With the rise of popularity of what we like to call “cottagecore” or “picnic aesthetic” on different platforms, the quest for the perfect playlist to fit the vibe is endless and tiring. But have no fear, Sagong is here to help with his album optimist.
Through 10 songs, Sagong manages to transport us to his safe bottle universe in which the only important figures are nature and himself.
“The Koo Koo Bird,” “Sophie’s Garden,” and “Marionette” are the only instrumental songs on the album, the first one serving as the opening track. From the first notes, we enter the peaceful countryside that Sagong designed for himself.
The most striking touch about this song, in particular, is the incorporation of ambient sounds. It’s not just a guitar and a violin welcoming us, it’s birds chirping saying hello at the very beginning of the album. The songs “Sophie’s Garden” and “Marionette” carry a more laid back atmosphere, interesting theme songs that sound perfect to enjoy a quiet afternoon wherever you are.
optimist continues its journey through “Drape Me in Velvet,” a delicate song with heart-wrenching lyrics in which Sagong seeks warmth, whether it be through words, the sunlight, or someone:
“Can you just give me a cuddle
Today or even tomorrow.”
“Footprints” is a haunting short track. It tells a short story about Sagong noticing an empty village and slowly realizing that the enticing view in front of him is not as charming as it seems, his own footprints having disappeared. Or perhaps, having never been there in the first place.
With its folk nature, “Footprints” manages to slowly enter a surrealist world, unsure of what he sees or who he is. But the gravity of the situation isn’t explored, barely brushed along the guitar chords. “M.D.F.A (feat. Song Ye Rin),” guided by a flute, shines with its delicate lyrics between two companions at night, confessing and watching the stars and the moon above their heads.
The relative lightness of the album has morphed into a more introspective atmosphere, notably with “Wool,” focused around an “unbreakable thread” stuck in a tree and the desire to fly away, however, Sagong has “an empty place” where he cannot hide indefinitely as expressed in the song “Enough,” a soft guitar ballad highlighted by a female vocalist.
“turn off the lights.” reveals another side of the musician. Wrapped with a violin melody, Sagong gives up his quiet day to embrace the warmth of loneliness, which he calls “a lullaby” just for him. It’s the last song, “Lonely,” that brings the fragile spark of joy we first encountered at the beginning of the album despite its theme. Although he admits that the loneliness resides in his heart, the upbeat melody makes us wonder if acceptance isn’t the most important part of his song.
Whether you add optimism to your bicycle or Ghibli-like playlists or not (believe me, it would fit perfectly), it is clear that the songs written and composed by Sagong leave an undeniable wave of warmth on anyone who listens to it. Surely, naming this album optimist and dealing with feelings such as loneliness and depression is bold and appears to be more of a personal goal, to try and be a little bit better.
The album’s softness, peaceful questioning with nature as its loyal companion, is irresistible, almost too precious in the pandemic world we currently exist in. And perhaps it’s exactly why optimist is everything we didn’t know we needed. A simple and lovely adventure away from everything to make us think and smile again.