As you probably know if you follow my Instagram, I’m a big fan of K-pop. That was actually my gateway into Korean indie music, and so this year I’ve decided to add my top five K-pop albums of the year! Bear in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive list – especially because I’m not including single releases.
With that out of the way, let’s go over my top five Korean indie releases!
Yunsae : flowerain
Listening to this EP is always a breath of fresh air, and regardless of the weather, listening to any song off of it gives me a sunny disposition. Yunsae always delivers with her bright, polished sound and clean aesthetics, giving her music common characteristics without being boxed in! If you’re looking for a pick me up amidst the sometimes gloomy winter weather, Yunsae’s discography may just hit the spot.
MOONSUN : TOM:貪
“TIME:INTERLUDE” was on repeat for a good while during and after writing my review of this EP. MOONSUN‘s enthralling and at times hypnotic soundscapes stay stuck in my head and in my playlists, lending themselves to various moods.
MINDY : Version 1.27
Although short, all of these tracks found permanent homes in various playlists on my Spotify. Mindy‘s versatility and polish truly shine through, enough so that even my friends who aren’t typically into Korean music enjoyed “Poolside” and “Am I Alive” thoroughly! With a lot of collaborative work in her past, I personally can’t wait to see what the future holds for her solo endeavors.
Crystal Tea : Pink Movie Director’s Cut
Despite going radio silent for a while, Crystal Tea‘s recent releases certainly made up for that lost time. With energetic pop punk rock ballads that give off the infectious energy of anime theme songs. This EP is a wonderful standalone, but it pairs extremely well with its predecessor from last year, Pink Movie, and both have an edge that makes them stand out from other pop punk releases.
Yangyang 양양 : Beautiful Mess
Yangyang is an artist who was right up my alley stylistically, especially when it came to Beautiful Mess. Her lo-fi bedroom pop sound is perfect for any afternoon or evening when you just want to sit back and relax, which is what I frequently do.
And now, onto my top five k-pop releases!
HEIZE : Happen
I’ve been a fan of Heize for a long time, with her unique voice and repurposed vintage musical aesthetics. Her track with Ahn Ye Eun is a particular favorite of mine on this album, which I listened to multiple times on a 7 hour drive home. It’s wonderful to see her flourishing under her new label, and expanding her musical horizons with new collaborators and old favorites!
DPR IAN : Moodswings in This Order
After years of being the creative, artistic chief editor (and director, and producer) of Dream Perfect Regime, Ian finally returned to making music on a larger scale. This album was one of my most played throughout the beginning of 2021. For me, it harkened back to the music I listened to in high school (pop punk, alt rock, and all the things in between) but with renewed polish. It’s also proven (in my experience) to be an album even non-Kpop fans may enjoy!
Red Velvet : Queendom
For the past two years, Spotify has placed me in the top 1% of Red Velvet listeners. The b-sides for Queendom have been some of my favorites in their recent releases. Their ever-changing styles never trip them up, making them a truly chameleonic group. Each member is extremely talented in their own right (see Wendy and Joy‘s solo albums from this year) and together are always impressive.
Young K : Eternal
Young K (Kang Younghyun) of Day6 has long been one of my favorite vocalists. With an effortless range and incredible musical abilities, it’s kind of a shock that it took his enlistment to get a full solo project out of him. On this album he moves seamlessly between punky rock tracks and lullaby-style ballads, covering all his bases and performing at the top of his game each time.
Seventeen : Attacca
Seventeen is my favorite boy group of all time. They’ve yet to have a release that didn’t impress me since I started following them, and Attacca may actually have risen to the top among their discography for me. As the group settles into their new home under HYBE, it’s clear that the company has empowered them to grow creatively in any direction they so choose. With rock inspirations that many fans have been asking for for years now, Seventeen really delivered something new on their latest release, without losing their characteristically charming sound.
Thanks for supporting us here at Korean Indie, and the artists we write about. Here’s to another year of great music!