Korean Indie http://www.koreanindie.com Presenting Korean Music Fri, 18 Aug 2017 04:02:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 100808416 Interview with Hunjiya http://www.koreanindie.com/2017/08/17/interview-with-hunjiya/ http://www.koreanindie.com/2017/08/17/interview-with-hunjiya/#respond Fri, 18 Aug 2017 03:56:39 +0000 http://www.koreanindie.com/?p=17276 Hunjiya, a young singer-songwriter who could make a huge impact, introduces the origins behind Lineage and her desires as an artist.

Post written by Chris P for Korean Indie.

After listening to Hunjiya‘s Lineage, I was amazed that the EP came from a 20 year old. The perspective and production of the EP is impressive. Hunjiya’s voice as an artist is only beginning and I thought it would be good if she introduced herself because she’s definitely someone to watch as she grows.


Can you introduce yourself?

Hello there Korean Indie readers! My name is Hunjiya, I’m 20 years old and trying to figure out life by doing music.

How did you get into music?

I never recognized my love for music until I discovered how to be creative with it. I was pushed into classical piano lessons, I played the clarinet in concert/marching band all throughout grade school, I even took classical singing lessons for a while. It all seemed very structured and tight to me. Then, after seeing a bunch of covers on YouTube, I ordered a cheap $20 ukulele from Amazon and started teaching myself. I fell in love with learning my favorite songs, and especially writing my own songs. I wanted more.

So, being the good little sister I was, I stole my brother’s guitar and taught myself through YouTube tutorials. I would tell my closest friends not to tell anyone about my music because I was embarrassed of what people would think of me. Then when I 15, I went to a music camp at Berklee and that’s when everything kind of solidified. It was my first time being surrounded by people who loved music and I KNEW that I wanted to stay in that type of creative environment.

Lineage was written, performed, and produced solo, was there a reason for that?

Other than me being stubborn and picky, I really wanted to create this EP by myself so it could be more meaningful to my grandparents. They’re already proud of me, and I’m lucky they’re so supportive of my career choices, but I wanted to show them. Up until now, they’ve never heard me sing, play, or do anything music related. They only knew I chose music as a career. So, as my debut to them, I wanted to create something that could show them what I do, and help me get to know their lives better.

What sparked the decision to go to Seoul? How did being able to speak more naturally help when spending time with your relatives?

So originally, it was just for a family vacation because we don’t get to go very often (every 4-6 years or so). Then I got a music internship there (which I ended up quitting because I didn’t want to spend my time in Korea at a desk all day) and stayed in Seoul one month longer than the rest of my family.

Although I’ve known the Korean language my entire life, I’ve always just passed by with elementary level conversations. Growing up in a very white-populated area as a kid, I ignored my culture because I didn’t want to stand out. So every time my family would take trips to Korea, I would just ask my parents to translate, or I would say nothing at all.

Now, I’m really glad I forced myself to learn more of my native language because I never connected with my relatives better than I had before. My whole life, I really only knew most of my relatives on an acquaintance level. This time I could actually talk to them, get to know them.

Where did the idea of writing the EP from the perspectives of your grandparents come from?

Before this, I really only wrote songs about myself and my life. Very rarely did I write about someone else’s story. So doing this EP was a new and exciting experience. However, I did want to make this EP for them. I wanted to translate the way they told me their unique, heartwarming stories through my music so others could hear it too.

As a musician who grew up in the US, what were your impressions of music when visiting Seoul? Did you attend any live shows?

I’ve listened to a fair amount of Korean music throughout my life, so I loved it! There’s so many different music scenes in Korea, just like there is in America. If I had to compare, I would say there’s definitely more boy bands and girl groups with lots of coordinated dancing.

I didn’t see as many live shows as I wanted to, but I saw some local busking acts and one of my favorite artists, Hyukoh at this Fifa U-20 World Cup show. I also saw Dumbfoundead who brought Jay Park and Jessi as special guests at some club, which was pretty cool.

Is there any message you’re trying to give through your music?

