Staring out at the sky, the cosmos is laid before you. With the light of the moon as your guide, you take a deep breath and steel yourself for a future that has not yet come to pass. Thoughts swirl in your head, reminding you of past trauma, pain, and lost love, but amidst it all, you resolve to take a step forward and fight for what you believe is right, whatever the consequences. Now… pair that scene with music, and you have N.Flying’s Man on the Moon.
Equal parts whimsical and musically complex, N.Flying’s first full album Man on the Moon is one of their most evocative and moody to date. It centers around the cosmos and the corresponding imagery that surrounds it. There is not a clear story or underlying message told through the tracklist, but rather a collection of satisfying and well-written collection of space-adjacent songs.
The tracklist can generally be split into three categories sonically and conceptually: up-tempo ballads, straightforward rock tracks, and sensual, smooth songs. Based on tempo, texture, and lyrics alone you can group all the songs, but I find it especially fun and telling to pay close attention to Chahun’s style of guitar fills and when he switches between rhythmic and melodic passages. There is no doubting that the whole group is incredible and musically capable, but Chahun has proven himself to be especially skilled and deliberate in the way he chooses his guitar sounds, even down to which guitar he chooses to use for a specific mix.
One thing really interesting about N.Flying’s songwriting and production choices for this album are the more balladic tracks. While the texture is generally softer and piano-forward in the mixing, they are all hopeful and not overly slow in relation to tempo. Even when the macrobeat is slow, the rhythmic microbeats in the instrumental parts provide movement in the arrangements, keeping them from sounding languid and sad. I would group “Ask,” “Comma,,” “Zip,” “To You,” and “Flashback” in this category sonically, although they are closely related to the more rock-centric tracks as well.
To break the slower songs down further, “Ask” is a story of unrequited love and desperate remembrance. It begins with a hypnotic piano ostinato that outlines the song’s chords before melting into Hweseung and Seunghyub’s vocals. Being written in triple meter (alternating 3 and 6/8 to my ears) gives it an addictive and satisfying lilt.
“Comma,” also begins with the same piano introduction outlining the harmonic structure, but in 4/4 and with Chahun’s fills becoming more atmospheric, glissando-y, and adding color to transitions between phrases. One of the coolest features is the way the vocals follow the 4/4 structure predictably until the end of the verses before ending in the middle of the measure and anticipating the start of the chorus.
Cutely named “Zip.” is precious and cheeky with a soaring chorus. Hweseung is full-on rocking out and showcasing his range. The contrast between the more understated and calm verses and chorus makes the song really pleasant to listen to from beginning to end.
If “Zip.” is cute, the following track “To You” is even more so. The sound of the song is upbeat and fun, but the lyrics have a tinge of sad hopefulness in them. It is in a standard 4/4 and the vocals are at the forefront of most of the arrangement. The gang vocals are one of the more interesting and fitting features for the overall character, and the last lyric is just a “goodbye,” evoking images of a single tear falling.
The final track “Flashback” reflects on happy memories, like a love locked in memory. They are described as “lost happiness,” as the members look back on when they were happy. The beat is more driving and hopeful, and Chahun’s solo and Jaehyun’s amazing drum fills make this track memorable and evocative.
The whole album is cohesive and lovely to listen to, but “Moonshot” is one of the superheroes on the album. There is not a lot of clear thematic framing other spacey lyrics that serve as metaphors for cosmic love and celestial change. However, the group’s skills are on full display from rapping to the vocal range and rocking additions from the rhythm section. The rhythms are especially complex in some phrases (like the “if you wanna change, be not afraid” that still hurts my brain a little), the vocals are loud and proud, and the instrumentals are well-written and full of contrast. One of the best moments is towards the end of the song when Dongsung drops out momentarily before dramatically sliding into the outro.
Most like the title “Moonshot” are the tracks “Undo” and “You.” They are fairly straightforward, fun rock tracks with more rhythm section and vocals forward in the mixing. Thankfully Jaehyun, Chahun, and Dongsung are able to go a little ham and rock out alongside Hweseung and Seungyub’s vocals and rapping.
The texture is thicker and busier, sometimes with production sparkle (like horn licks and overdubbed vocals) that normally would not be possible in a live mix without playing recorded sound alongside the live mix or one of the members playing synthesizer to accomplish these same riffs. With this being said, this is certainly not a bad thing. Post-production magic is common obviously whether one self-produces or not, and it makes the live shows even more exciting because there can be contrast with what one would hear just listening to a recording. Even with the extra added production spice, the rock tracks are great all around.
“Undo” is weirdly fun and bouncy despite the lyrics talking about how “it’s all useless” and wishing they could undo the past. The different layers in the song are busy, at times obscuring each other alongside the instrumental tracks. There are more samples that add color to the mix, especially in the chorus.
The following song “You” is one of my favorites on the whole album. It is bouncy, witty, and just summer fun in sound form. It is hopeful and loving with memorable lyrics like “Next chapter, chapter you” and “kissing ah.” The rhythm of the second half of the verses is a total earworm and nicely ties the track together.
The last category on the album could be called sensual and smooth tracks. They have a swagger and polish that makes them sound funky and magnetizing. Maybe it is because of the mixing, but I am especially drawn to Dongsung’s prevalent bass licks in both tracks. Not that you cannot hear him in all the other songs, but his sound is more forward in the mix more often. If one considers the allure of funk and jazz influence, the bass is more pivotal in the arrangements, so this makes sense in the overall production.
The song “Blue Scene” is a funky and flirty metaphor for the sky or the night. The lyrics talk about anywhere there is a “blue scene” they will be there together and, in a roundabout way, there is a night or a blue sky everywhere. Dongsung’s funky basslines and the smooth, harmony-driven vocals pull the listeners in and give it a sexy vibe. “Fate” sounds very similar sonically, but has a more “what happens will happen” message. It has a bit more grunge, demonstrated by the grit in the vocals, especially Seunghyub’s and the gang vocals. Both songs remind me of a more rock-sounding and swag but less overtly sexual “Bad Idea” by Moonbin & Sanha or “Open Mind” by Wonho.
N.Flying’s Man on the Moon might not be overly conceptual or thematicaally cohesive, but they more than make up for it for badass songwriting and producing. Their musicality, versatility, and diversity in both in their performance and production is striking, making for an evocative and enjoyable first full album.