A small list of some great listens for 2019, with some wonderful genre-bending and experimentation heard over the year. These selections are organized alphabetically, and are not listed in any particular ranking.

the black skirts thirsty

The Black Skirts : THIRSTY

Jo-Hyu-il delves into shoegaze, folk, and post-rock with top-notch, luxurious production quality on his follow-up to TEAM BABY. Jo shapeshifts with each track, as you find that his voice really does work with any style he tries. He demonstrates his mastery in constructing sound-worlds large and small, that all equally feel intimate and meditative. Saxophone, violins, and double bass all make lovely cameos.

Summer Soul : The Suicide Diary

So dark, but so fun. Summer Soul and Charming Lips reunited for their first full-length EP together, with a tight yet laidback atmosphere which seemed to come just in time for the dog days. Summer Soul breathes out her lyrics in intriguing indifference, with a world-weariness of someone well beyond twenty. 

KIM YUNJI (김윤지) : SOYO (소요)

Kim Yunji ingeniously has shed new light on traditional Korean pansori, through her usage of the singing idiom in combination with electronics and atmospheric instrumentals. The style’s success is dependent on the singer’s ability to be an auditory chameleon, and Kim’s virtuosity in this regard is clear. Her voice is truly treated as an instrument on SOYO – throughout tracks, it dances in and out of the background, in what feels like a live improvisatory trio between Kim, Rainbow99 on guitar and electronics.

Samuel Seo : The Misfit

Samuel Seo shines on his fourth album, created in a kind of reverence to neo-soul. While his previous releases highlight influences in jazz, 2010s R&B, and lo-fi hip-hop, Seo largely abandons these past stylistic ventures in The Misfit. A record that was quite unexpected, but oh-so-appreciated.

CHS : Jungle Sauna (정글사우나)

July gifted us with Jungle Sauna, a collection of (mostly) instrumental tracks from new group CHS, led by guitarist Choi Hyun-suk (formerly of Apollo18). Sun-kissed funk meets leisurely post-rock, for an ideal listen in one’s imaginary villa by an empty tropical beach.

O3ohn (오존) : Simple Songs

O3ohn has one of those voices that could make reading a grocery list tug at your heartstrings. Like the title suggests, the EP isn’t fussy — it’s made up of musical vignettes, mostly around love, that are instrumentally minimal and thematically straightforward. O3ohn’s doing his own thing, and we’ll let him keep doing it because it really is always so beautiful.

uju : Sunday Seoul Ep.II

City pop has exploded among Korean mainstream and independent artists, both with originals and refreshed takes on 80s and 90s hits (e.g. Digging Club Seoul). Uju has quickly built up a string of releases in the past two years, starting with Ep. 1 of Sunday Seoul in 2017. This February saw the second installment of this EP series. Among the sea of city pop revivalists, Uju has carved out a unique sound – she blends funk, soul, and R&B, while not afraid to growl a little here and insert a vocal slide there.

Based in Brooklyn, NY. Aspiring 냉면 connoisseur.