The year in Korean indie in 2015 could be summed up in one word: fun. So many of the feelings I had while listening to this list of music, from sadness, joy, anger, and love, these artists and their respective albums brought them all to the forefront in ways that I didn’t expect, but had so much fun experiencing. Not an all encompassing list of the year, but these fifteen records (I’m nothing if not concise) were major highlights for the music that brought all the feels. Enjoy!
With a rock sound so powerful it needs a warning label at higher volumes, Asian Chairshot’s 소나기 EP is a small bottle of power. The ballad closer, “Butterfly,” even keeps that level of distortion at its max with an incessant electric guitar fuzz that reminds me more of moths than the title’s more beautiful counterpart. Asian Chairshot will always be a band that I will follow until they stop, and 소나기 was a release worth waiting for.
BewhY : Time Travel
With all the noise, deserved or not, in hip-hop, it was easy to look over those that didn’t make the pages, with BewhY’s Time Travel being one. With beats so on point, a rap game that’s fire and one of the few artists period to freely express his love of Christianity, BewhY is one hell of a talent, playing with tempos, beat structures and themes like no one in the game right now. The brains behind $exy $treet made a fantastic debut with Time Travel.
There’s not much else I can say about this record. A glowing review, countless replays and tears aplenty, Boni’s Love is my favorite record of 2015. If you haven’t listened to it yet, I feel bad for you.
One of my most anticipated records of 2015, I was glad From The Airport’s “You Could Imagine” was as great as I had hoped. Showing up on Cassie and Chris’ list only cements how fantastic the record is, with three different voices clamoring its praises. The rock-synth record to top all rock-synth records.
I was initially baffled by this one, but it wasn’t till Rachel’s review that it all clicked: Genius Nochang’s My New Instagram: MESURECHIFFON is “tour-de-force.” So much is going on here, from Nochang’s different vocal tricks and beats that veer from the expected. If you want a hip-hop record to blow your mind, don’t overlook this one.
This band has had a crazy year, from a myriad media appearances, a new record deal, multiple featured roles on other records, and releasing the funk-a-licious 22. A concise package of beautiful singing and great musicianship, 22 was the EP to escape from life. With an acoustic version of one of my favorite tracks, “Gondry,” Hyukoh’s year started off strong with 22.
illinit : Made in ‘98
The one of the last releases of the year, I’m glad I waited as long I did to write this up to include illinit’s Made in ‘98. I knew Fame-J was a talented producer, but his work on this one reminded me of that after many lackluster releases. illinit has so much fun on Made in ‘98 and it shows in the title track, “Beer In My Backpack,” “자유로운 존재 (Freedom),” among others. Plug in your headcans, kids, and get ready to get schooled in some well done, old-school hip-hop.
Jin Kim : The Jazz Unit
No debut this year has left me in awe like Jin Kim’s hard-bop The Jazz Unit. A sumptuous jazz record with a quintet so talented and well-honed that they hit you over the head with a mallet, The Jazz Unit is jazz at its most effortless and its most brilliant point. For an idea of why I’m so gaga over them, watch this onstage naver video of the quintet performing “First One,” and be dazzled by their virtuosity.
Kim Jo Han : Once In A Lifetime
I love Kim Jo Han and Once In A Lifetime is THE record not only for Kim Jo Han’s fans, but R&B and vocalist fans as well. One of the best male voices in Korea, Jo Han went all classic on us on this record, making a package that feels timeless without the cheese factor. Don’t miss the larger than life “Dance With The Queen,” a song so perfect Jo Han and the band couldn’t leave it alone after 5 minutes.
MFBTY : WondaLand
No way would this list exist without the reigning family of hip-hop and a record so good even you guys picked it as your album of the year. MFBTY’s WondaLand is a testament to how music made with hope and love and a child’s sense of fun can bring you out of the duldrums.
A rock lover’s dream in album form. An album that hits all my rock buttons, from blues, 70’s era rock, and song titles that perk my ears before I hear them (“Brown Eyed Girl” and “Baby You’re So Cold” among them), The Monotones did the rock debut so fucking well with Into The Night. Thanks Annie from Love X Stereo for turning Chris onto this one.
My producer of the year, bar none, has got to be Primary, with 2 the prime example. A singles collection with a top-notch roster of collaborators, 2 knocked my socks off with the level of production this guy can achieve. Among many standouts, one of the lesser known ones has to be “Mileage,” with two of my favorite artists doing it so well. So much fun was had with this one.
Shin Seol Hee : After Image
The more I listen to Shin Seol Hee’s After Image, the better it gets. Such an intricate album that shimmers in its simplicity, After Image is the quieter and no less powerful sibling to her debut LP in 2013, “Hills of the Time.” You can try to relax to it, but your mind will follow every turn of this EP with pleasure.
THE throwback record of the year, as well as one of my most played, Xin Seha’s 24Town is bloody amazing. This is how nostalgia is supposed to work: bringing back the love and emotion of the era without the terrible parts. Paired with my favorite video of the year, 24Town was an entire package I can’t live without.