It’s near the end of 2016 and the time where Korean Indie pulls together our favorite releases of 2016. As always, this list consists of music I was able to listen to this year. It feels like there were a lot more releases this year. Like previous years, my list isn’t in any particular order, but more of going through albums that I heard chronologically.
There’s something amazing that comes from musicians working together. This is even more true when it brings varied genres together to create something new. Floating Island’s EP was an amazing start to 2016. Containing excellent arrangements and strong vocals, Diving to the ground still gets played.
After the first couple singles, I always wanted to hear more from Swiimers. I love dreampop music. Swiimers are exactly the type of dreampop that sucks you in.
It took two years, but when Saebyeok came back with Division it showed she wasn’t just sitting around. It follows her progression as an electronic artist. The electronic genre has a lot of amazing musicians and Saebyeok is one of its highlights.
It might not be well known, but I don’t listen to a lot of music outside of South Korea anymore. When Tangerine emailed asking me to take a listen to their EP, I was instantly hooked. After seeing them live twice (which is a big deal for me), I can say the trio make amazing songs and they still haven’t hit a summit yet.
What is essentially a studio album plus a live album, at Doors mixture of electronic and live instruments isn’t anything new on paper. But the actual music is beyond what is expected. There’s not a missed opportunity. It’s even difficult to decide whether the studio or live versions of songs are better.
I’ve been waiting for Love X Stereo to move forward. They’ve got a great set of songs which I’ve heard on the numerous times seeing them live. But I was always waiting for the next step. When they released We Love We Leave Part 2, it showed the band has changed. They’re more confident, more deliberate, and working to make their music get heard by as many people as possible.
Even if her former moniker is gone, the emergence of Aseul is welcome. Moving forward and evolving is necessary for any musician and Aseul went with a new voice. But the new voice didn’t change the core of her talent, she still creates some of the best electronic pop music available.
There are few psychedelic rock bands. Julia Dream is one of them. The band’s full length is dense. Almost too dense. But the result is one of the most compelling rock albums that will become a classic.
I’d been waiting for a Guten Birds full length for a long time. The band released some EPs that hinted at a broader sound. With Things what may happen on your planet, they exploded forward with a bigger presence and jumped forward in songwriting.
Full Garage take the essentials of punk rock and present them in a pure form. There’s no wasted time, no long bridges, and songs may not even reach a minute. But Full Garage capture the essence of punk and give it life.
There’s nothing new that can be said about A Hermitage. It is an amazing album. But if you can get it on vinyl, that’s the way to listen to it.
I have yet to be able to see KIRARA live and it’s disappointing. The live recording of her show in France hopefully isn’t the closest I’ll get. But in terms of live albums, this is one of the best I’ve ever heard. It captures the excitement from the audience and lets you hear a side of KIRARA not shown on her official albums.
Even within punk rock, there are different sub-genres. Melocore is one that I enjoy a lot. 1TON are the bringers of melocore among the bands that I know. Taking a lot of influence from Japanese punk rock, 1TON are playing punk rock with passion.
As popular as Neon Bunny is, she takes time between releases. With Stay Gold, she put everything on the table. Neon Bunny is a gateway for many people to Korean music and with Stay Gold, she’s welcoming them with open arms.
I like listening to duo bands. They have to create interesting music with a more limited soundscape. But Moan by Bud is great rock music that contains the attitude and talent necessary for people to pay attention.
Akua basically released a full length over two EPs. Their dream pop lo fi sound instantly gets into your ears and you get pulled into their melodies. I like both releases, but this longer EP has some of the stronger songs.
Anyone who reads the site regularly knows that I’m a big fan of Big Phony. With his latest album, backed on Kickstarter, he finally made the album he’s wanted to make for years. It’s finally captures the talent and perspective in songs that are more complex. This is one of those albums that is a classic from the day it released.
It’s been so long, waiting for a full length from Riot Kidz. Now that they finally released My Last Holiday, more people can appreciate their perspective of punk rock. They’re a punk rock band with years of experience who have only gotten started.
pale blue dot is in my top five favorites of 2016. It’s British-rock-influenced Korean rock by the way of Busan. That mixture results in one of the best EPs of the year. There’s not a missed step or unnecessary song.
There’s little that should be said about We Might Die other than listen to it. It’s a snapshot of the times and will be used as a mark of the biggest transition for minorities in the United States. Any Hip-hop fan should give this a listen.
This is the best rock album of 2016. Nothing comes close to it.
Actress went past the brilliance of Structure and set a new standard for HEO. It’s quickly become a daily listen that will flow into 2017.
Another awesome example of the talent of Busan bands and duo groups. This time it’s only bass and guitar, but B9 make music that surpasses what full bands can do.
This isn’t the definitive list as I’m still listening to recently released music. CIFIKA‘s INTELLIGENTSIA, 75A‘s newest album, and Ahn Ye Eun, Billy Carter, and The Barberettes all have amazing albums this year.