Dajung‘s Jay Knife is the perfect return. Nine out of the 10 songs come from her days under the artist name j.knife, but in this album, the songs take on a new life and presence. I’ve said before that I think Dajung will be a very influential artist within Korean music. Jay Knife is recognition of her past and setting the foundation of her journey ahead.
The 29 minute album is, in a way, a best of the past. I’m glad that the set of songs selected show that growth and I’m curious to know where she’s headed. Starting with “Familiar Sounds, Dajung eases you into her soundscape. The short track is more ambient with synth and a spoken word sitting right beneath the melodies. It moves quickly and you can miss what’s being said as it’s a little distorted. “Nighttime” is a signature track of j.knife. It features ukulele and a simple percussion beat. Her vocals are only a little above spoken word and the repeated lines feel like a walk through a street burdened by internal thoughts.
“Do What You Want” as the lead single feels a bit like a reset. The piano accompaniment is a necessary foundation in the track. Her vocals start expanding more and the backend reverb add a lot of weight. The mix of the song is interesting with the drum beat sitting in the left with the piano sitting mainly in the right, but slightly bleeding. Dajung wears her influences openly. Her love of Julian Baker sits within a lot of these songs. They don’t guide the composition of the tracks, but there are some pieces of songs that pulled from Baker’s elements.
“I’m Still Alive” is one of Dajung’s best songs. This version of the song feels much fuller with a more present low end and drum beat. Her vocals sound more confident and move between verses with a purpose. “I’m Still Alive” is also a song that allows her to expand on the vocal melodies. Composition-wise, it’s not a heavily layered song, but that’s what helps it thrive. Jay Knife is really how these songs should be presented. The previous versions had all the same elements, but Dajung’s abilities really shine through.
If there’s any song that needs to be heard, it’s going to be “Is There Any Way You Could Change?” It might be a very standard indie rock track, attributed to the music Dajung was listening to at the time, but she’s so successful in building a cohesive and addictive song. It’s not the best song for a single, but might be one of her signature tracks.
The one thing that sticks out to me is because this is a collection of her past songs, they come from different levels of experience. While it may not be obvious to first time listeners, the song order jumps around and feels a little uneven. She self-released two full lengths during her j.knife years and the growth forward was amazing. The only track I couldn’t find an older version for was “Untitled 2.” Regardless, it’s a very strong track and a good addition on the album. Though the melody does sound very familiar like its been used on other songs before.
Dajung makes a bit of a change on “Pride.” It’s a little ballad-ish as opposed to her indie and synth-driven tracks. This track reminds me a lot of Julien Baker’s simple piano focused tracks, but Dajung makes the song her own. Closing Jay Knife with “Myp3” is great. It still features the same intro. “Myp3” is the song that got me interested in listening to Dajung. It carried so much depth and signs of potential when I heard it years ago.
Jay Knife is the recognition of j.knife. She’s returned to music and these songs gave her artist voice and perspective a form. The album is a classic and the tracks are amazing. The songs were great when I heard them before, but this updated form of them have cemented their place. Jay Knife is already one of the best albums of 2021.