Donawhale‘s Dive to Blue combines the best aspects of indie pop rock together in a seamlessly perfect album. Covering 12 songs, the album also marked the end of the band. Released in 2009, Dive to Blue is a perfect note on where independent music was before the 2010s.
“Hello” is an instrumental opener with ambient insect noises in the background combined with acoustic guitar, keyboards, and a small amount of brass. “A Glow Boy” is when the album actually starts with the full band. Donawhale were an indie pop rock group, but listening through the album again, it’s possible to hear some post rock and shoegaze elements through the guitar. The vocals are a big highlight in the music. The female vocals are in a slightly higher register, but effortlessly match the song melodies.
The indie pop rock genre has the potential to get repetitive, but Donawhale were easily able to surpass this limitation. “Doremi” might live in the same audio universe as “A Glow Boy” but offers a different emotion. “Cloud” is more of a slower ballad-style song and one of the best of the band. Every member is working in tandem and helping give the song life.
“Nana” is my favorite song on Dive to Blue because it’s showing the push at the boundaries of the genre. The distortion on the guitar are in competition with the keyboards. I think the mixing of “Nana” is so deliberate to bring that more crunchy guitar sound into the track without muting any other melody.
If Donawhale existed in 2018-2020, they could be a favorite of many people. Dive to Blue sits among the best Korean releases that I’ve ever heard. It feels warm and welcoming while also presenting 12 tracks without a single missed opportunity. The flow of Dive to Blue is one of the best and you really get an entire experience. Just listen to “Black Sheep.”
Donawhale continue to be one of my favorite bands and is the highlight in the beginning of my exploration of Korean music. Dive to Blue is one of the best albums that many people might not hear and that’s something that should change.