Quick Reviews: SF9’s “Narcissus”, Uju’s “Sunday Seoul Ep. 2”, and Geegooin’s “B Movie”

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SF9 – Narcissus

Release: February 20, 2019
Label: FNC Entertainment
Distributor: Kakao M
Genre: Dance, electronic

SF9’s Narcissus packs a few moments of brilliance into a compact EP, though the title track carries most of the oomph. The arrangement of “Enough” is immediately striking, with a groovy reggae-dub rhythm laid underneath the seething melody and some industrial-grade synth textures pulsing in and out of the dense chorus.

It could have been really great if the lyrics (penned by FNC CEO Han Sung-ho, active as ever on the production side) weren’t so painfully banal; the promo material claims that the message is being directed at the narrator himself in the mold of Narcissus “rather than a one-dimensional lover”, but that is entirely unconvincing given the actual text. (If that’s the intention, just replace every instance of the word ‘you’ with ‘I’ and the writing instantly becomes much more interesting, if still a bit clunky.) It’s the sound design and performances that nevertheless make for a creative and memorable piece.

Elsewhere, “Life Is So Beautiful” satisfies with a big, bold drop: the last chorus gets especially wild as an electric guitar shreds away alongside the flaring synths spilling out of the seams. While rapper Zuho is taking a needed injury break from promotions, he is still keenly present in this track and elsewhere. His deep tone and rhythm-bending flow add a certain attitude to otherwise pedestrian tracks like “Fall In Love”. I think the EP isn’t a real coherent package, but there are enough good ideas here to build outwards.

Tracklist (recommended tracks in bold)

  1. 예뻐지지 마 (Enough)
    Written by Han Sung-ho and VIP; composed by Daniel Kim and Sebastian Thott; arranged by Sebastian Thott
  2. 화끈하게 (Play Hard)
    Written by Youngbin, Zuho, Hwiyoung; composed by Park Soo-seok, Bong Won-seok, Zuho; arranged by Park Soo-seok and Bong Won-seok
  3. 하필 (Heartbeat)
    Written by Hwang Yoo-bin, Youngbin, Zuho, Hwiyoung; composed by David Amber and Andy Love; arranged by David Amber
  4. Life Is So Beautiful
    Written by Zuho and Kim Soo-bin; composed by Zuho, Kim Soo-bin, Lee Soo-ah; arranged by Zuho, Kim Soo-bin, Cho Se-hee
  5. Fall In Love
    Written by Han Seung-hoon, Youngbin, Zuho, Hwiyoung, Chani; composed by Park Soo-seok and Moon Kim; arranged by Park Soo-seok
  6. 무중력 (The Beat Goes On)
    Written by Choi Hye-ji (Jamfactory) and Hwiyoung; composed by David Amber and Andy Love; arranged by David Amber

Uju – 선데이서울 (Sunday Seoul) Ep. 2

Release: February 20, 2019
Label: Independent
Distributor: Poclanos
Genre: Electronic, synthpop, city pop

There’s something of a retro synthpop revival in the air ranging from Oohyo to Yubin. Uju is a newer singer-songwriter who put out a fantastic debut EP at the end of 2017, and she’s been producing some of the most promising work in this area alongside Uza.

The tracks of the follow-up Sunday Seoul Ep. 2 (three of them single cuts from before) are wonderfully smooth and nocturnal. They rely on a warm acoustic base in that spirit of Japanese city pop but let the synthesizer envelop them with sparkling lushness.

I don’t think there’s a true melodic standout like “Give Me The Light” this time around; instead, Uju deftly navigates the sometimes forlorn and sometimes romantic urban night in more innocuously engaging atmosphere, right up to an unexpectedly austere but appropriate close in “Trapped in the Picture”.

Tracklist (recommended tracks in bold)

  1. Any Call (Call Me Any Time)
    Written and composed by Uju; arranged by Doildoshi
  2. 닿으려 해 (Reaching Out To You)
    Written by Uju; composed by Uju and Cabinett; arranged by Cabinett
  3. 서울의 밤 (Night in Seoul)
    Written and composed by Uju; arranged by Uju and Doildoshi
  4. Moon, Crystal, Love
    Written and composed by Uju; arranged by Uju and Doildoshi
  5. 우리는 사진 속에 갇혀 있지만 (Trapped in the Picture)
    Written, composed and arranged by Uju

Geegooin – B Movie

Release: February 22, 2019
Label: Amoeba Culture
Distributor: Genie Music, Stone Music Entertainment
Genre: Hip-hop

Geegooin’s high-tone, sharply enunciated, pounding flow translates just fine to trap. And the Rhythm Power rapper goes hard on B Movie‘s more ominous beats: the breathless flow in the second verses of “Jijongpal” and “Stephen Chow” is a furious sonic pleasure. Unfortunately, this is undone by monotonous compositions, lackluster lyricism, and over-reliance on less-than-stellar hooks. (The worst offender is “Stephen Chow” with its grating spliced chorus.) There’s just not enough here to hold attention.

The titular concept of bringing in kitschy culture had some potential (and the music video of “Mudslinging” is great), but even this is only halfway explored. Compared to the broadly similar-themed work by Legit Goons emcees, for example, the lyrical content of B Movie seems like it doesn’t really make a commitment. The verses by BewhY and Jay Park are standout moments – the former is particularly sublime – but not enough to salvage the EP.

Ironically, the most memorable track (“No More Drama”) has Geegooin dropping both his tension and speed, atop a laid-back beat that has a tinge of nostalgia in its gentle vocal echoes. He tells a frank and interesting story of how his life changed post-Show Me The Money. This is not where I expected him to be at his best; everything from the breakneck flow to the trap beats to the kitsch concepts should all be stuff that works for this highly unique and skilled veteran. But “No More Drama”, even in its slowness, has a certain vigor that the album needed.

Tracklist (recommended tracks in bold)

  1. 쿠세 (Kuse) (Feat. Boi B, BewhY)
    Written by Geegooin, Boi B, BewhY; composed and arranged by Padi
  2. 지종팔 (Jijongpal)
    Written by Geegooin; composed and arranged by Padi
  3. 주성치 (Stephen Chow) (Feat. The Quiett)
    Written by Geegooin, The Quiett, ELO; composed by Padi, Geegooin, Oviz; arranged by Padi and Oviz
  4. 진흙탕 (Mudslinging) (Feat. Jay Park)
    Written by Geegooin and Jay Park; composed and arranged by Padi
  5. Interlude
    Written by Geegooin; composed and arranged by Dress
  6. 착해지고 싶어 (Be Good) (Feat. Lil Boi)
    Written by Geegooin and Lil Boi; composed and arranged by Assbrass
  7. 극적인 (No More Drama) (Feat. Boi B)
    Written by Geegooin and Boi B; composed by Thurxday, Geegooin, Boi B; arranged by Thurxday, SOQI

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