Groups are already pumping out the first albums of 2017, but 2016 was a busy year. Between dramas, debuts, and music videos, we’ve gotten to the point where we want to review our favorite albums from the past year. Camiele, Leesha, and Lo compiled their favorite albums of 2016 below with some surprising convergences and differences between them.
|1||Jambinai — A Hermitage||Bumkey — U-Turn||Jaejoong — No.X|
|2||Suga — AgustD||BAP — Noir||BTS — Wings|
|3||Jaejoong — No.X||Lee Hi — Seoulite||Jonghyun — She Is|
Leesha: I’m not quite sure where to start besides, who is Jambinai?
Camiele: Jambinai is an indie band who combines traditional Korean music and instruments with heavy metal. Their latest album A Hermitage is truly one of the most sonically creative pieces of music I’ve ever heard. It tells a story so vividly, sounds working together to create a cohesive narrative. Without words they’re able to paint landscapes and scenes that are more brilliant in color and hue than anything most artists can do with their voices. I fell so in love with their music this year. And after having the chance to interview them, I gained a greater appreciation of the breadth of Korean traditional music and just how far it can be stretched and manipulated to become greater than the sum of its parts.
Lo: The appeal of No.X in a word: self-loathing! No, really. You are dead on the money, Camiele, about the musical strength of this album. The songwriting and composition is sharp and insightful, and Jaejoong’s voice . . . god. Rough and bitter on “Good Luck” and “Good Morning Night” before transforming into some ungodly cross of velvet and honey on tracks like “Breathing” and “Run Away”; this is a vocal masterpiece. And what really proves the strength of No.X is the immediate understanding it provides. The details might be fuzzy at first listen but the emotions of each song– disdain, anguish, frustration, anger, resentment– they are crystal clear from the first listen.
Camiele: That’s fair. For many people Jaejoong’s hit or miss, especially if your expectations are different than what he delivers.
For B.A.P… Everyone knows about B.A.P and TS so I won’t go into that but as much as I try to stay above fandom mess, that whole situation hit me very hard. While they had other releases between the resolution of that situation and Noir, this album meant a lot to me because they were finally back. This wasn’t a “concept” album, or a “let’s make music for the public album”. It was an album for all of us who stuck around during the hard times. It was pure B.A.P and so much work went into it. There’s range and depth, there’s experimentation. It’s not music for the sake of selling albums, but an album for the love of making music. Bang Yong-guk literally put so much of himself into that he couldn’t even enjoy the public’s reaction to it by being absent from promotions, but I hope he knows how much it is appreciated. I’ve never understood people that said “XXX saved me” or “This album changed my life” until this album.
Lee Hi‘s album was about growth. “1,2,3,4” and “It’s Over” were very cutesy, adorable songs. With Seoulite, I felt she matured. Her voice wasn’t quite so overpowering. Most of the songs were slower or mid-tempo, but the album benefited from great features like Dok2 and Tablo which kept it from being monotonous. I am not, by any means, a huge fan of girl groups or female artists in general, but the album just pulled me. It is very good writing music, as well, which has helped me get a few personal projects done.
I will say, Camiele, that I almost put Suga‘s mixtape on my list as well. Lo also has BTS, though she chose Wings from the full group. What about those albums drew you? Camiele, why the mixtape over the group album, or vice versa for you, Lo?
Camiele: Honestly what drew me to Suga’s mixtape was his voice. I first heard him on Most Beautiful Moment in Life Pt. 1 with his intro. He was rugged and raw and there was so much emotion in delivery and what he was saying. While Rap Mon was the rapper everyone knew, Suga was the one that made me go, “What a minute, now…” So when I found out about the mixtape, I jumped on it. Agust D not only showcased just how wide his musicality is, it showed how fearless he is when it comes to his delivery and subject matter.
A lot of people really didn’t like this album, or this side of Suga. They not only didn’t like the fact that he talked about his issues with depression (a fact many still find laughable because “Oh he’s just a kid complaining,” or “Oh look at this rich kid trying to be emo”); they also hated the fact that he grabbed his d*ck and gave the finger with a snarl in many of the tracks. I appreciated it over Wings simply because while there was a complete cohesion to the group album, there were tracks and music choices I just wasn’t feeling.
Even when I finally recognized BTS as a group that at least pushes for more artistically in terms of their videos and some of their songwriting, their albums are still up and down for me–and I still have a hard time reconciling their true appreciation of hip-hop and black culture with their use of it to paint themselves as these badass hip-hop heads (which… just… not really, no). There was a singular consciousness and an honesty in Agust D that I just appreciated from someone I honestly didn’t know much about. And anyone who can pull off referencing James Brown, E-40, and Wu-Tang in a way that not only makes sense but makes you look at kid like, “Now, whoooo gave him permission…?” with that old lady stank face gets bonus points from me.
Lo:Wings was an album that surprised me with how much I liked it. It’s messy, it’s chaotic, and it’s bloated. However, those flaws improve the albums standing in my eyes because they enhance the quality that won me over: honesty. The genre roulette of solos is overwhelming, the group songs after really show the albums length and start to get a bit draggy, but Wings is an album where you can tell that every track is here because it’s statement means something to the people behind it. This especially holds true with the solos, which are all over the place, from celebrations of the ones who supported you to self-doubt to the toxicity of fame. Yet, each member was allowed to put their own mark onto the album, rather than insisting everyone stick to the same topic. I feel that music is at it’s best when it’s personal, and Wings is proof of that.
The album discussion was so intense, that the mini albums had to go into a second part. In the meantime, how did your favorite albums from last year compare to ours?