I’m just trying to share stories through my creative outlet and hope that people can feel or relate when hearing my music. I find it so amazing how through the arts, the creator can help and even unite a variety of audiences, no matter what religion, language, etc. I want my music to be able to do that.

With this specific EP, I was debating on making it public, but after hearing my grandparents’ stories, I wanted people to listen to these wholesome love stories. Dating culture seems to focus a lot on technology these days. It’s eye opening and pretty refreshing to hear how dating used to work before we were all attached to screens.

Do you have any Korean musicians that you listen to regularly?

Ooohhhh yes! I love IU, Hyukoh (as mentioned), Primary, Zion T., DEAN, Casker, Eddy Kim, Beenzino, Red Velvet, 10cm, and honestly this list could go on. I like anything that makes me want to dance or cry.

As a young musician, what are your goals with your music? Do you see this as a career?

My main goal is to do music for as long as I possibly can. I’m still fairly new to this so I have a lot to learn and a hell of a lot to experience. I’ve already dedicated the last couple of years of my life trying to achieve these goals, so I guess it’s a career in the making.

Anything to say to readers?

안녕하세요! Thanks for reading Korean Indie! If you’ve ever been in love (or haven’t, that’s okay too!), listen to my new EP, Lineage, available on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, and SoundCloud. After you listen, let’s be friends through Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook! 🙂

Facebook | Twitter | SoundCloud | Official Site | iTunes

Photos by Sofar Sounds Seoul and Paige Lamb.

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Romantic Punch : Space Opera http://www.koreanindie.com/2017/08/17/romantic-punch-space-opera/ http://www.koreanindie.com/2017/08/17/romantic-punch-space-opera/#respond Fri, 18 Aug 2017 03:22:05 +0000 http://www.koreanindie.com/?p=17225 Romantic Punch reels back its “punch” in its David Bowie tribute album.

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Space Opera is a David Bowie tribute album, not unexpected from an explicitly glam rock band. Romantic Punch have successfully fused pop melodies and lyrics with sharp rock instrumentals in the past, but seems to have lost the edge in this album.

Romantic Punch Space Opera

Most of the songs are driven by piano chords and have cut back on synths and organs, which partially explains the lack of energy. Another potential aspect is the mastering. Everything seems oddly damp, draining the band of its characteristic bite. The drums in particular sound dull, as if being heard from behind a wall, and the vocals only narrowly avoid the same fate thanks to the singer Bae In Hyuk’s distinctive voice.

Romantic Punch’s strength has been the ability to inject elements of pop into its lyrics and melodies while keeping a hard rock identity. Melody lines are still great in songs like “Zzz,” but in terms of that “punch,” “Fantasy Express” is about as close to it as this album gets, though it had to borrow a guitar riff from “Everlong” by Foo Fighters to do so.

Otherwise, pop influences seem to have overtaken the album. The bluesy guitar solo in “Moonwalk in Kyoto” is not convincing enough for me to say so otherwise, and the ostentatiously glamorous “Cosmic Jive” sounds like a spinoff of “Midnight Cinderella,” a festival favorite by the band.

Romantic Punch is known for its frequent and engaging live performances. I can already see the huge success of “화성에서 만나요 (Life on)” at festivals with people singing along its catchy outro. “Stardust,” reminiscent of Oasis, will place itself with songs like “Hasta La Vista” as a stage closer or encore. In all, this album will probably (hopefully) sound much better live than it does digitally.

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Hunjiya : Lineage http://www.koreanindie.com/2017/08/14/hunjiya-lineage/ http://www.koreanindie.com/2017/08/14/hunjiya-lineage/#respond Tue, 15 Aug 2017 03:56:00 +0000 http://www.koreanindie.com/?p=17261 An EP that consists of love songs from the perspective of her grandparents by Hunjiya.

Post written by Chris P for Korean Indie.

