2021 In Review: Day 5 – Rock and Alternative

By  | 

2021 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

The rock scene is no stranger to underdog stories, but no one foresaw the unlikely rise of Parannoul in early 2021, rated in Pitchfork and other Western outlets before Koreans had even caught wind. The bedroom-shoegaze musician was one of many notable bands producing some of this year’s best work with their first or second albums, with Busan-based gem Bosudongcooler and intricacy-embodying Cotoba headlining the list.

Modern rock in general had a strong year with the bulk of our top 12 albums falling into that area – and that’s even with normally strong contenders like Adoy and Nell being pushed down. A casualty of sorts was the metal scene, which barely missed out on inclusion despite strong contenders from Agnes, Excused Duty, Synsnake and more; however, on the songs side Loss of Infection’s relentless “Praise for the Suffering” held down the fort. All of these and more do appear in our honorable mentions, so be sure to check out the full playlist.

The “Next 10” and honorable mention lists are alphabetically sorted by artist name.

The 2021 Rock and Alternative Spotify playlist is here and also embedded below:


Best Rock and Alternative Album 2021

Bosudongcooler – 모래 (Sand)

Vintage fuzz, youthful energy, and a tinge of melancholy in the lyrics drive these satisfying melodies. New vocalist Kim Min-ji doesn’t miss a beat with breathing, forlorn performances, and Sand‘s second gear – explosive riffs and inexorable drives, as in the wordless groaning of “Breath” and “Dani” – separates it from the sea of one-note modern rock.

The Runner-up

Soumbalgwang – 기쁨, 꽃 (Happiness, Flower)

Crackling with electricity and thrashing with kinetic energy from beginning to end, as we expect from this band; and yet, also more groove and intricacy to these romps than ever before. Psychedelic and post-hardcore live in glorious harmony (discord) and the instrumental layering crafts dense soundscapes. Frontman Kang Dong-soo has a chameleonic performance, harnessing great chasms in mood.

The Next 10 (Alphabetical)

Gila – What’s on Your Mind?

Jannabi – 환상의 나라 (The Land of Fantasy)

Lee Seung-yoon – 폐허가 된다 해도 (Even If Things Fall Apart)

Moskva Surfing Club – 저공비행 (Low Flight)

OurR – Can’t

Pakk – 칠가살 (Seven Types Who May Be Killed)

Parannoul – To See the Next Part of the Dream

Secret Asian Men – Ghost

Wings of the Isang – 희망과 절망의 경계 (The Borderline between Hope and Despair)

Zeonpasa – 억겁의 싸이-키 (Psy-che of Eons)


Best Rock and Alternative Song 2021

Shin Hae-gyeong – 감정둔마 (Xanax)
Written, composed and arranged by Shin Hae-gyeong

Still high-strung and frenetic, still probing the depths of despair, perhaps with more dramatic flair in the chorus (a throwback to “Everything to Me”) than Shin’s past work; it’s wholly absorbing on its own merit. But it’s the song’s final psychedelic rush that elevates it to a truly different level.

The Runner-up

Cotoba – Melon
Written by Dyon Joo
Composed and arranged by Cotoba

The fleshed-out and mastered edition of the acclaimed Naver Onstage performance lived up to the billing. The math instrumentals and sensual verses herald an explosive chorus, which paints vistas through bold melodic lines and diffusive, lapping guitar waves. Section after stunning section escalate the drama, and “Melon” stands out for both its ambition and its unique vision.

The Next 10 (Alphabetical)

Badlamb – 정오의 순간 (Noon Moment)

Dabda – 정글짐 (Jungle Gym) (Feat. Takashi Kashikura)

Dusky80 & Band Nah – 망상가 (Délire) (Feat. Son Hye-eun)

Jannabi – 외딴섬 로맨틱 (I Know Where the Rainbow Has Fallen)

Jaurim – Stay with Me

Loss of Infection – Praise for the Suffering

Low Hanging Fruits – Uncertain Minds

Parannoul – 아름다운 세상 (Beautiful World)

Se So Neon – 자유 (Jayu)

Silica Gel – Desert Eagle

Honorable Mentions


9z – Romance
11Degrees – Dive into Sea
Adoy – Her
Agnes – Hegemony Shift
Band Nah – 2021
Cotoba – 세상은 곧 끝나니까 (Since the World Is About to End)
Doorlesshouse – 밝은 미래 (Bright Future)
Drinking Boys and Girls Choir – Marriage License
Excused Duty – Judgement, Salvation, Within My Hands
Gerda – Didi
Greenvilla – Greenvilla EP
Jaurim – 영원한 사랑 (Love Forever)
Jeong Cha-sik – 야간주행 (Night Driving)
Jeon Yoo-dong – 이소 (Leaving a Nest)
Leaves Black – 책이여, 안녕! (Farewell, My Books!)
Low Hanging Fruits – I Just Wanna Be Better
Luamel – 인간위성: Orbital
Meaningful Stone – Cobalt
Monni – Firmament
Nell – Moments in Between
Oait – Oa!t
Off.E – 진짜, 가짜 (Real, Fake)
Slvrtwn – 무채색 꿈 (Achromatic Dream)
Smoking Goose – About Extinction
Synsnake – Fluxus
The Black Skirts – Good Luck to You, Girl Scout!
Wabi King – You Can Bite
Yang Chang-keun – Wave


