SURIM isn’t necessarily a new artist, but she was new to me when I found her third album release, 2021’s Love. When I first gave it a listen, I was immediately entranced by her soothing vocals and the calming energy of her songs. Love, not unlike my last review of Susan’s EROS seems to be an exploration of love – though Surim goes about it in a very different way. The first two tracks on the album are both posed as questions, while the next two seem to explore two different kinds of love; the final two are less straightforward in their approach to the subject matter, but still involve it.
“How Can I Know? (with Hahn)” is a minimal acoustic track. The gentle melody is sweet and soothing, composed mostly of a guitar and Surim’s voice. To me it sounds a bit like a folksy ballad, with earnest lyrics pondering on how difficult it can be to know if someone really loves you and on the uncertainty of how your future with a person may pan out. Hahn only makes a brief appearance at the end of this song, so I wouldn’t necessarily call it a duet, but their voices work well together.
“Can I Believe In?” is similar to the previous track in its inquiring nature and minimal composition, but begins leaning towards lounge- and cafe-style instrumentals. It’s still led largely by guitar, but the piano which joins in is a touch jazzy – and once the percussion starts, after about a minute, you truly get that lounge music sound.
As that genre suggests, the atmosphere of the song is relaxing and gentle while still offering enough of a beat to bob along to if you desire. The lyrics seem to carry on from the first track; now assured that her lover’s feelings are true, the anxieties about how long those feelings will last begin to rise up. However, Surim quells them in this song by resolving to simply live in these moments of happiness and keep the memories, regardless of what happens.
Personally, I get Stella Jang vibes from “Love, Love! (with Park Hyunseo).” Not immediately, but once the accordion kicks in the track takes on the sort of French cafe/lounge style that Stella has been recognized for in the past. It’s sweet; a classic and timeless love song with a comforting melody and tender lyrics about wanting to be around and give affection to the person that you love. If we’re following the thread of the first two tracks, then Surim has found confidence in her relationship and is openly enjoying it, rather than questioning her feelings and worrying about the future.
The fourth track departs from this journey. “Song from Your Puppy” is, as the title may suggest, an innocent and comforting love song. It’s brief but heartwarming, singing of unconditional and pure love. Tonally, it follows along the same vein of cafe-lounge style music that Surim has built up to in the first few tracks.
By now she has developed that sound more fully, and the second half of the song is mostly dominated by the instruments as Surim hums along like a lullaby. The lyrics are minimal, describing a puppy waiting for their owner to come home; missing them and worrying about them when they seem down, wanting them to be happy. However, as a puppy, it doesn’t know how to help, and so just watches on with love and hope.
Track five, “Empty Boat (with Cheol Gaang),” has more atmosphere, probably helped by the reverb used, particularly on the horn. Surim returns to a more minimal sound landscape, sticking to a piano and a solitary horn which echoes through the empty space. Although the lyrics and atmosphere are overall more melancholy – seemingly addressing the burnout feeling that many artist’s encounter, especially after large creative bursts – than the other tracks, there is still a hint of hope shining through. Even though things may be hard, they won’t be hard forever.
The final track is the piano version of “Thank You.” As that would suggest, Surim goes back to the basics on the instrumental here, and also seems to be returning back to all the previous subject matter. Although this is just my opinion, I interpret the song as Surim thanking all the different kinds of love in her life – the romantic relationship; the unconditional love of a pet; the purpose or joy music gives – for bringing her happiness. The tender, lullaby-like quality of the track makes it the perfect closer for an album exploring the sweetness of love.
Although Surim doesn’t show a lot of range on the EP, there’s a certain grace and maturity in the music. Most of it makes you feel as though you’ve been wrapped in a warm blanket. If you want to listen to something soft and soothing, Surim may be the artist you need.