After making a splash on JTBC’s SuperBand in 2019 and debuting with the uplifting single “Flowering”, LUCY makes a return after three months with their first mini-album Panorama. As its name suggests, this is a colourful album, in terms of music styles, instrumentation and even lyrical references to colour.
Panaroma kicks off strong with promotional track “Jogging”, which spends a full 28 seconds on an energetic instrumental introduction. A rare and bold choice, it gives listeners time to fully appreciate the different layers that are introduced into the mix. Leader and violinist Shin Yechan‘s riffs form the base of the melody, while bassist and producer Jo Wonsang keeps the beat groovy and alive. True to the identity of the band, “Jogging” is a journey and experience in itself — the structure of the song is unconventional, but there is never a moment of confusion because of how all the parts blend seamlessly together.
Just as vocalist and guitarist Choi Sangyeob croons “do not follow the way repeated every day anymore” the song aptly enters a new extended bridge before heading back into a familiar closing outro. The way the music echoes the story of its lyrics is fascinating, and it proves that “Jogging” was created as a whole, with lots of thought put into each of its components.
While this title track fits the summery vibes we have come to expect of releases from this season, the rest of the album offers refreshment in a different form. “Straight Line”, for instance, is a perfect combination of the new and old for LUCY. The sleek electric guitar opening sets the stage for some unmistakable violin melodies to come in, and we quickly return to a familiar sound for the band. Compared to “Jogging”, Yechan’s violin is much less edited in this track, its enthralling high register on full display. What stands out about this song, however, has to be its unique bridge. While the whole track is full of rich instrumentation, the band intentionally holds back, creating ambient space filled with cleverly placed echoes. That contrast would have been jarring if placed in the hands of another music arranger, but the mixing is flawless, as with all the tracks of this album.
While “Watermelon” also starts off quietly, its build-up is less instantaneous as compared to “Straight Line”, and it immediately establishes itself as a laid-back track. With relatable lyrics describing the “oppressive heat” of the season, this song is the musical equivalent of the chill beach vacation we’re all longing for. It is not cheery in a typical LUCY way, but the eclectic mix of electronic sounds and riffs keeps the track dynamic, and Wonsang even makes his debut as a rapper here. The band are slowly stepping out of their comfort zone through this album (even if this comfort zone was already incredibly diverse) and “Watermelon” marks a shift in the type of tracks to follow.
“Enough” for instance, is a jazzy mellow ballad, decorated with sparse instrumentation and evocative vocal effects. The editing of the introduction to this song sounds like someone singing over a radio, and this echoey, spacey effect looms subtly over the rest of the track. Drummer and vocalist Shin Gwang-il finally gets to shine here with his sultry voice thanks to the comparably less intense drum parts of this track. That being said, he never fails to impress with the way he sings stably even while keeping the beat for the band and handling complicated rhythms.
“Missing Call” is yet another colour for the band, this time as their first collaboration with an external artist. LUCY ventures into R&B with this track and the retro theme is especially prominent in the instrumentation, as well as the way the song fades off in the end. Featured singer Suran sounds absolutely amazing in this song, as does Sangyeob, whose versatile voice surprises with each new track. Their voices are complementary with each other, and they shine brightly even when they are just singing in unison. What elevates this song even more is definitely the band’s use of ringing tones as its introduction. Who knew that these tones could be both rhythmic and melodic at the same time?
It is a nice example of how LUCY uses sounds from the real world and from our daily lives, to create music that is both relatable and experiential. They spot the diamonds in the rough, and turn things that are so common and unnoticeable into unique pieces of art. This was what drew me to their music back in the time of SuperBand, and it makes me more than happy to see them continue to use it as a trademark till now.
The recorded fireworks and crowd cheers in “Flare” is another instance of this. This song was first performed at the finale of SuperBand, and just as it was a wonderful celebratory conclusion to the competition, it works as a grand finale for Panorama. The recorded sounds are perfectly blended with the rest of the instrumentation, and the vocals are masterfully highlighted. Rather than losing the excitement and charm of the original live performance, this cleaner version enables listeners to pick out the intricate musical details abounding in this track, making it a very enjoyable listen.
The same could actually be said for the album as a whole. There is no mistaking LUCY’s brand of atmospheric sound, and while I look forward to the day that I can appreciate their music live, there is just so much thought and care put into each bar of every song that “dissecting” their music will always be such a delightful task. This band has a long future ahead of them, and I cannot wait for more of their musical innovations.
(Images via Mystic Story. Youtube.)