Victors of JTBC‘s “SuperBand”, Hoppipolla, released their first mini-album, Spring to Spring, on 22 April 2020. A short album featuring six tracks, Hoppipolla displays its identity as a cohesive band while ensuring that each member had a chance to shine. The composition of Hoppipolla sets them apart from other bands in this industry: a celebrated cellist, a gifted guitarist, and two vocalists who also play multiple instruments come together to create pieces full of heart, and this fantastic album is proof of their harmony.

All the tracks on this album were lovingly crafted by the members, with vocalists Ha Hyunsang and I’ll writing lyrics while the whole band worked together to compose and arrange the pieces. Out of the six tracks, two of them were previously released on 16 November 2019, when the band first debuted. “About Time”, Hoppipolla’s debut song, speaks of missing the times spent with a lover. The band experiments with a slightly more airy and atmospheric sound in this track, using background harmonies to richen the texture of the piece. A charming main melody grounds the song emphasised especially during the instrumental section fronted by cellist Hong Jinho. The soulful way he plays the cello enables his instrument to have a voice of its own, and Hoppipolla clearly recognises this asset that they have, highlighting it in “About Time”, as well as in subsequent tracks.

“Opfern”, which was released together with “About Time” back in November, is also the opening song for this album. These two tracks need to be listened to together, given that “Opfern” functions primarily as an opening instrumental for “About Time”. The startingly high-pitched opening from the cello in this track sets expectations for the melodic beauty of the album, and Hoppipolla certainly does not disappoint.

“Märchen”, the only purely instrumental track of this album, is a collaboration between Jinho and prodigy guitarist Kim Young So. The instrumentalists take turns to shine here and manage to pull out their best tricks, something they are less able to do when playing as a full band. The layering of the cello is done well here, as is the passing of the spotlight from the cello to the guitar midway through the piece. Young So’s unique guitar percussion also makes an appearance here, something that he never failed to impress with while he was on “Super Band”. This track is heavenly and is such a treat to the ears.

Instrumentalist appreciation continues to be evident in the title track “Enough”, as a grand cello solo begins the song and leads a beautiful instrumental portion in the middle of the song, building its intensity and creating an emotional climax. This track is more grounded than “About Time”, and is more subtle in its usage of atmospheric sounds, allowing for a greater flow of emotions as well as greater focus to be placed on each voice and instrument. Young So stands out here with his delicate plucking, which blends well with the other instruments while masterfully embellishing the song. This song truly showcases Hoppipolla in its element and is definitely an ideal choice for its title track.

While Spring to Spring largely consists of ballads, the band takes care to distinguish them in terms of instrumentation and feel. For instance, Hoppipolla strips it back in “Our Song”, a touching piece that shines even in this album of masterpieces. Its lyrics are relatable to anyone, at any stage of life, both in its depiction of fear and uncertainty, as well as its empowerment and encouragement.

So open your eyes and see

Don’t be afraid to walk alone

Just for a moment

It’s okay to fall and be confused

In line with its lyrics, the song starts out quietly and melancholic, with a simple piano instrumental kicking it off. The layering is particularly strong here, as instruments are introduced with each part of the verse, before being stripped again when it comes to the chorus. Musicians have a common belief that “less is more” when it comes to instrumentation, and Hoppipolla provides a model example of that in this song. Instruments and riffs are carefully inserted whenever they become essential, be it in terms of building momentum or enhancing its texture.

The perfect vocal harmonies of I’ll and Hyunsang have to be acknowledged, especially since these are present in every track and really help to capture the emotions of each song. Both are wonderful solo vocalists and do have several works of their own, but the magic happens when they sing together, adding complex layers (and all kinds of feels!) to their melodies.

Hoppipolla embraces this in the closing track of the album, “Sorang”. I’ll and Hyunsang harmonise for the entire song, a distinct change from their usual structure of only harmonising towards the end. “Sorang” is a simple piece, both musically and lyrically, but it works as a comforting end to this album. It is especially significant that this is the only track the whole band worked on together, in both its composition and lyric-writing. The warmth that Hoppipolla conveys through this song hails back to their roots on “Super Band”, where they resolved to become a band who would bring hope to others through their music. With this album, they have certainly succeeded in their goal, and I will definitely be replaying Spring to Spring throughout this present period of darkness.

(Youtube, Images via Moss Music, Lyrics via KLyrics)