Other than winning over the heart of her fickle groom-to-be, the hilarious playboy Haha, Kim Go-yeon, more commonly known as Byul, also deserves a warm congratulations for her tenth anniversary as an artist. Byul first entered the Korean entertainment scene back in 2002, and has come a long way since, charming the public the entire time with her soothing yet potent voice. To commemorate her tenth anniversary as an artist, Byul recently released her aptly titled mini album Nostalgia to look back on and reminisce on her extensive past as a singer.

The album starts out with the short yet impactful “Memories And…” As an album opener, the track does an absolutely great job introducing the album, setting the nostalgic and melodic tone that the rest of the album clearly follows. The track is refreshingly simple, only featuring a gorgeous piano melody as an instrumental. This simple take on an instrumental allows the attention to be put on Byul and her emotive vocals. Byul’s almost whisper-like voice sounds perfectly warm and reminiscent in the entirety of the track, staying subtle yet impactful the entire time. The humming segment in particular was a highlight, the ambiance of the moment too precious to break. There’s a very innocent and almost childlike feel to the song, sounding much like a lullaby one hears in their childhood, that is not only successful but also goes well with the theme of the album. Moreover, the shortness of the song works to its benefit, as the song could have easily dragged and turn out boring. However, the song finds its conclusion right before the melody becomes tiring, leaving only a lingering moment that keeps the feeling fresh and memorable.

The album then flows into “You Are So Bad,” the lead single of the effort. The transition from the quiet “Memories And…” to the more intense “You Are So Bad” was seamless, the heavily piano-reliant instrumentals of both songs complementing each other well and the build-up in the commencement of “You Are So Bad” being very effective. Having this track as the lead single was a clear choice, since this song is by far the most memorable in the album. The verses are ethereally quiet before the instrumental gradually builds with the additions of violin and percussion. The song culminates in the its absolutely magnificent soaring chorus. The chorus is definitely the song’s main highlight and strongest point, the orchestral instrumental complementing the strength in Byul’s voice. Byul’s vocals are the tested the most here out of the rest of the songs in the album, and her intense execution is absolutely top-notch, telling of her experience in her craft and skill as a singer.

The beautiful song is accompanied by an equally beautiful music video. The faded color scheme of the MV fits the song’s more somber feel, and Byul looks as heavenly as possible. The artistic use of dark and light was brilliant in the video, and the plot was well-carried as well, all in all being a more than sufficient music video to accompany such an emotional song.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aavw8wph9Dw&w=560&h=315]

The album takes a more mellow turn come “Cute,” a collaboration between Byul and 10cm‘s Kwon Jung-yeol that was released a month prior. Rather than relying on the elegant piano like the previous tracks, the song opts for a warmer, more acoustic guitar driven song that lightens the pace of the album considerably. The two vocalists’ vocals complement each other quite well, both carrying the same smoothness in their vocal tones that makes their harmonies such a treat to listen to. Byul sounds adorably smitten yet dynamic in the song, carrying her part well, and her duet partner doesn’t slack as well. Jung-yeol’s voice carried an enriching sing-song quality to it that fit increasingly well to the song, to the point I even preferred some of his parts over Byul’s.

My only complaint about song is its placement in the album. The transition from the intense and tragic “You Are So Bad” to the lighthearted and smitten “Cute” was quite jarring both musically and thematically. That transition disturbed the pace of the album, and to say the least, the switch between the largely elegant orchestral songs to the homely acoustics seeming rough and unnatural. “Cute” seemed more apt as a closer for the album, and next track “Call Number” would have actually serves as a better follow up to “You Are So Bad,” cooling the album in a way that does not seem forced.

As mentioned before, the next track of the album is the intriguing “Call Number.” The instrumental in this song is probably the most dynamic, consisting a range of percussion from bells to the piano and even little glorious sprinkles of electric guitar. The progression of the song is fairly uniform, its verses staying largely sullen before the pace picks up at the chorus. While predictable, this traditional progression does not at all hamper the song at the slightest. Byul sounds triumphant in the entirety of the song, most notably in the powerful chorus. The said powerful chorus chooses to complement Byul’s surprisingly strong voice with a calm yet liberal use of electric guitar to great effect. Admittedly, the song, as many power ballads do, tread into OST territory, but this does not make the song boring in the slightest. Byul’s vocal work is as strong as ever, and the song’s middle eight is still one of the best parts in the entirely of the album.

The song’s concluding song is the peppy “A Little Secret.” The fastest paced song in the album serves as a pretty satisfying conclusion, its instrumental filled with interesting percussion that help ground Byul’s more airy voice. The song helps the album on a happy note, ending Byul’s walk to the past with happy memories and hopeful thoughts to carry over to the future.

All in all, Byul’s Nostalgia is able to successfully show all forms of reminiscence, from remembering pain from the past with “You Are So Bad,” to romantic memories through “Cute,” to even childhood memories in “Memories And …” Despite some trouble in terms of pace, the album collectively seems unified, all connected at least slightly in terms of music and theme.

Ultimately, Byul’s Nostalgia gets a 4.3/5 from me. Readers, what are your thoughts? Did Byul’s album ignite some nostalgic thoughts from you? Or were you left unaffected until the end? Whatever your reaction, feel free to share below!

(Spring Entertainment, LOENENT, BubbleFeetPandaCH1)