Quick Reviews: Legit Goons’ “Rockstar Games”, Nine9’s “Soothe Me Tonight”, And We Are The Night’s “Vertigo”

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Legit Goons – Rockstar Games

Release: April 24, 2019
Label: Various
Distributor: Genie Music, Stone Music Entertainment
Genre: Hip-hop

As you might expect from the Grand Theft Auto stance, Legit Goons’ fourth album is louder and more attitudinal than ever before. Lyrically, they actually didn’t have to change their usual coarse and brash style much. The new stuff is in the explosive beats (much of it by iDeal), which sometimes simply expand on the crew’s earthy analog sounds (“GTA!”, “Camboys”) and at others lean heavily into electronic elements (“Yamakasi”, “Hippies Club”). I think the former approach generates better results, but the emcees are consistently fluid in any sound thrown at them, putting on a show in controlled aggression.

There are some heroic hook-writing efforts – Jayho’s sly shimmy in “Camboys” is one of the best in recent memory, and Blnk-Time gives us several other good ones – as well as immensely enjoyable verses that complement each other in rhythm, tone, and style. (One consistent example is Bassagong’s lively, on-beat delivery that punctuates the other three rappers’ low tones and arid vibes.) They also continue to find interesting balance in content, adopting a GTA theme but not actually getting any more explicitly aggressive than something like “Dokkebi Anthem”; yet they still achieve a homely swagger with ease. With both first-listen impact and depth to chew on, Rockstar Games is another feather in the cap for this powerhouse crew.

Tracklist (recommended tracks in bold)

(All tracks written by Blnk-Time, Jayho, Bassagong, and Jaedal.)

  1. Start
    Composed and arranged by iDeal
  2. GTA!
    Composed by Biglightbeatz and Blnk-Time; arranged by Biglightbeatz and Park Jong-gwon
  3. Camboys
    Composed by iDeal, Blnk-Time, Jayho; arranged by iDeal
  4. Skinhead
    Composed by Blnk-Time and Bassagong; arranged by Blnk-Time and Park Jong-gwon
  5. Love & Drug
    Composed by iDeal, Jaedal, Jayho; arranged by iDeal
  6. 야마카시 (Yamakasi)
    Composed and arranged by iDeal
  7. Hippies Club
    Composed and arranged by iDeal
  8. Get Fresh 2
    Composed by Yosi, Blnk-Time, Bassagong; arranged by Yosi
  9. Dokkebi Anthem
    Composed by iDeal, Bassagong, Jayho; arranged by iDeal
  10. Skit: Busted
    Composed and arranged by iDeal
  11. Credit Roll
    Composed by iDeal, Jayho, Jaedal; arranged by iDeal, Park Jong-gwon

Nine9 – 오늘밤 나를 위로해 (Soothe Me Tonight)

Release: April 26, 2019
Label: MY Music
Distributor: Kakao M
Genre: Ballad, alternative rock

The past few years’ discography has been sparse for Dear Cloud, and likewise for its vocalist: Soothe Me Tonight is Nine9’s first solo release since 2012’s 9Stories. This is a collection of bleakness, with Nine9 playing both comforter and comforted in abstract, heavy-hearted vignettes. The austere instrumentation is atmospheric, but the weightiest tracks (“San Francisco”, “Kiss”) are also melodically static. In a sense, that invites close listening, and the tracks contain some of the rawest expression in the EP; it’s just a difficult set of songs to listen to. “Her” switches this up with a beautiful composition that captures both serenity and emotional flow, and the rhythmic, floating vocalizations of “Dreamer” give it an ethereal (Dear Cloud-like, actually) flavor. These two tracks are also more lyrically refined in perhaps intentional contrast, and as “the tears of the sorrowful disappear” by EP’s end, I felt that Nine9 saved her most expressive work for last.

Tracklist (recommended tracks in bold)

(All tracks written and composed by Nine9.)

  1. San Francisco
    Arranged by Nine9 and Nangman Band
  2. 이별꿈 (Dreamer)
    Arranged by Nine9 and Yang Sion
  3. 집으로 걷는다 (Walk To Home)
    Arranged by Kwon Young-chan
  4. Kiss
    Arranged by Nine9, Nangman Band, Yang Sion
  5. 그녀, 둘 (Her) (Feat. Han Hee-jeong)
    Arranged by Nine9, Nangman Band, Yang Sion

We Are The Night – 아, 이 어지러움 (Vertigo)

Release: April 28, 2019
Label: Independent
Distributor: Poclanos
Genre: Electronic rock

We Are The Night have seemed like a perennial fixture the last few years with their tireless release schedule, but Vertigo is still just their second full-length album. It’s an important marker, too, because while they’ve built a recognizable style of sentimental and synthetic modern-rock, the quality of their singles has been pretty up and down. Fortunately, the album makes a consistently persuasive trance out of throbbing bass, dreamy synth strings, and assertive dense textures. These detailed arrangements as well as Ham “9z” Byung-sun’s matter-of-fact delivery give a predictable but irresistible sweetness to these mellow tracks. Although the album starts to flag well before the end – jolted by twists like “Dizzy”, but not by the lyrics that mostly stay in the same one mold – its strong first act and fundamental soundness make Vertigo well worth exploring.

Tracklist (recommended tracks in bold)

(All tracks written by 9z and composed/arranged by 9z, LilFISH, Hwang Sung-soo, Ham Philip, Kim Bo-ram; additional writing credits to GoGang and Jeebanoff for “Lie”.)

  1. 카메라를 챙겨 (Take Your Camera)
  2. Bunker
  3. 스노클링 (Snorkeling)
  4. SF
  5. 악몽이라도 (The Nightmare)
  6. 거짓말 (Lie) (Feat. GoGang, Jeebanoff)
  7. Gray
  8. 멀미 (Dizzy)
  9. 눈이 오는 날 (When It Snows)
  10. 운동회 (A Field Day)

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

Related writing: Nine9 – 9Stories (review); Bassagong – Tang-A (2018 In Review); Jaedal – Come and Go (review)