2019 was an interesting year. I returned in the middle of the year or so. I had to go back through tweets to find it. But there it is.
You might remember that I stepped back from the site about a year ago for personal stuff.— Korean Indie (@koreanindie) June 27, 2019
Well, I got bored so I’m coming back starting July.
– Chris (@wakesidevision)
Honestly, I don’t know if coming back was positive or negative but I do enjoy writing about Korean music. So here’s my list of favorite albums of the year. As per usual, this isn’t in any order, but more of free-flowing, beer-enabled list of the music that I thought was awesome.
Oh Chill : Oh, Two Animals
I’ve been waiting for Oh Chill‘s full length for a long time. Since I listened to their first EP, saw them in Seoul, and then in San Francisco, they’re one of the bands that just continually impress.
The full length blew me away and continues to be one of the most played albums this year. Also “On and On,” the closer for the album might also be my song of the year. This album will be a classic.
Love X Stereo : 37X and 37C
I remember when Annie told me about their plan for 37. Externally, I was 1000% behind the idea of 37 songs in a year. Internally, my thought was “you guys are fucking crazy.” They launched their Patreon and got to work. It’s taken longer than originally planned but 37X and 37C showcase the best of Love X Stereo.
From their origins as a three-piece to their work as a duo, their work ethic resulted in a portfolio of work that they should be proud of. With the 37 Project completed, I’m really curious where they plan to move now.
CHS : Jungle Sauna
I don’t know if Apollo 18 is resting in peace since the members are off in different projects. But Hyunseok‘s return with psychedelic surf rock was surprising. I wonder if he matured beyond the post-rock and shoegaze and wanted something a little more laid back. That said, Jungle Sauna isn’t something you’d expect and that’s what makes it so amazing.
Big Phony : The Silent Motto
I admit, I’m biased with Big Phony. He’s an artist that I have a tremendous amount of respect for and try to push through the website as much as I can. His music has always had an important place in my heart. Also my mom loves him and made meeting him her goal when she came to SXSW years ago.
While he might not release as much “official” music, Big Phony is an important marker in Korean music and should be celebrated more. The Silent Motto released unexpectedly but is an important discography release as it marks the thoughts and emotions at that specific time. I like that Biy Phony releases demos of his work alongside his official releases because it shows the progression of his music.
Bosudong Cooler : yeah, I don’t want it
I listened to Bossudong Cooler‘s EP a lot. But it wasn’t until an Angle Magazine YouTube video that my interest really sparked. Funny enough, the song they play is a cover.
Either way, Busan’s music scene is thriving and there are a lot of bands. Bosudong are unique and have a signature sound. The EP setup a lot of expectations, let’s see if they deliver with what comes next.
Gumiho : Gumiho
I love punk rock and I love pretty much 99% of the punk rock that I can find from South Korea. Gumiho recorded their debut very cheap and it shows in the audio. But that shit quality also captures the raw energy of the band.
If you want polished punk rock, get the fuck out. Gumiho is keeping punk rock going and now they have more to prove (and hopefully a higher budget) for their next release.
Hunjiya : Look After August
A couple (or few) years ago, Hunjiya sent an email introducing her music. I thought it was a good start for an artist. A couple (or few) years later, she releases Look After August and I don’t know what or how she improved so much.
Hunjiya is part of a group of Korean American artists that I consider to be the upcoming generation that will define what music will be. Once Western media gets past her “Korean” base level and really drill down into her music, she could be a pop star for the young internet-connected generation.
Jambinai : Onda
It feels like there are more “music ambassadors” for indie music. Jambinai are definitely part of that group. They constantly tour Europe and with Onda, expanded their sound to become even more sonically aggressive while introducing a new angle to their music. Each release is better than the previous and with a permanent rhythm section, the band will definitely go even harder.
I wonder if they will have time to write a new EP or album or will spend most of 2020 touring. Honestly, with all the work European labels are doing with Korean bands, US-based labels need to get off their asses and start reaching out, signing distribution deals, and getting more bands in the US.
Cacophony : [夢] Dream
I’m super late to Cacophony. I think I only found out about her through a suggested YouTube video. She made a video for every song on Harmony and I continue to listen to both albums daily.
I’m not sure why her music is so addictive to me specifically. It’s all good, but her songs stick in my head. I probably won’t get to reviewing her music this year, but on my list for early 2020.