20130308_seoulbeats_2am1A year after their last Korean effort, F.Scott Fitzgerald’s Way Of Love, 2AM is finally back with their second full length offering, One Spring Day. At only eight tracks (and one instrumental), the album is on the shorter side for a full length album, however, despite its length, the album turns out to be a highly satisfying and pleasing listen. One Spring Day is a lot less melodramatic and dynamic compared to 2AM’s previous efforts, instead, it offers a more breezy and laid back sound, showing us a more natural and lighter 2AM. Nevertheless, 2AM remains as classy as ever, and their collective vocal prowess is still unmatched in the industry.

Starting off with a delicate instrumental as the album’s introduction, the little snippet of music gives us our first impression of the album and attempts to establish its mood. When comparing this track with other short album openers, this teaser track fails to really stand out. Nonetheless, the soft instrumental fulfills its purpose in setting the mood of the album. The subtle orchestral sound first introduced in this track would be a staple to the remainder of the album, and its soothing sound gives the impression of a warm and peaceful spring day, which serves as the album’s predominant setting.

20130308_seoulbeats_2am2Transitioning perfectly from the instrumental intro is the second track “Reading You,” a lovely song that embodies the entire message and ambience of the effort in its entirety. The album’s backed by some notable music makers, and this particular track features master composer Epitone Project. Epitone Project has a specialty for calming and layered piano pieces, and this one caters right to his profession. Starting with a stable piano loop, the sound soon builds with the implementation of strings and percussion, serving as a fairly interesting frame for the members to showcase their wonderful vocals and harmonies. The instrumental is very noteworthy but subtly so, not distracting from the main point of the song, that being the members’ talented vocals. The embellishments turn out as soft highlights, and there is never a moment where the instrumental overpowers the vocals, despite its complexity, which is something I can really appreciate.

As for the members’ musical execution, it is expectedly flawless. The biggest highlights are the gorgeous harmonies decorating its entirety. The harmonies in the pre-chorus and quieter bridge have been especially notable, for in those moments, the harmonies just soar magnificently. The calming harmonies fit the sleepy ambience perfectly, and the softer vocals are a plus as well — this is indeed a strong track. “Reading You” shines through the album’s tracks, and is one of my personal favorites.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-GCG-qXx20?list=PLNIoPZ8NH5ZVnvA8rl1aBg_WAoJxRG9zG&w=600&h=360]

Following “Reading You” is “Consolation,” which is also a subtle piano-led track. The build-up and progression in this track is top notch, for the sound and vocals sound delicate and restrained before slowly building into a very dynamic climax. The high notes are absolutely gorgeous, and the powerful choruses and bridge are the song’s clear standouts.

20130308_seoulbeats_2am_jinwoonThe title track “One Spring Day” is next. To be quite honest, as a lead single, “One Spring Day” is relatively weak, bland and not very representative of the entire effort. While its melodic and delicate verses are a complete treat to hear, the chorus, which unfortunately dominates the song, is generic and overdone, adding some unnecessary drama to what would have been a peaceful and fluid song. In consideration of the whole composition, the masterful high notes during the bridge and key change — for the last chorus — seem overly dramatic and overdone.

Moreover, while Jo Kwon and Changmin perform spectacularly in this track, Jinwoon and Seulong feel completely underutilized, throwing the balance off the rest of the album off somewhat. Obviously, this isn’t a weak track, but there’s just so much more that could’ve been done with a song that’s been deemed as the lead single. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that a different track could’ve been picked — cue “Reading You” and/or “Coming to Me,” — to provide a much more compelling and representative listen for the entire album. If it wasn’t given the burden of being a lead single, “One Spring Day” would’ve passed off as an innocuous and satisfactory B-side; as a title track, “One Spring Day” gets washed out with its generic and overused sound.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKgK5LqT6BY&w=600&h=360]

The next track “Sunshine” refreshingly changes the pace with its uptempo, R&B influenced sound. It comes as a much needed inclusion to the mix, a change of pace to the other orchestral tracks that blend well due to the minimal distinctions between them. With its jazzy and catchy, percussion-led beat, meshed with 2AM’s very amicable vocals, “Sunshine” presents itself as a very likable track. The instrumental is faded to the background, leaving the members to work their magic, and what a performance they offer. The fast beat leaves little breathing space but this works perfectly for the seasoned vocalists, as their harmonies cascade in tandem over one another. The sound rarely lingers — even its ad libs are straight and to the point — because of its ear-candy riff, “Sunshine” gets a nod as an album highlight.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXaKf8pe6zc?list=PLNIoPZ8NH5ZVnvA8rl1aBg_WAoJxRG9zG&w=600&h=360]

Transitioning from the contrasting “Sunshine” is the midtempo “Back Then,” which reintroduces the more orchestral sound of the previous tracks, while keeping with the fast pace of “Sunshine.” Commencing moderately, the beat culminates with the song’s very notable, enlightening and triumphant chorus. While all the members sound lovely and cheerful in the track, Seulong’s vocals are the clear winner, for the context shows his immense vocal growth.

20130308_seoulbeats_2am_seulongThe second to last track is “Forgetting You,” a brooding, melancholy track with some exceptional execution by 2AM’s very talented members. I absolutely love the intriguing instrumental of the song, which consists of some weighted percussion complemented by some lighter yet moody strings. The use of dissonance is very effective in conveying the song’s meaning, and the compelling instrumental serves as an apt backbone for the members’ soaring vocals. Quite truly, I feel that this is one of the strongest, vocally-winning tracks on the album.

“Coming to Me” is the album’s concluding track, and it makes for a superb ending. Composed by famed pianist Yiruma, the track’s instrumental is phenomenal. The skillful use of piano is delicate and poignant and the use of other orchestral instruments gives meaningful layers and depth to the complex song. The only thing that trumps the song’s instrumentals is the combined voice work from the four. The verses carry such a subtle melodiousness that matches the haste of the piano, and the harmonies showcase 2AM’s emotional capacity, which is absolutely killer. With a soaring sound, and a distinct key change in the last chorus rendition, the tune’s climactic nature is amplified and breathtaking. Along with “Reading You,” “Coming to Me” is an undisputed favorite, not only in the album but in the entirety of 2AM’s discography.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cjv5-Uk11DE?list=PLNIoPZ8NH5ZVnvA8rl1aBg_WAoJxRG9zG&w=600&h=360]

In conclusion, as an album One Spring Day is definitely a satisfying success. Collectively, the effort is strong, cohesive, and balanced, making a good addition to 2AM’s discography. It offers a refreshing change of pace for 2AM, portraying them in a more relaxed light, yet keeping the fundamentals of the group. However, while the album as a whole is exceptional, the biggest drawback of this effort is its weak lead single. “One Spring Day” really fails to fully represent the quality of the rest of the album, and it’s a shame what some may miss due to the genericness of this effort’s title track. Nevertheless, One Spring Day as an album gets a strong 4/5 from me. Readers, what are your thoughts?

(JYP Entertainment, Big Hit Entertainment, BubbleFeetGravityCH5)