When I got an email from Hunjiya, it was a pretty simple ask to listen to her EP, Lineage. Her story about going to Seoul to spend time with her relatives was an interesting way to be inspired. Then I listened to Lineage through her SoundCloud and couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Hunjiya is in her early 20s and she “wrote, performed, and produced” the EP herself. That in itself is impressive and the EP is a solid, strong, and dense four song release. If this is what she can make at this age, what will she create in years to come?

hunjiya lineage

Each song is a mix of a recording of her grandparents, instrumentals, and either English, Korean, or a mix. The songs are “ove songs” made “from the persepctive of my beloved grandparents.” If you can understand Korean or read the translations on her site, you understand the depth of the story she’s telling. But even next to the lyrics, Hunjiya’s vocals are incredible. They’re deep and warm, flowing with the guitar, but also able to reach higher keys without a problem. When she lets loose in the last third of “Lee,” you can hear how powerful her voice can be when she wants.

I would have thought that mixing the audio recordings would distract from the music, but they add a good dimension to each song. You get a small window of her grandparents that introduce the songs. Lineage is a mix of Soul, Folk, and Jazz. Hunjiya uses the elements of each genre to create tracks that are original, but also give thanks. I wouldn’t say the music itself is entirely original because it’s using existing genres, but her interpretation is amazing.

If this is her start, Hunjiya has definitely set a high bar for herself going forward. Since this was made by herself, I think the singular vision worked well. I think if she worked with a collaborative team, she would move forward in leaps. Lineage is one of the best EPs of 2017 without a doubt. Now the question is how she’s going to be able to follow it.

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The Koxx : Red http://www.koreanindie.com/2017/08/10/the-koxx-red/ http://www.koreanindie.com/2017/08/10/the-koxx-red/#comments Fri, 11 Aug 2017 04:02:03 +0000 http://www.koreanindie.com/?p=17241 It's new music from The Koxx, but you kind of expected something more substantial.

Post written by Chris P for Korean Indie.

Returning after a two year absence, The Koxx released Red. The four song EP is the essentials of The Koxx. Electronic pop rock that uses bright melodies and rhythms to catch your attention. Considering that the new normal was the second most recent release, I wonder what the band was doing these past two years. Red is more of the The Koxx and that’s awesome, but I expected a little more than what this EP presents.

the koxx red

The Koxx are comfortable in every aspect of their style. From the guitar riffs, drums beats, and keyboard accents; this is standard Koxx. “#lol” is a good jump back into their style with an easy to find groove and melody. It’s not anything too complicated and works to bring people back into The Koxx’s audio world. “Blister” is the lead single and adds some variety. It’s sung in Korean which is a little different since many songs are in English. But I feel like the song being in Korean gives it a different edge. “Blister” is a refreshing song, not just in the vocals, but the simpler presentation of the track is welcome. There’s less to get inundated by.

I get a lot of bon voyage from “Zero.” It’s a song that relies on the vocals to provide the melodic direction. The instrumentation is fun, but follows a simple path from beat to beat. Closing out Red is “grey.” It’s one of the slower songs that I’ve heard by the band. “grey” finally gives you a moment to appreciate that The Koxx are able to produce amazing music.

My question is that between their last full length and this EP, it took two years. They have established their sound and are an unique band. What caused the long time between releases? Red only serves to make you think that there’s a lot more music that the band has that hasn’t been recorded. But at the same time, Red feels very limited in scope. While not sounding like B-sides from the new normal, Red does tread very familiar ground.

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YESEO : Million Things http://www.koreanindie.com/2017/08/07/yeseo-million-things/ http://www.koreanindie.com/2017/08/07/yeseo-million-things/#respond Tue, 08 Aug 2017 03:57:05 +0000 http://www.koreanindie.com/?p=17235 YESEO sets eyes beyond R&B in her first EP.

Post written by Danny Hwang for Korean Indie.

YESEO is one of the few in Korean electronic music capable of delivering the full package alone, from production to performance. While R&B-infused electronica is her forte, YESEO uses this album to showcase a broader approach to electronic music.

