Upon first listen, JANNABI’s The Land of Fantasy feels slightly off-kilter. Centered around exploring whether we, as adults, can stay somewhat in our own idealistic realms of utopian thinking and imagination, it comes across as little of an upgrade from Legend, and seldom thought-provoking enough where previous releases have been. Upon further listens, though, it appears as much more and emphasizes both the potential and genuine quality the band has lyrically and compositionally.
The titular opener begins in dreamy, fairytale-like fashion, soaring along with light harmonies, rousing string sections, and hazy vocals. It may only clock in at a little over a minute but it still feels complete and offers a comprehensive look at what’s to come.
“Oh Brave Morning Sun” continues, seamlessly nimble with its plucky acoustics and bouncy rhythmic backbone. Choi Jung-hoon is vocally cheery here, riding the comfortable melodies with relative ease and a marked amusement. It’s something which “A Ballad of Non Le Jon,” a clear ode to The Beatles with its band-member shoutouts, serves plenty more of, too. Euphorically endearing, it’s a quick-witted rock-tinged cut that glides through its charismatic guitar riffs with ease and shows off Choi’s flexibility and range.
“Confession Show” does put the brakes on slightly, however, settling for plodding percussion, tempered vocals, and circus-like melodies. It’s quite hard to resist nodding along to this particular offering, but it does lack a sucker punch of memorability even amidst its spirited climax.
From here, the album nestles into a settled routine of producing generally optimistic, smile-raising efforts. “The King of Romance” is a firm highlight, bouncing along agreeably with peppy acoustic guitar riffs and zippy flashes of brass until a rapid, cacophonous climax ups the ante tenfold with similar circus-tinged showmanship as heard earlier, and a frantic memorability. Continuing, the eerie “Clay Pigeon Boy,” despite its skeletal length, stands out as something worth revisiting, evoking memories of films like Harry Potter with its orchestral layering.
For those who are seeking some of the more structured, more restrained tracks heard in JANNABI’s previous releases, “Time” and “Summer II” do a fantastic job of presenting that. The former is vocally sublime, with Choi drifting in between melancholic violin melodies and resilient percussion, whilst the latter shows the value and hardships of love amidst plaintive rhythm guitar riffs and a buoyant overall make-up.
Towards the tail-end, “I Know Where The Rainbow has Fallen” gives a light, refreshing amalgamation of the record’s fundamental elements, warmly moving along the sentimental subject matter with little to quibble with. “What a beautiful time it was,” Choi says of his youth here, looking back fondly on his bygone years with a sense of unabating contentment.
When the album does wrap up with the theatrical, almost Broadway musical like “Come Back Home,” there is a firm sense of joy and optimism the listener can take away from the overall album experience. Considering this is Choi Jung-hoon working largely alone it’s a remarkably full release, and something which is likely to keep getting better with time.