September was marked by a new record for K-pop, as the BTS album Love Yourself: Her debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 chart for the week ending on the 21st. Whether this trajectory of growth will eventually allow K-pop to crack mainstream pop radio is unclear. But what this event has proven to entertainment companies is that it’s worth uploading music online, where anyone might take a listen and become a fan. And so we’ve reached a new density of options across genres, particularly on the indie side of things; take a look at what you might have missed this month below.
Bye Bye Badman, “Monolove”
Indie rockers Bye Bye Badman have been on the scene since 2010, steadily gaining fans and awards (Newcomer of the Year, Alternative/Rock Album of the Year) with every release. “Monolove” brings more of the same electronic rock they’re well known for, though who would deny the simple pleasures of an addictive guitar line with shimmery synth melodies? Bonus points for an MV that throbs along to the pulse of a girl on the move as vocalist Jung Bong-il croons, “I don’t really know why / but I’m running towards you.” Never has the eagerness of young love been so cool.
PEEJAY (ft. Zion.T), “Na B Ya”
Signed to YG Entertainment’s independent label The Black Label since 2016, producer Peejay has long proven his talent with hits like Beenzino’s “Dali Van Picasso” and Zion.T and Crush’s “Just.” Yet rather than being an innovator in R&B, he’s more of an astute technician, taking the standard elements and holding them against just the right beat to create a new revelation for your ear. Here “Na B Ya” is marked by the strangeness of its bass line – making for an unusually airy and lively take on the genre that will extend its playability beyond any Indian summer.
The Barberettes, “Shoo”
Often, doo-wop is too much for me: the grinning, the finger-snapping, and the syrupy stacking of harmonies all strike me as tacky beyond repair. So I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of The Barberettes, though I will describe “Shoo” as hitting the bull’s eye between tolerable and well done. It’s no question that these women can hold their notes; what distinguishes “Shoo” is the pared-back bossa nova vibes, perfect for lounging around at home with a glass of wine.
Se So Neon, “The Wave”
Se So Neon’s trippy psychedelic rock manages to sound fresh, nostalgic, and strange all at once. No wonder their band title translates into English as “New Boy”: formed only in 2016, they’re still in the process of coming into their own voice. Vocalist Hwang So-yoon has a particularly interesting way of inflecting lyrics to create tone, almost slurring her words. But the highlight of “The Wave” is undoubtedly the minute-long electric guitar outro. Listen along to the coda, pushed along by increasingly frenetic drums, and wonder when they’ll release a whole first album for you to jam out to.