The first two tracks of the album exemplify what YESEO does best: dreamy, spacious vocals and cascading synths within a R&B and soul context. “Silhouette” sounds like a track by NAO but with the vocals more emphasized. The background soundscape with the beats and breakdowns maintains tension in spite of a low bpm. The headiness peaks in “Million Things,” where the highly reverberated vocals manage to pierce through the dense mass of boosted synths.

Chill wave track “Lazy Mary Jane” is a pleasant surprise, the guitar, bass, and brass serving as organic backdrops to accentuate the layers of synths that pile onto each other without being distorted into noise. “Last Touch” is a nod at the current trends in the electronic music scene, mimicking in her own dreamy way the popular (and therefore proliferating) neo-soul-influenced tracks that have broken through to the mainstream.

The spacious vocals and synth arrangements work to her disadvantage as YESEO tries to fit them into different genres in later tracks. While the melody is great, her attempt at deep house in “Rude” sounds like two different tracks playing at once, the kicks and the bass failing to match the other instruments. It is unclear what “My Youth” was going for, where the dampened drop after a progressive house buildup makes the track sound more like trance. The vocals also fail to cut as clearly through as they do in other tracks.

“Deeper Than Love” partially resolves the question of what “Rude” and “My Youth” would sound like if combined and done better – the tropical house elements adding more energy to the drop, while the bass and drums are better moderated.

Million Things is YESEO’s first EP, meaning this kind of experimentation with other genres is promising. I would wait for an album or two more from her before making judgements about whether she has successfully mastered electronica beyond her R&B background.

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Yoorae : 00 http://www.koreanindie.com/2017/08/06/yoorae-00/ http://www.koreanindie.com/2017/08/06/yoorae-00/#respond Mon, 07 Aug 2017 04:05:05 +0000 http://www.koreanindie.com/?p=17223 Yoorae is an electronic artist with his own unique sound and style.

Post written by Chris P for Korean Indie.

As expected going back into Korean electronic music has resulted in another great find. Yoorae is an electronic artist with his own unique sound and style. He does have some contemporaries this time around though because of his soundtrack-esque music.

yoorae 00

Every track on 00 is a number so it doesn’t give much of a hint on what the song is going to be. The numbering is also out of order so I’m curious if these songs were meant to be listened to in the way the album is laid out or if it’s the order of how the songs were composed. Regardless of that, 00 is an interesting audio experience. Focusing more on tones rather than full samples, you are drawn into a strange world that doesn’t seem to abide by regular rules.

Yoorae focuses a lot on the percussion of each track. It’s almost like the melody comes second. The tempo of tracks isn’t that fast and focuses more on building upon itself through different rhythms. I like how 00 isn’t overly focused on melody and spends more time syncopating beats. It might not seem like an engaging album at first, but as you move through the tracks this universe is opened.

It’s not really worth explaining the album song by song because you need to experience it firsthand. 00 is weird and strange, almost like an experimental haunted house that changes room to room. In some other cases, it reminds me of the Silent Hill soundtracks. It may not be for everyone, but Yoorae presents many original ideas.

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Minhwee Lee : Borrowed Tongue http://www.koreanindie.com/2017/08/03/minhwee-lee-borrowed-tongue/ http://www.koreanindie.com/2017/08/03/minhwee-lee-borrowed-tongue/#respond Fri, 04 Aug 2017 03:41:40 +0000 http://www.koreanindie.com/?p=17087 One part of MukimukiManmansu, Minhwee Lee's Borrowed Tongue goes into an entire different and amazing direction.

Post written by Chris P for Korean Indie.

From the start of Minhwee Lee’s Borrowed Tongue, it feels like you’ve entered a different world. “Stone-Throwing” is an atmospheric ride that sits between genres. The foundations feels like a cross between Jazz and Blues accents presented in an indie folk fashion with a heavy bit of experimentation.

minhwee lee borrowed tongue

“Stone-Throwing” is only an instrumental track and it already sets the tone for the album. “Borrowed Tongue” expands a bit from that initial introduction and adds some folk accents mainly supported through the addition of a flute in the song’s introduction. Minhwee’s voice is haunting. While I’m not sure if this is done through the mixing and mastering of the album, it’s slightly warm and husk that follows the end of each syllable sticks in your ears. With eight songs, Borrowed Tongue might only be an EP, but the album is dense.

