Kwon Tree’s first full length album, 그림, received much critical acclaim since its release in November of 2014, even being nominated for four different categories in the Korean Music Awards. 그림 is a fantastic folk album that is undoubtedly deserving of this acclaim, and is for sure my favorite release of 2014.
When you listen to good music, you just know. It might not be anything in particular—lyrics, beat, melody, voice, etc. – but you just listen and it’s good. Real good. Not having any idea who Kwon Tree was until the release of 그림, I took a half-hearted listen while multitasking but soon found myself utterly captivated.
Kwon Tree’s songs are nothing extravagant. In fact, the only instruments used in his entire album are acoustic guitar and cello. His lyrics are nothing fancy either, often just expressions of Kwon Tree’s everyday thoughts and feelings. Much of Kwon Tree’s lyrics focus on the past and on youth, giving his songs a nostalgic feel that is furthered by the longing sound his voice harbors. In his live performances, Kwon Tree is often standing still (many say this stance, like his name, resembles a tree) while seemingly looking off into some distance, adding to the nostalgia and emotional content of Kwon Tree’s music.
“어릴 때,” the title track of 그림, is a nostalgic song about childhood and youth, and honest track that is compared to looking back on one’s childhood journal. Although “어릴 때” has received the most attention and praise, my personal favorite tracks are the last two tracks on the album, “밤 하늘로” and “내 탓은 아니야.” “밤 하늘로” is a heavier track about a past loved one that shows off a little more of Kwon Tree’s vocals, and the emotional heaviness of the track is just so piercing.
All in all, though, 그림 is a precious album in which no song can be overlooked. Although Kwon Tree might not be everyone’s cup of tea, as is the case for any and every artist, this album is no doubt a standout of 2014 and I’m glad to have found such a special artist and album. Excited to see what’s in store for Kwon Tree from here on!