2021 In Review: Day 9 – Folk and Country

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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 small-but-powerful folk scene produced some of the year’s most innovative sound. Young talents like Jeon Yoo-dong, Jeon Ho-kwon and Nijuu executed their vision with novel tools or incisive stories or both, and in fact the top of our albums and songs lists are each adorned with the work of up-and-comers. With veterans like Kim Il-du and SellinSelliSelline continuing to provide quality and proven talent including Ye Ram and Lee Gwon-hyeong releasing notable work even on a non-album year, the future looks bright.

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

The 2021 Folk and Country Spotify playlist is here and also embedded below:


Best Folk and Country Album 2021

Lang Lee – 늑대가 나타났다 (There Is a Wolf)

Lang Lee’s language is as direct and austere as ever, but the conversational lyrical style expands into fables and allegories in this album; likewise this is an evolution in sonic scale for the artist, with dazzling arrangements like “Pang” and “Any Way”‘s which liberally use strings and double-tracks and bring in choirs. The rawest moments (including our 2020 Song of the Year) are stunning and searing, serving as singalong vessels for Lee’s messages, making songs for the squares and streets of this generation.

The Runner-up

Chun Yong-sung – 수몰 (Drowned)

There’s always that one album that pushes forward the sound envelope of folk; 2021’s was Drowned. The contrast of teetering arrangement and stationary words in “We’re”, the jazzy deconstruction of “Drowned”, the inexorable heaviness of “Half-Pressed”; avant-garde execution of these and other brilliantly composed pieces could easily have made for a scattered masterpiece, but the inscrutable gravity of Chun’s vocals pull them together.

The Next 10 (Alphabetical)

Chabitna – 외로움이 사랑이 될 때 (When Loneliness Becomes Your Lover)

Jandy – 듣는 시 (Listening Poetry)

Jeon Ho-kwon – 코스모스 (Cosmos)

Nijuu – Nijuu in the Forest

Ohyoung – 나의 분해 (Irreversible)

Sagong – Optimist

SellinSelliSelline – 시도미 (SiDoMi)

Soom – 일렁거리는 (Swaying)

Surim – 사랑 (Love)

Yu Hana – 작고 희미한 (Tiny and Faint)


Best Folk and Country Song 2021

Lee Seol-ah – 보물찾기 (Wonder Road)
Written, composed and arranged by Lee Seol-ah

A song that begins in a pastoral, almost hymnal ambience soon takes a sharp modulation, leaning fully into the 7080-generation roots that the pristine and ponderous lyrics had been hinting at all along. As the soundscape shatters and bass fills the edges in its interlude, “Wonder Road” injects tempered substance into the “long road” and the keepsake of a lifetime that Lee Seol-ah writes so beautifully of, with an expressive wisdom far beyond her years.

The Runner-up

Lang Lee – 늑대가 나타났다 (There Is a Wolf)
Written, composed and arranged by Lang Lee

Painting a medieval revolution in theatrical narration and anachronistic language, Lee seems to alternate between raconteur and preacher. The song doesn’t shy away from its social commentary, and it still wants to tell you, bluntly, that “My friends are all poor / Think about this poverty / This will become your problem soon”; this impersonal delivery just seems the way it comes out naturally. The escalating tension, vigorous strings, and cries of the “crowd” are an anthem in the making.

The Next 10 (Alphabetical)

Chabitna – 우리 사랑의 알고리즘 (Algorithms of Love)

Chamsom – 클로버 (Clover)

Chun Yong-sung – 있다 (We’re) (Feat. Siot and Breeze)

Jandy – 밤의 노래 (Night Song)

Jeon Yoo-dong – 숲으로 (To the Forest)

Kim Sawol – 너만큼 (Someone Like You)

Nijuu – 나에게로 (Come to Me)

Saram Tto Saram – 출발 (Take Off)

Summer of Thoughts – 소리들 (Soundfield)