The vocals don’t simply present the lyrics, but mix among the instrumentals which change from song to song. The consistent pieces are always the vocals and guitar, but some songs add piano, bass, and additional percussion instruments. If I had to try to find any kind of similar artist, it’s kind of impossible because she has such an unique and addictive voice.

Borrowed Tongue is amazing. As an EP, it can outshine a lot of full lengths. It’s one of those albums that you put on while drinking whiskey while it plays on a turntable. I think Borrowed Tongue is one of those albums that suceeeds more as a vinyl release because it feels like it was made for it.

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Sister’s Barbershop : People Who Stay Alone http://www.koreanindie.com/2017/08/01/sisters-barbershop-people-who-stay-alone/ http://www.koreanindie.com/2017/08/01/sisters-barbershop-people-who-stay-alone/#respond Wed, 02 Aug 2017 03:47:40 +0000 http://www.koreanindie.com/?p=17197 Pioneers of Korean Indie put out their final album

Post written by Danny Hwang for Korean Indie.

To my regret, I have not known about Sister’s Barbershop for long enough to have eagerly waited for the release of each album for the past 23 years. But when I did discover their music, it felt like the band saw right through me. That’s why their 6th and final album People Who Stay Alone feels like sending off an old friend.

Sister’s Barbershop is known for its perfectionism, postponing releases three times or mixing and mastering the same track more than ten times in the case of its 5th album The Most Ordinary Existence. On top of that, the band has continuously announced that this album will be its last creative effort as far back as in 2009. In light of these factors People Who Stay Alone, published last June, is the ultimate studio album, carefully constructed and polished to every last second. Leader Lee Seok Won explicitly states how much he worked on each track in his liner notes.

Danceable sadness pervades this highly-engineered album. The first track “Shake Your Body Move Your Mind” is in this sense a representative introduction of what this band does best, and “Dancing Alone” likewise closes out the album.

The title track “People Who Stay Alone” adds a synth pop touch to the album, which is something the band has not done before but pulls off gracefully. Other efforts at originality in this album are perhaps less pronounced than a change of genres, but songs like “Sun Shines Over the Window” or “Everybody Knows the Secret” featuring IU have complex structures with no set boundaries between the chorus and verses, taking on a narrative quality.

Looking for different instruments weaving in and out of tracks is also fun. In “What’s Heart,” the organs sneak in in the second verse and are gone by the time you notice them, while the brass in the outro is also slides in unnoticed and lasts throughout the end. It almost seems to embody the song’s lyrical theme – the transience of heart.

Sister’s Barbershop is an iconic band. It started with a teenaged Lee Seok Won pretending to be the leader of a nonexistent band in the early 90s, writing songs out of spite for an indie band scene bent on covering other bands instead of making original ones. It was arguably the first Korean indie band, and at the same time brought alternative rock into the scene. Its music has captivated generation after generation of Korean youth, the latest being that of IU (she covered The Most Ordinary Existence on TV, introducing herself as a fan). No band can continue to make music forever, but given its thematic fixation on yearning, Sister’s Barbershop’s hiatus almost feels like a self-referential statement to fans.

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sears (시어스) : 시어스 http://www.koreanindie.com/2017/07/31/sears-%ec%8b%9c%ec%96%b4%ec%8a%a4-%ec%8b%9c%ec%96%b4%ec%8a%a4/ http://www.koreanindie.com/2017/07/31/sears-%ec%8b%9c%ec%96%b4%ec%8a%a4-%ec%8b%9c%ec%96%b4%ec%8a%a4/#respond Tue, 01 Aug 2017 03:49:03 +0000 http://www.koreanindie.com/?p=17166 A combination of psychedelic rock and electronic samples make up the music of sears

Post written by Chris P for Korean Indie.

