Review

Quick Reviews: Huckleberry P’s “Whatever”, Twice’s “YES Or YES”, Fromm’s “Midnight Candy”

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Huckleberry P – 수수방관 (Whatever)

Release: November 2, 2018
Label: Hi-Lite Records
Distributor: Genie Music, Stone Music Entertainment
Genre: Hip-hop
Score:

Huckleberry P has stayed busy in recent years with the featured performances and sold-out Bunshin concerts, but his releases have been on a laid-back schedule for some time. “Whatever” matches that in sound, pulling back Huck P’s usual fireworks to give us a frank look at this season of his life: its simple comforts and diverse interests, including a border-crossing search for good ramen restaurants. But the crux is in the second verse, as the rapper reflects on where his artistry stands. “Competition, inferiority, a certain compulsion to produce better work // At a step away from all that, I’m still creating,” he says, the passion alive and well. B-side “Wave” captures this freedom atop a sublimely chilled beat, awash in Glowingdog’s mellow synths. There still aren’t that many rappers in this scene who can speak from his place.

Tracklist (recommended tracks in bold)

  1. 수수방관 (Whatever)
    Written by Huckleberry P; composed and arranged by Glowingdog, Paulkyte, Humbert
  2. Wave (Feat. Stella Jang, Bassagong)
    Written by Huckleberry P, Stella Jang, Bassagong; composed by Glowingdog, Paulkyte, Humbert, Stella Jang; arranged by Glowingdog, Paulkyte, Humbert

Twice – YES or YES

Release: November 5, 2018
Label: JYP Entertainment
Distributor: Iriver
Genre: Pop, electronic
Score:

It’s been a prolific year for Twice, yet there’s no obvious sign of slowdown in the title track of this sixth EP. “YES or YES” adds some retro and soul to the usual brand of charming singalong: there’s a faint Motown tinge in the song’s lush verses, before it explodes into an uplifting chorus backed by the group’s bright harmony. The pieces don’t fit together perfectly, but the chorus is fantastic and papers over the transition. Its second part, where Jeongyeon, Momo and Dahyun take turns extending the melody as the synths and bells rush on, is particularly magical. Shim Eun-ji’s words take confident confession to a playful culmination in the “I reject rejection” meme, and the completed track is unmistakably Twice.

YES or YES‘s side tracks are more lackluster. Some feel like less catchy renditions of the same idea as the group’s last few title singles, while others are nice concepts that don’t fully develop (“Young & Wild”). But a real standout is “Sunset”, where punchy beat-splitting drums and sizzling synth layers forge a striking backdrop. The vocalists (particularly Jihyo) put in a notch richer, breathier, and more rhythmic performances, matching the passion in the arrangement. The track is also another feather in Jihyo’s writing cap, and Jeongyeon and Chaeyoung also add to their credits in YES or YES. This has been an underrated aspect of Twice, and seeing their development is perhaps reason enough to check out the side offerings.

Tracklist (recommended tracks in bold)

  1. YES or YES
    Written by Shim Eun-ji; composed by David Amber and Andy Love; arranged by David Amber
  2. Say You Love Me
    Written and composed by Sophiya and Secret Weapon; arranged by Secret Weapon
  3. Lalala
    Written by Jeongyeon; written by Albi Albertsson and Akina Ingold; arranged by Mussashi
  4. Young & Wild
    Written by Chaeyoung and Kim Hyeon-yu (Flying Lab); composed by Kim Petras, CJ Abraham, MXK; arranged by MXK
  5. Sunset
    Written by Jihyo; composed by Maria Marcus, Lisa Desmond, Fast Lane, Secret Weapon; arranged by Secret Weapon
  6. After Moon
    Written and composed by Iggy, C-no, Woong Kim; arranged by Woong Kim
  7. BDZ (Korean ver.)
    Written and composed by J.Y. Park; arranged by J.Y. Park and Lee Hae-sol

Fromm – Midnight Candy

Release: November 6, 2018
Label: Maxine
Distributor: Mirrorball Music
Genre: Pop, alternative rock
Score:

Well, last year it was “wee hours of the morning”, and this time Fromm turns the clock back a few hours from there. Midnight Candy is again aptly named, set to a hazy and nocturnal backdrop that only amplifies the sharpness of emotions felt in that hour. (The artist interprets it as an unknowing bliss of youth.) There’s an oppressive heaviness that’s always hanging in the air in this EP, in the booming bass and sinking ambience. But there is clarity that shines through these depths. The emanating guitar strokes of “Midnight Driver”, the lonely plucks of title track “Hold Me Like It’s Forever”; as Fromm and guests sing of courage, folly, and forever nights, these things gain reinforcements in escalating arrangement to often stirring effect.

This wouldn’t work without strong composition, of course, and Fromm takes a kind of “greatest hits” approach to the incisive, satisfying melodies she writes here. “Us on a Young Night” is in the mold of her most recent minimalist tendencies. “Hold Me Like It’s Forever”‘s defiant verses calls to mind the fascinating dryness of “Pieces of You and Me”; “Milan Blue”‘s washed strings, the gentle nostalgia throughout Moonbow. But more than anything, the EP’s heaviness and rock leanings remind me of Arrival. “Seoul Night” is in that debut album’s style, mixing “Moon Says” and “Fireworks” but better than both. There’s a short but poignant riff, an anthemic chorus with airy harmony, a slow-burning melancholia. Fromm even switches back to that slightly slurred singing style she used to have. It’s a perfect way to end the album, wandering the Seoul night, savoring a saccharine dream.

Tracklist (recommended tracks in bold)

  1. Midnight Driver
    Written by Fromm; composed by Fromm and Lee Chi-won; arranged by Lee Chi-won
  2. Milan Blue
    Written and composed by Fromm; arranged by Andi Roselund and Fromm
  3. 어린밤에 우리 (Us on a Young Night) (Feat. Hahm Byung-sun (9z) of We Are the Night)
    Written by Fromm; composed by Fromm and Pleyn; arranged by Pleyn
  4. 영원처럼 안아줘 (Hold Me Like It’s Forever) (Feat. Car, the Garden)
    Written and composed by Fromm; arranged by Fromm, Lee Chi-won, Kim Kyung-in
  5. 서울밤 (Seoul Night)
    Written and composed by Fromm; arranged by Fromm, Cho Jung-chi, Andi Roselund

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

Related writing: Pinodyne – PINOcchio (review), Huckleberry P – “Everest” (2015 in Review), Huckleberry P – “Park Sang-hyuk” (2016 in Review), Fromm – Arrival and Fromm – “Don’t Play With My Heart” and Fromm artist profile (2013 in Review), Fromm – “A Spring Day Out” (2014 in Review), Fromm – Moonbow (2015 in Review), Fromm – Reve (review)