Review

Quick Reviews: GWSN’s “The Park in the Night Part Two”, Soma’s “Seiren”, and Yerin Baek’s “Our Love Is Great”

By  | 

GWSN – The Park in the Night Part Two

Release: March 13, 2019
Label: Kiwi Media Group
Distributor: Kakao M
Genre: Electronic, dance pop
Score:

GWSN’s second EP continues the group’s (loosely defined) nocturnal theme, both in lyrics that illustrate the night and in sounds that emphasize deliberation. The core of Part Two rests on rich, atmospheric deep-house beats, and standout tracks “Toktok” and “One & Only” mesh some pretty heavy arrangements with the members’ airy vocals and roomy compositions to satisfying effect.  (When the EP deviates from that mold, it’s not nearly as good; in particular, the vocal direction in more uptempo tracks “Pinky Star” sound a bit too sugar-charged compared to the backdrop.) Considering how the same approach also birthed “Melting Point”, quietly one of last year’s better idol group tracks, this seems like a promising niche for GWSN.

Overall, there’s impressive polish to the whole package, and perhaps the best example is “Growing”. Fan tribute songs often suffer from lazy production, but this one trumps a lot of title tracks out there. A rousing chorus seamlessly converts booming synth hits into a trickling melody; that drama complements the progression in these gorgeous lyrics, where a humble seed grows into a lush, radiant haven that reflects the group’s namesake park. The metaphor is familiar from recent works – Oh My Girl’s “Secret Garden”, GFriend’s “Flower Garden” – but lyricist Cho Ah-young puts in some unique twists while managing to tie it into a fan message. (It’s also got to be the longest lyrics for any idol group song in quite some time.) There’s so much care put into this thing, which bodes well for the future of GWSN’s work.

Tracklist (recommended tracks in bold)

  1. Pinky Star (Run)
    Written by Llano; composed by Maynine, Llano, Han, Ryang Gil; arranged by Maynine, Han, Ryang Gil
  2. Toktok (수천 개의 별, 수천 개의 꿈) (Thousands of Stars, Thousands of Dreams)
    Written by Le’mon; composed by Coach & Sendo and Le’mon; arranged by Coach & Sendo
  3. Bloom (True Light)
    Written by Park Tae-won and Masstige; composed by Park Tae-won and Dani; arranged by Dani
  4. Miss Ping Pong
    Written by Llano; composed by Alexander Karlsson, Alexej Viktorovitch, Jackie Tech; arranged by Jel
  5. One & Only
    Written by Le’mon; composed by Nomad, Le’mon, On the Road; arranged by Nomad and On the Road
  6. Growing ~ for Groo
    Written by Cho Ah-young (153/Joombas); composed by Royal Dive and Ashley Alisha (153/Joombas); arranged by Royal Dive
  7. Toktok ~ the Park Night Version (CD only)
    Written by Le’mon; composed by Coach & Sendo and Le’mon; arranged by Coach & Sendo

Soma – Seiren

Release: March 14, 2019
Label: Stone Music Entertainment
Distributor: Genie Music
Genre: Alternative R&B
Score:

Soma’s breathy soulfulness and the smoky, ethereal quality of her compositions were already proven in the scattered montages in Somablu and The Letter; those things are still strong in this full-length, and now get thematic justification to boot. In the language of Seiren, the ocean is at once a calming place to find oneself and an ominous lair of monstrosities (inner and outer) to face against. The album’s first half is full of imaginative maritime lyricism (sometimes more experiential than narrative, I think), and an array of producers team up with Soma to build up a suffocating, often analog-powered atmosphere throughout. In the best moments, like “Mermaid” and “The Shark in My Window”, they manage to capture powerfully visceral melodies alongside groove. Though I found Seiren to get looser and less engaging as it reached the end, this is still one of the year’s most ambitious and satisfying-sounding R&B albums.

Tracklist (recommended tracks in bold)

  1. Fish Talk
    Written by Soma; composed and arranged by Ny.la and Soma
  2. Mermaid (Feat. Khundi Panda)
    Written by Soma and Khundi Panda; composed and arranged by 2S and Soma
  3. My Captain
    Written by Soma; composed by Peejay and Soma; arranged by Peejay
  4. The Shark in My Window (Feat. OLNL)
    Written by Soma and OLNL; composed by 2S, Soma, OLNL; arranged by 2S
  5. Monster Hunter
    Written by Soma; composed by Nuz and Soma; arranged by Nuz
  6. Betty
    Written by Soma; composed and arranged by 2S and Soma
  7. ADHD
    Written by Soma; composed and arranged by 2S and Soma
  8. Zebra
    Written by Soma; composed by Peejay and Soma; arranged by Peejay
  9. Superman
    Written by Soma; composed by OBSN and Soma; arranged by OBSN
  10. Your Eyes
    Written by Soma; composed and arranged by Summergal and Soma
  11. She’s Dream
    Written by Soma; composed by Jflow and Soma; arranged by Jflow

Yerin Baek – Our Love Is Great

Release: March 18, 2019
Label: JYP Entertainment – Studio J
Distributor: Iriver
Genre: R&B, urban pop
Score:

Our Love Is Great is Yerin Baek’s first release since 2016, which I don’t think anyone would have expected given the reactions to Frank. She’s returned with a more saturated and less pop-oriented sound that’s clear from the get-go, in oddly-spelled “Merry and the Witch’s Flower”. The track is even more low-powered than Baek’s past works, driven by a breezy choral backing, ringing wind chimes, and gentle keys that all conjure up the image of flight. Much of the EP is wondrously arranged like this: Bye Bye Badman’s Cloud has done a bang-up job with these mellow compositions, adding a tinge of bright nostalgia to “Maybe It’s Not Our Fault” with sparkling strings; and warming up “I Don’t Know” with a brassy jazz accompaniment.

Naturally a huge piece of this is Baek’s rich yet delicate tone, which she wields more naturally, even conversationally, than ever: the faux-live performance of “Our Love Is Great” is a special moment that invites a reimagining of what she can do. Maybe nothing here is as catchy as “Across the Universe”, but there’s a consistent absorbing power to this album.

Tracklist (recommended tracks in bold)

  1. 야간비행 (魔女の花) (Merry and the Witch’s Flower)
    Written by Yerin Baek; composed by Yerin Baek and Cloud; arranged by Cloud
  2. 그건 아마 우리의 잘못은 아닐 거야 (Maybe It’s Not Our Fault)
    Written by Yerin Baek and Cloud; composed by Yerin Baek and Cloud; arranged by Cloud
  3. Dear My Blue
    Written and composed by Yerin Baek; arranged by Yerin Baek and Yun Seokcheol
  4. Our Love Is Great
    Written by Yerin Baek; composed by Yerin Baek and Cloud; arranged by Cloud
  5. 내가 날 모르는 것처럼 (I Don’t Know) (Feat. Car, the Garden)
    Written by Yerin Baek and Car, the Garden; composed by Yerin Baek, Cloud, Car, the Garden; arranged by Cloud
  6. 지켜줄게 (See You Again)
    Written and composed by Yerin Baek; arranged by Yerin Baek and Cloud
  7. 내가 날 모르는 것처럼 (I Don’t Know) (2019 Ver.)
    Written by Yerin Baek; composed by Yerin Baek and Cloud; arranged by Cloud

Album cover images from Bugs Music (1) (2) (3). Lyric translations by author.