K-Pop

Quick Reviews: Raffina & Cavi’s “Baby’s Breath”, Telefly’s “A Good Old Fashioned”, and Jeong Eun-ji’s “Simple”

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Raffina & Cavi – Baby’s Breath

Release: July 9, 2020
Label: Ruby Records
Distributor: Poclanos
Genre: Electronic, synthpop
Score:

Much has been written about the newtro and citypop revivals of recent years, and I think it’s fair to say that nostalgia – whether for a past that’s real or imagined – is a central driver of their popularity. Raffina & Cavi’s debut single is in neither genre, but it leans deeply and explicitly into the kind of nostalgia that synthpop music evokes uniquely well.

Even if it wasn’t for the stated messaging – according to the promo text, Raffina wrote from the perspective of her mother’s youthful days – the lyrics are plenty wistful and misty on their own. While the tracks themselves run a little close to sounding generic, they do invite reminiscence, simmering with gentle chords and popping with colorful synths.

The slower “Whale and I” hints at the team’s potential to really distinguish itself from similar acts like Uza & Shane.

Tracklist (recommended tracks in bold)

  1. 고래와 나 (Whale and I)
    Written by Raffina and Cavi; composed by Raffina, Cavi, and Kim Sang-heon; arranged by Raffina, Cavi, Kim Sang-heon, and Baek Gyu-ok
  2. 안개꽃 (Baby’s Breath)
    Written and composed by Raffina; arranged by Raffina, Cavi, and Kim Sang-heon
  3. You Never Know
    Written and composed by Raffina; arranged by Raffina, Cavi, and Kim Sang-heon

Telefly – 그랬고, 그렇게 언제나 (A Good Old Fashioned)

Release: July 10, 2020
Label: Telefly
Distributor: Mirrorball Music
Genre: Rock, blues, psychedelic
Score:

It was perhaps a little too easy to square Telefly into the Asian-spiritual-psychedelic-fusion bin given their achievements there – including our Best Rock Song of 2013 – but this band has always been broader than that. Following with 2017’s Blinded by the Moonlight, A Good Old Fashioned leaves the Sanskrit titles and inscrutable moods behind, and tones down the psychedelia in favor of more blues. (Not completely, mind: take a listen to “Yin and Yang”.)

As a result it’s perhaps the band’s most straightforward album yet. The album is filled with lengthy and low-key instrumental stretches, so it’s heavily reliant on how engaging those loops are – the reggae vibes of “The Walkman” and leisurely groove of “Blues for Me” being standouts.

What little lyrics exist speak in naturalistic imagery of the water and the stars. It’s like a long and spontaneous outdoor jam session that doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Tracklist (recommended tracks in bold)

(All tracks written, composed, and arranged by Kim In-hoo, Oh Hyung-seok, and Heo Jung-hyun)

  1. 워크맨 (The Walkman)
  2. 나도 알아 (Blues for Me)
  3. 너의 미소를 보여줘! (Adorable!)
  4. 별을 따라간 소년 (B612)
  5. 주책없는 눈물 (Dear My Friend,)
  6. 그림자 (Yin and Yang)
  7. 흐르는 강물처럼 (Immortality)

Jeong Eun-ji – Simple

Release: July 15, 2020
Label: Play M Entertainment
Distributor: Kakao M
Genre: Pop, ballad
Score:

Jeong Eun-ji’s past solo work had an endearing, refreshing wholesomeness about it, but with competent-not-great execution keeping it restrained. Simple is a next step in that regard, featuring songs with some dynamic energy and sumptuous payoff.

Title track “AWay” is far and away (no pun intended) Jeong’s best track to date. It’s a spirited pop-rock anthem like we’ve seen from Taeyeon and more recently Sejeong, but this one smartly pulls back the guitars and lets Jeong’s powerful vocals carry the dramatic burden, as seen in the sharply attacking chorus. From the resplendent theatrics of “Simple Is the Best” to the grandeur of “A Slow Child”, this is a satisfying, diverse-sounding album.

Even the plainer tracks are well put-together and pleasant, though the 10cm-written track is very much in his style and Jeong’s deep timbre doesn’t seem to fit into it as snugly. Jeong Eun-ji also flexes her lyrical skill throughout, penning frank and thoughtful pieces that shine in both creative connections (“Moisturising” and its hand theme) and raw expressive power.

The chorus of “A Slow Child” is lovely, and a fitting cap on the persuasively comforting EP. “I’m glad that on this wounded land / My lone shadow / Can be a resting place for you, when you were withering”.

Tracklist (recommended tracks in bold)

  1. Simple Is the Best
    Written by Jeong Eun-ji; composed by Lee Hyun-young; arranged by Lee Hyun-young and Park Jae-beom
  2. AWay
    Written by Jeong Eun-ji; composed by Kim Yeon-seo and minGtion; arranged by minGtion
  3. 후 (Whoo)
    Written by Sunwoojunga and Jeong Eun-ji; composed by Sunwoojunga and Jo Seong-tae; arranged by Baek Kyung-jin, Jo Seong-tae, and Sunwoojunga
  4. 두고 왔나 봐요 (Stay)
    Written by Jeong Eun-ji; composed by So Soo-bin; arranged by Lee Hyun-young
  5. 보습의 중요성 (Moisturising)
    Written by 10cm and Jeong Eun-ji; composed by 10cm; arranged by 10cm, Sung Soo-yong, Bang In-jae, Lee Yo-han, and Lee Yoon-hyeok
  6. 느리게 가는 세상 (A Slow Child)
    Written by Jeong Eun-ji; composed by Lee Hyun-young and Jeong Eun-ji; arranged by Lee Hyun-young and Park Jae-beom

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

Spotify links: Baby’s Breath, A Good Old Fashioned, Simple

Related writing: Telefly – 메아리 (Meddle) [2013 in Review]

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