After reviewing OurR‘s first EP, 2019’s I, I kept up with the band’s releases, waiting for their next EP or album to drop. Now that it finally has, I’m glad to be able to review it!
If listened to in chronological order, can’t follows the journey of a naive, innocent person who seemingly reaches their goal, but their dreams are soon crushed beneath a cruel, duplicitous reality. After this, they find themselves lacking the motivation to continue working towards anything, stuck in a loop and unable to move forward. To hear this in the band’s own words, you can check out the narration film they released on Instagram.
The opener, “Bird,” is sung softly, backed by minimal instrumentals. The instrumental layers are added one at a time, building up slowly and gradually; after the two minute mark, the singing stops and the music takes over, the song exploding and coming to life.
When the vocals finally re-enter only a minute later, they too are layered and possess a power and emotion which had previously been absent. The last 20 seconds or so, however, take us back to the track’s beginning, but with new, hopeful words being sung:
“그 어린 날 타버린 마음을 (our hearts burned up with our youth)
우린 따라가 안아줄거야 (we’ll follow and hold them tight)”
The second track, “Green,” is in English, and the synth opening has a melancholy edge to it – however, the other instruments brighten the mood up considerably. There’s a hopeful, reassuring tone to the track, both lyrically and musically; a belief that reaching one’s dreams can be a reality, and that that reality will mirror the beauty of the dream.
“I finally got there
where my dreams are shining like a black star”
The third track is the title track and therefore the one with a music video. “MUNG” fades into an intense instrumental, drum- and synth-heavy with a beat you can immediately nod along to. It’s higher energy than any of the previous tracks, although it does back off of that a bit in order to let Dahye‘s vocals shine.
Fittingly, it is the climax of the story, where it turns from a tale of triumph to tragedy. Rather than rage, the song speaks of sorrow and uncertainty, and Dahye’s almost casual delivery speaks to the numbness implied by the lyrics. Towards the end, her ad-libbing can almost be heard as a wail of despair, although it’s still too melodic to go quite that far.
“아 그저 사라질 꿈이었나 (are dreams meant to fade)
잡히지 않는 거였나 (out of my grasp)
난 그저 멍하니 보고있다 (I just stare with empty eyes)
헛된 말들을 (at words gone to waste)”
“Well” features a heavily reverb-filled guitar riff which is the only accompaniment to Dahye’s vocals. The song is reminiscent of pop punk/alt rock, with raw, emotional lyrics and an intense sound to match – especially in the chorus where the sound swells. When it does slow down, allowing you to marinate in its mood, you feel that return even more intensely.
Like the opening track, the end parallels the beginning; it feels like a resignation, weighed down by grief at the outcome from the previous track, but our dreamer still can’t help but beg to be heard, crying out despite the warning at the very beginning of the song:
“여기 누군가 입을 벌려 소리를 내도 (if anyone here opens their mouth and makes a sound)
메아리만 돌아올 거야 (only echoes will come back)”
The second to last track, “Citronella,” is gentle in its opening delivery, but not weak. Just beyond the one minute mark, however, we once again get an explosion of sound and emotion in the chorus. OurR play with filters and layering even more in this track, at times creating an almost overwhelming soundscape as the dream begins to crumble beneath the weight of a complex and dishonest reality.
The lyrics speak to the realization that, after this betrayal, perhaps all innocence is lost, and that beautiful dream can never be found again. It will forever be tainted by this first defeat; and if it can never be as beautiful, then how can you justify continuing to reach for it?
“꼭 태어난 것 같은 기분이 들던 날 어쩌면 다시는 돌아갈 수 없는 (the day I felt like I was born, maybe I’ll never go back)
그 안에 우린 아주 오래 남아있을 거야 (we’re gonna be in there for a very long time)”
Far from a happy ending, “20+4” sounds lonely. The reverb on the instrumentals makes the atmosphere cavernous, empty, and Dahye’s vocal delivery is delicate and vulnerable. There’s a sense of defeat, without bitterness – just a hollow numbness that infiltrates the soundscape. Even when the track builds into more of an instrumental fervor, Dahye never quite reaches the volume she had before, resigned to the ending of the story and the loss of the dream which slips farther and farther away.
“왜 반짝이는 것들은 아직도 멀리에만 있어 내가 만지고 싶었던 건 굳어진 모양이 아닌데 (why are the glitters still so far away? what I wanted to touch wasn’t solidified.)
난 이제 두 눈마저 어지럽혀져 (my eyes are all messed up now)
더는 서있을 수도 없을 것 같아요 (I don’t think I can stand any longer)”
There’s a maturity to OurR’s sound that has been there since the beginning and has continued to develop with each release. Dahye’s ability to convey emotion through her singing certainly helps with this, but the soundscapes are carefully and beautifully crafted to convey the band’s message as well. Although not an uplifting tale, it’s likely many people will be able to relate to the story of can’t despite some of its more fantastical elements.