If you’ve heard Billy Carter‘s previous releases, you might remember a psychedelic blues, garage rock trio. Returning in 2020, Billy Carter have changed to something slightly off-center from older releases. Now a duo with “crew members,” Jiwon Kim and Jina Kim have created, recorded, and released an important and soon-to-be classic album for Korean music. The music is more rock, more post-punk, and more folk all mixed into a very precisely ordered audio experience. It’s one of the most amazing musical experiences I’ve ever had.
Don’t Push Me is deliberate in every note, every verse, and every song. “Invisible Monster” features a fully developed band sound and serves as a transition from previous releases by easing listeners into the album. Starting Don’t Push Me with “Invisible Monster,” “which contains a strong will to overcome their traumas caused by abuses,” washes any expectations away and prepares you for the experience to come.
The full band sound is welcoming even when the subject matter is intense. I think Billy Carter also made a deliberate decision to record English vocals. It opens up the potential listening audience and serves as a way for more people to understand the hypocritical nature of the mainstream media presentation of South Korea to the reality of people living there.
“Don’t Push Me to Love My Enemy” sounds like an energetic rock track at the beginning, but just get halfway into the slowdown and the repeating line, “I hate you” in all its melodic glory. The song sounds like a fun experience, but it harnesses and captures the frustration. Its aggressive and forward tempo really helps get the attention of anyone listening.
“Beat Up” is similar to the old band style, but the topic is intense and precise. It’s an in-your-face message about cultural expectations. The narrative vocals along with the groove-focused melodies really cement the addictiveness of the track. It’s such a great song, but the subject matter will surprise many people.
That’s the greatest strength of Don’t Push Me. It’s not asking you to like it, not asking you to accept it, but presenting a personal story and perspective. “My Body My Choice” is essential to this album. The simple structure gives the lyrics a front-and-center place. You will listen to this track and wonder how backwards South Korea can be. The repetition of “my choice” is integral and reinforces that simple lesson.
“I See You” is another of my favorite songs because of how sarcastic and to-the-point it is about how homogenous South Korea can be and how it is constrained to grow outside of the narrow perspective of older demographics. It’s like listening to a speech and wondering how these ideas and perspectives still exist. “I See You” presents an important visual through its lyrics. It’s an important song for more people to hear, but also understand this what the actual point of it is.
It’s impossible not to be impressed with every track on Don’t Push Me. Every song on the album is important and speaks to a major point with a personal perspective. But even though the perspective is personal, it serves as a highlight in the call for the necessary growth of society as a whole. Pretty much every song on the album is dark in tone while the music is engaging and addictive. The instrumentals might attract, but the lyrics serve an entirely different purpose.
Billy Carter is not hiding on Don’t Push Me. It’s revealing issues and doing it in the most classic way possible. The album reveals more each time you listen to it. My first impression of Don’t Push Me was a punch in the face. It contains powerful messages that are masterfully composed and arranged. It retains Billy Carter’s core sounds, but the band’s tone has evolved into something much more precise even when it sounds loose.
Billy Carter’s Don’t Push Me is one the top three albums of 2020. This album is one of the most powerful ever released in Korean music, independent or otherwise. I don’t think you’ll find another album this year that provides any similar level of respect and awe.
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