I think I previewed one of sears‘ songs a long time ago. I picked up their self-titled album when going on a Bandcamp binge. I thought I was going to be hearing some recognizable rock music, but sears jump into a different direction from the start of “Red Balloon.” They describe themselves as psychedelic and electronic, which is a very good description. The music has a strong psychedelic wrapper on every song, to the point where it starts to mess with your mind.


It’s kind of rare to hear psychedelic music in South Korea. There are, of course, a small amount of bands who perform the style with amazing flourishes, but it’s difficult to find them. sears, on their album, grab the genre and supplement it with electronic beats. If there is one issue that occurs, it’s that the basic melodies on their songs all follow a similar trail. It’s almost like you’re listening to one long track that was split into ten separate tracks. Looking at it that way, it’s kind of a musical walkabout that sears take you on. “Half Moon” feels like the first break. It pulls back a little, while still supplying the psychedelic elements.

From “Seoul Fog,” it sounds like you’re going on a different path. It’s weird, but most songs feel like your directly in a cloud of haze and have to concentrate on not getting lost in songs. Listening to sears on a commute actually gets you a little lost. There’s a wanderlust that is fueled through the music. With songs that could easily have been slight variations of the same tone, sears do an excellent job of making an album that feels laid back, but contains excellent tracks.

I think sears have presented a slice of music not readily heard. The self-titled album is solid and shows a lot of talent between the two members. My only wish is that there was a bit more differentiation between tracks so I knew where I was in the album.

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BLVN (BeLieVe iN) : The Sky in Seoul http://www.koreanindie.com/2017/07/30/blvn-the-sky-in-seoul/ http://www.koreanindie.com/2017/07/30/blvn-the-sky-in-seoul/#respond Mon, 31 Jul 2017 03:47:37 +0000 http://www.koreanindie.com/?p=17214 BLVN's The Sky in Seoul is a four track independent EP that is ostensibly pleasant, but fails to break out of a worn mold.

Post written by Claire for Korean Indie.

The Sky in Seoul is a four track independent EP that is ostensibly pleasant, but fails to break out of a worn mold. It’s part of a legion of similar records that utilize some traditional instrumentation in an attempt to add depth to standard pop formulas. It has the requisite “woo-oo’s” (“Don’t Worry Today”) and acoustic-driven ballad (“Make a Memory”), the same static chord progressions and major-key melodies that never seem to move beyond arm’s length.

blvn the sky in seoul

It may be that the goal was never to make anything revolutionary, and The Sky in Seoul does a passable job of working as summery background music. “Like an Airplane” possesses a vaguely uplifting nature; it’s a fairly run-of-the-mill electro-pop track that at least bears an interesting synth tone. However, this sort of stylistic complacency doesn’t make for a particularly captivating listen, and it doesn’t help the case that the melody of each song is barely distinguishable from one another. There’s not much room for an identity crisis within the space of four tracks, but The Sky in Seoul isn’t entirely sure whether it wants to define itself as a pop-tinged rock record or a rock-tinged pop record. The title track pulls towards the former, “Like an Airplane” is inclined towards the latter. Then again, the lines are already quite blurred in the realms of The Sky in Seoul and this distinction is ultimately unimportant.

A past release from BLVN, “All I Want,” is symptomatic of similar issues but compensates with a perceptible sense of fun. It’s not clear that The Sky in Seoul is able to bring that same level of energy. When evaluating anything that falls into a broad category of pop, I consider it a success if the artist makes something that is straightforwardly enjoyable; there needn’t be intellectual caveats or advanced pedagogical applications. “Don’t Worry Today” is a decent attempt at sounding carefree, and the overall vocal performance of The Sky in Seoul is sufficiently strong to convey its sentiments even if the mixing feels a bit thin. “Make a Memory” in itself feels pretty enough, but within the context of the entire record it only serves to drag down the pacing.

There are plenty of boundary-pushing artists within the music scene, as well as those who make solid music within pre-existing frameworks. BLVN has the capacity to make a record that fits the latter.  I think he would do well to build upon the sound that he established in “All I Want” and continue that sense of enthusiasm.

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