If you want to know where my interest in Korean independent music officially started, it comes from Donawhale‘s 2007 self-titled album. This album, to me, is perfection. Every one of the 12 songs including JellyBoy‘s remix of “Echo” opened my mind and ears to the potential to Korean music. I’d listened to Crying Nut and No Brain prior, but Donawhale really expanded my curiosity into the potential of different genres.
“Close Your Eyes” was a surprise because of its English lyrics, but also the soundscape that the band presents to start the album. It’s a dense introduction before the vocals start and go towards a minimalist verse structure. The vocals guide the song towards the chorus where the song explodes again. “Hole” is a more customary indie rock song. using a simple verse, but once the movement towards the chorus happens, the song grows. The drum patterns don’t only follow the tempo, but add their own flavor to the track too.
The slower style that Donawhale also excelled at is first introduced on “Foolstar.” The uses the slower tempo to let you reset to the song and enjoy the sweeping vocals. It’s one of the best composed songs that I’ve ever heard. But the song that really started everything is “Echo.” The drum rhythm is simple, but melds with the guitars with the bass providing the structure. Vocals on “Echo” sound like they’re put through a filter and use a lower octave than songs before but remains warm. I’m not entirely sure what it is about “Echo” that speaks to me so much, but remains my favorite song.
“A Spring Day” is another song that seems to pop up for me a lot. It’s one of the tracks where the keyboard makes a stronger presence and changes the overall tone of the band. It’s kind of a separate voice to the other songs. “Picnik” also adds a different styles with the more indie rock with ballad-style vocals. It does allow the vocals to grow and explore more. “꽃이 피다” closes the album before the remix of “Echo.” and with its slow tone and tempo, feels like your ending a long walk and finally finishing your journey.
This self-titled album reset my expectations of Korean music. It’s sad that the band was only able to release two albums because if they were around now, they would find fans around the world. I’ve heard a lot of music since Donawhale, but to me, nothing has affected me so much and I continue to come back to this album year after year.