Yeon – Painting

Honorable Mentions


Baek Hyo-eun & Oh Chang-min – 시와 나무 (Poem and Tree) Part. 1
Chabitna – 봄내음 (Sound of Spring Scent)
Chamsom – Somebody Else
Charlie Bean Works – 과도기 (Transition Period)
Choi Botton – 완전한 타인 (Un Parfait Inconnu)
E_so – 마음 동화 (A Fairy Tale of Heart)
Kim Il-du – When Do You Come?
Kim Sawol – 드라이브 (Drive)
Kim Sookhyung – 사람의 사랑 (The Love of People)
Ko Yohan – 계절 편지 (Belated Letter)
Ohelen & Choisol – Pause
Oman – 너는 나의 섬, 너는 나의 꿈 (You Are My Island, You Are My Dream)
Shin Seung-eun – 인간관계 (Relationship)
Various Artists – 바다의 숨, 바람의 결 (Breath of Sea, Wave of Wind)


Boheme – 오늘의 작가 (Today’s Writer) (Feat. Kim Mok-in)
Chabitna – 외로움이 사랑이 될 때 (When Loneliness Becomes Your Lover)
Chamsom – Elio
Charlie Bean Works – Farewell
Chun Yong-sung – 수몰 (Drowned) (Feat. Lee Seol-ah)
Chun Yong-sung – 식물원 (Seoul Botanic Park) (Feat. Siot and Breeze)
Chun Yong-sung – 중학생 (A Student) (Feat. Lim Ju-yeon)
Dan – 0
Darin – 큰새 (Big Bird)
E_so – 나의 집은 우주 (The Universe)
Eau Deer Cabin – Finding Cabin
Gonne Choi – 저녁의 연인들 (The Evening Lovers)
Honnip – 취 (Green)
Im Baek-cheon – 새로운 길 (New Way)
Isang Park – 줄 (Line)
Jandy – 휘청거리 (Wavering)
Jang Pil-soon – 거기, 그대 (Are You There)
Jaurim – 잎새에 적은 노래 (Written on a Leaf)
Jeon Ho-kwon – 나는 바람과 숲 속 조그만 길 (I’m the Wind, the Little Road in the Woods)
Jeon Ho-kwon – 모닥불 (Campfire)
Jeon Ho-kwon – 블루 (Blue)
Jeon Yoodong – 디플로도쿠스 (Diplodocus)
Jeongko – To Whom It May Concern
Kim Sawol – 외로워 (Lonely)
Lang Lee – 빵을 먹었어 (Pang)
Lang Lee – 잘 듣고 있어요 (I’m All Ears for You)
Lee Gwon-hyeong – 커피토크 (Coffee Talk)
Monika – 뛰어간다 (Go On)
Nijuu – Soil, Flower, Water and Fish
O So-young – 아른아른 (Shimmering)
O So-young – 조용한 돌 (Stilly Stone)
Ohelen & Choisol – Lips
Ohelen & Choisol – 마음 (Mind)
Ohelen – She Died.
Ohyoung – 나의 분해 (Post-Mortem)
Ohyoung – 세이렌 (Siren)
Sagong – Drape Me in Velvet
Sagong – M.D.F.A (Feat. Song Ye-rin)
Secret Asian Men – Eyes on Sea
SellinSelliSelline – 행복한 노래 (A Happy Song)
Siot and Breeze – 다루지 (Daruzi)
Siwa – Waltz at Night
Siwa – 곁에 있어도 될까 (Gently, By Your Side)
Siwa – 숨 (Distance to Breathe)
Sumin Jung – 불신 (Distrust) (Feat. Kim Il-du)
Summer of Thoughts – 녘 (Moment) (Feat. Kim Il-du)
Surim – 사랑, 사랑! (Love, Love!) (Feat. Park Hyun-seo)
Xeuda – 집으로 돌아가는 길 (On the Way Home)
Ye Ram – 먼 길 (A Long Way)
Yeoyu and Seolbin – 나그네 (Traveler)
Yozoh – 모과나무 (Quince Tree)
Yozoh – 작은 사람 (Weak People)
Yu Hana – 환절기 (In Between Seasons)
Yu Jung-mok – 신록의 계절 (The Season of Green Love)

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