11Degrees – Dive into Sea
24Hours – 밤산책 (Moonlight)
9 and the Numbers – 오프닝 (Opening)
Achime – God’s App
Adoy – Antihero
Agnes – Capital Empire
AmadoLeejaramBand – A Year 2020 (Feat. Sleeq)
Angelikbusters – WAA
Band Nah – 인사 (Hello)
Bosudongcooler – 대니 (Dani)
Bosudongcooler – 모래 (Sand)
Bosudongcooler – 숨 (Breath)
Bulgogidisco – Alright!
CHS – Slowride
Charlie Bean Works – No Worrys
Cifika & Shin Hae-gyeong – 모두 너야 (All Is You)
Cotoba – 살아남은 (Rescapé)
Crystal Tea – 낭만파A.I. (Romanticist A.I.)
Crystal Tea – 사랑의달인 (Master of Love)
DPR Ian – Nerves
Doorlesshouse – 밝은 미래 (Bright Future)
Doorlesshouse – 시간이 흐르지 않는 친구에게 (To My Friend Whose Time Doesn’t Flow)
Drinking Boys and Girls Choir – 환절기 (Time)
Earthbound – 숲길 (Forest Road)
Eighteen April – Kamui
Excused Duty – Belief to Corruption
Gerda – Sheltered Sky
Gila – Lie to Me
Glen Check – Dazed & Confused
Gong Joong Geu Neul – 모래탑 (Sand Tower)
Good Night Patrasche – Whale
Goyu – 빌 공 (空) (Hollow)
Greenvilla – Altered Shape
Hathaw9y – 까만밤 (Night)
Higa – Island
Holocity – 잠이 들지 않는 밤에 (The Night I Can’t Sleep)
Horim & Ha Heonjin – Barment Blues
Hwang Kyung-eun – 끝나지 않는 시간 속으로 (Time Infinite)
Jeong Cha-sik – 눈사람 (Snowman)
Jeong Cha-sik – 빛나네 (Shining)
Jeon Yoo-dong – 이소 (Leaving a Nest)
Kang San-eh – 툭툭탁 (Tuk Tuk Tak)
Leaves Black – 파도소리만 들었어 (I Only Heard the Waves)
Lee Seung-yoon – 교재를 펼쳐봐 (Open Your Textbook)
Low Hanging Fruits – Ooooh
Low High Low – Singer Layla
Luamel – 혜성 (Comet)
Luli Lee – I Feel Your Love
Meaningful Stone – Cobalt
Meaningful Stone – 훨훨 (Fly)
Messgram – Animal of Prey
Messgram – My Second Funeral
Method – Run for Your Life
Moskva Surfing Club – 아무 날의 도시 (Little Third Stone from the Sun)
Nell – 유희 (U-Hee)
Oait – 환청 (Whisper)
Off.E – Wander
Off.E – 진짜, 가짜 (Real, Fake) (Feat. Joymin)
Oman – Spring!
OurR – Citronella
OurR – 새 (Bird)
OurR – 우물 (Well)
Pakk – 요 (Prematurely)
Pakk – 참 (Brutal White)
Parannoul – 격변의 시대 (Age of Fluctuation)
Samui – 본 (Bone)
Secret Asian Men – 내 곁에만 (By My Side)
Shirts Boy Frank – Haunter
Silica Gel – Hibernation
Slvrtwn – 악의 편 (Evil’s Side)
Smalltown – Afterwards
Soumbalgwang – 추락 (Fall)
Soumbalgwang – 춤 (Dance)
Sueun – Haute
Synsnake – Flip
Synsnake – Saturn in the Loop
The Poles – Good Morning Sunshine
Wings of the Isang – 그림자 (Shadow) (Feat. Aseul)
Wings of the Isang – 중력 (Gravity)
Yang Chang-keun – 밤워크 (Bamwalk)
Ye Ram – 우리는 (We Are)
Zeonpasa – 거짓말 (Lie)
Zeonpasa – 싸이키 (Psyche)

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

Read our past series:

2020 In Review

2019 In Review

2018 In Review

2017 In Review

2016 In Review

2015 In Review

2014 In Review

2013 In Review

2012 In Review