Day 9 – Folk and Country

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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

2019 in folk and country seems to have had less cross-pollination from other scenes than other recent years, with some notable exceptions like AkMu, Kim Jin-ho, and Charlie Bean Works.

Part of that is due to ever-evolving genre definitions, but it’s also that the folk scene has gained some great new talent who are conversant in other styles but chose to dive into this field.

From Chun Yong-sung to Wussami, Sophysoon to Eundohee; we’re looking forward to their achievements in the years to come.


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


Best Folk and Country Album 2019

Kwon Tree – 새로운 날 (New Day)

The best moments of New Day came by way of motion. Its monologues are often set to some physical movement – walking and biking, through riverways and cities and water and fire.

While their tones ranged from expectant to pensive, the one constant was the pristine wholesomeness that Kwon Tree unfailingly carried on these journeys.

A tastefully deployed cadre of strings and a touch of electric guitar enriched the placid compositions, and helped set up for a profound and surprisingly rousing finale through “Flag” and “Love In Campus”.

The Runner-up

Charlie Bean Works – #Moreyoungzoo

Charlie Bean Works’ recent work has been characterized by an exuberant boldness in love and life. #Moreyoungzoo was brimming with that too. The buoyant storm that is “Even”’s arrangement, the precipitous swings in the emotional chorus of “Can’t Erase”, and the rock ‘n’ roll wit of “Love” – each make themselves known from the first note on.

But the album gained a whole new depth in its second half, the part that makes me think of it as a teched-up folk and country album. The pastoral “I Don’t Believe in Happiness” triggers a remarkable turn into songs of wandering nostalgia, enduring faith, and resolute serenity, set to understated and sweeping soundscapes. And just like that, this unlikely album became one of 2019’s most moving experiences.

The Next-Best Ten (Alphabetical)

Ahn Jung-ah – Mon:tage

Chun Yong-sung – 김일성이 죽던 해 (Year of Kim Il-sung’s Death)

Honggap – 보이는 것들 (Visible Things)

Needle & Gem – 곁에 있다 없을 때 빈 자리를 모른다 (Absent Seats)

Ohyoung – 우리마음 (Woorimaeum) & Budung – 부탁 (Request)

Shin Seung-eun – 사랑의 경로 (The Path of Love)

Sophysoon – Sophysoon

Summer of Thoughts – The Republic of Trees [read our review]

Various Artists – 바라던 바다 (Sea That Wished)


Best Folk and Country Song 2019

Charlie Bean Works – Yeap!

Written, composed, and arranged by Bae Sung-gwang (Charlie Bean Works)

“Yeap!” isn’t from #Moreyoungzoo, but that same coexistence of infectious energy and quiet clarity was found here too. Bluegrass guitars and thumping drums define this wild romp of a chorus and it’s excellent.

And the real killer might actually be the writing, which feels like it would belong sixty or seventy years ago with its good-natured dedication to “my girl who lives in the city” and plucky spirit.

But when the self-deprecating mirth turns into sorrow in the forlorn interlude, then into bargaining desperation, that energetic chorus hits really different the second time around.

The EP’s press release seemed to hint at a long backstory behind this song, one that challenged his religious faith and relationships alike; I don’t know what kind of pain Charlie Bean Works has gone through, but I think we’re lucky that he’s willing to redeem it into these stories.

The Runner-up

Sophysoon – 서울애인 (Seoul Lover)

Written, composed, and arranged by Sophysoon

The folk pivot of former Juck Juck Grunzie and Vidulgi Ooyoo guitarist Hahm Ji-hye was obviously neither grunge nor shoegaze, but “Seoul Lover” has a bit of defiant groove and hazy echoes that remind me of those styles.

The pushed-back rhythm and unresolved hanging melodies feel carefree, and that’s only reinforced by the story of an emotional vagabond who wants to escape and to settle down at the same time.

In that thick and unkempt atmosphere, Hahm’s guitar rang out even more hauntingly, that much more beautifully.

The Next-Best Ten (Alphabetical)

AkMu – 물 만난 물고기 (Fish in the Water)

Eundohee – Keep

Honggap – 유리병 (Glass Bottle)

Honnip – Papepati

Jang Pil-soon – 탈출 (Escape)

Kang Taegu – Flow

Kwon Tree – 도시에서 (In the City)

Mongrim – 페이 (Faye)

Shin Seung-eun – 잘못된 걸 잘못됬다 (Wrong Is Wrong)

Wussami – 동 동 동 동 동 (빌런퇴치) (Villains)

Honorable Mentions


D’avant – 뭔가 있을 거야, 분명 (There’s Gotta Be a Way)
Dringe Augh – Black Hyll Side
Eundohee – 모든 (All)
Honnip – 이유 (Excuse)
Jaemin Ko and the Village Folk – The Gem in the Sand
Kim Dong-eun – Please Be With Me
Kim Il-du – 사랑에 영혼 (Love and Soul)
Kim Jin-ho – 노래샘 (Song Spring)
Lee Hyungju – 아토피 (Atopy)
Mongrim – 섬 (Island) – 춘하추동 (Four Seasons)
Sagong – A Careless Fellow
Sagong – Sagong
Surim – 쉽고 확실하게 (Simply but Surely) [read our review]
Wussami – 동 동 동 동 동 (Dong Dong Dong Dong Dong)
Xeuda – 남겨진 것들 (Things Left)


Ahn Jung-ah – 꽃이 있다 (There Is a Flower)
Big Baby Driver – 사랑 (Love)
Charlie Bean Works – Dry Bones
Charlie Bean Works – Can’t Erase
Cha Yeon-ji – 바래 (Wish)
CountryGB – 축복길 (Blessed Path)
Dringe Augh – River
e_so – 연월 (Us)
Eundohee – Stain
Eundohee – The Sea
Eundohee – 모든 (All)
Eunju Sea – 비밀 (Secret)
Han See-in – Kiek
Honggap – 나는요 (I Am)
Honnip – 이유 (Excuse)
Honnip – 하고 나 (After That)
Hwang Puha – 어디로 갈까 (Where Shall I Go)
Jaemin Ko and the Village Folk – 나팔꽃 (Morning Glory)
Jeongmilla – 무명 (Nameless)
Jo Dong-hee – 바다품 (Sea Arms)
Joohyo – Northern Light
Kim Il-du – 나는 나를 (I Me)
Kwon Tree – 깃발 (Flag)
Kwon Tree – 빛이 내리네 (Light Rains)
Kwon Tree – 새로운 날 (New Day)
Lee Hyungju – 외출 (Going Out)
Lily Glass – 비오는 거리 (Raining Streets)
Needle & Gem – 한 토막의 하루의 토막 (A Piece of a Piece of a Day) – 입하 (Yixia) (Feat. Yoo Jisoo) & Budung – 그런 사람 (U) & Budung – 부탁 (Request)
Sagong – A Careless Fellow (허릅숭이)
Sagong – Boatman Blues
Shin Seung-eun – 왈츠를 배워볼게 (Your Waltz)
Sobo – 강릉 (Gangneung)
Summer of Thoughts – Implanted in the Past [read our review]
Summer of Thoughts – Preface
Surim – 쉽고 확실하게 (Simply but Surely) [read our review]
Xeuda – 귀마개를 파세요 (Please Sell Earplugs)
Ye Ram – 바다넘어/Umikoe (Over the Sea)
Yoon Dukwon – 졸업식이 끝나고 (Spring Again) (Vocal by Siwa)

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