2023 was a shit year professionally, but with music, there were a lot of great releases. As always I didn’t get to cover everything that I wanted to (but the planned shorter group reviews should help with that), and these are my favorite releases that I was actually able to listen through completely. And like every year, these aren’t in any specific order.
8rosh peridot (8호실 peridot) : Full Time Workers
When I saw 8호실 peridot’s mv for “Please,” I was an instant fan. It felt like a group of friends coming together and making music without any expectations. It never sounds like they’re limiting the group’s musical direction and Full Time Workers is one of my favorite hip-hop/R&B albums this year. Definitely a group to follow.
Bedtime Pictures : Before Dawn
Before Dawn is an album full of personal nostalgia, even though it was released in 2023, it reminds me of older bands that pulled me deeper into Korean music. Bedtime Pictures created a melodic soundscape and welcomes you in. For a first EP, the bar is set pretty high.
Cat Psalm, Universe Mongae, UZA : MEOW!
On paper, a collaboration between Cat Psalm, Universe Mongae, and UZA wouldn’t result in MEOW! “AirDrop” was a teaser to the collective chaos that resulted. Like I said in my review, this EP isn’t for everyone. But if you’re familiar with the individual artists’ work, you can hear how the styles were molded together.
eeri (이리) : Inventory
I like a lot of folk and indie artists. Even though the genre can have a lot of overlap between general styles, eeri stuck out because it sounded more polished than I expected for a first EP. Inventory is impressive and shouldn’t be missed.
Dongchan (동찬) : Moving (활동)
It could be a recency bias, but Dongchan‘s Moving was a welcome surprise. He continues to evolve and polish his electronic music style and every subsequent release surpasses the previous one. If you’ve never listened to him before, Moving is a great place to begin.
hathaw9y : Essential
When hathaw9y originally appeared, it felt like they were among the bands that were the second generation of hyukoh-esque groups. Their first few releases were a step away from that recognizable indie rock-plus-multiple-influences but you could hear an underlying theme. Now Essential sets a border between their past releases and wherever they decide to go next.
howaho (호와호) : Wave Crest
Honestly, Wave Crestemight be in the top releases of 2023 overall. But with general music trends, the album is likely to be overshadowed by other algorithmic-supported singles. This is an album that demands a start-to-finish sit-down.
Love X Stereo vs DA1SY DØØM : 안녕 ÄNɎƏŊ
The collaboration between Love X Stereo and DA1SY DØØM on ÄNɎƏŊ is a merging of styles and ideas. One thing that sticks out is the general maturity that comes through. Love X Stereo has years of experience and it visibly shows. I think DA1SY DØØM has the foundation and structure and is building all the accents. And J-Path makes their presence known subtly as always.
s l o vv k i n d (슬로카인드) : No worries,
Hearing that Joonhee Park recorded new music after Square the Circle seemingly disappeared was a surprise because it’s been almost 10 years. Moving from a rock foundation to a lighter indie rock style, No worries, is kind of a parallel to myself as a Korean music writer. You look back with nostalgia and see how tastes have changed.
오칠 (OHCHILL) : The Burning City
OHCHILL could have easily recorded Oh, Two Animals Part 2 and still presented a great album. But The Burning City is the same, different, and unexpected in the best possible ways. It still has the signature rock songs but also offers a dimensional perspective from both members. It’s a full showcase of a transition in motion.
Snake Chicken Soup : 보양 (補陽)
This EP is an album of chance. Comprised of FRANTS, Choi Wonbin, and Park Jongyong, Snake Chicken Soup sounds like the response to current Korean music trends across every genre. It goes back to loud rock and roll and never asks your permission for approval. Maybe each member just wanted to have fun and think less.