After four out of six of Astro’s members took their turns jumping into the spotlight in their own solo or duo fashion, the group’s rappers, Jinjin and Rocky, have finally made their anticipated unit debut with the five-track album Restore. If the group’s versatility wasn’t already obvious enough — Cha Eunwoo has regularly graced the silver screen over the past few years, Moonbin and Sanha delivered the sultry EP Bad Idea in 2020, and main vocalist MJ released the trot-inspired single “Get Set Yo” last year — Jinjin and Rocky’s EP Restore only adds further depth and color to that characterization. 

Restore is a cheeky snapshot at pandemic-era life that packs a punch in just over 16 minutes. It dutifully expands on the funky vibe Astro zeroed in on in their most recent mini album, Switch On, but with a bolder and more nuanced style. As the album’s title and title track, “Just Breath,” suggests, Restore is a therapeutic, much-needed breath of fresh air. It gives both Jinjin and Rocky the space to show off their respective skillsets beyond their roles as Astro’s main rappers.

Both also have production and writing credits throughout the album, and it shows, as each track followed by the next curates a distinct “JinRock” (as their fans call them) vibe and sound that separates them just enough their home group. Add a variety of genres and unexpectedly powerful vocals into the mix, and Restore is overall a burst of pure, unadulterated fun that showcases the duo’s unique versatility and talents together and on their own.

While the album’s first track, “Just Breath,” is one of just two songs on the EP that actually feature the duo together, it properly sets the tone for what’s to come of Restore as a whole. Upon first listen, “Just Breath” may sound busy, almost as if it’s being pulled in every and any direction. But, to an extent, that’s precisely the point. Lyrically, “Just Breath” is about letting loose, getting out of a funk, and celebrating overcoming the everyday hardships of quarantine and pandemic life.

So, to follow suit, the track lets loose with its packed-in instrumentals and melodies. It begins with a series of heavy breaths, which remain as a motif throughout. These are followed by funky and retro synths, guitar riffs, and horns, which break up each section of the track. Background noises like a telephone ring, and unexpected musical elements like a military-style march and chant, are sprinkled throughout to take the track through various twists and turns. But it’s Jinjin and Rocky’s earwormy vocals and humorous and theatrical ad-libs that add to the song’s original flair and light mood, just as the lyrics intend. The sillier elements do not let the track lose its way or purpose; instead, they enhance it, taking listeners on a boisterous, uplifting rollercoaster of fun. 

“Lock down,” the only other track that showcases the duo together, follows a similar, funky vibe. But it features a slower, more intense beat and a deeper bassline to give a funk-rock feel. Jinjin and Rocky switch almost seamlessly between rapping and singing the song’s verses and chorus, thanks to a fitting layer of autotune over their vocals that further adds to the track’s crispness and groovy style.

Unlike “Just Breath,” which traverses several different musical directions and styles before finding its end, “Lock down” hardly reaches a peak until its bridge, which features Jinjin’s rapping, then its outro, which ends the track on a more lighthearted note than it started. Nevertheless, “Lock down” still adds to the fresh yet daring vibe that the rest of the album encapsulates. 

Unlike Moonbin and Sanha’s Bad Idea, which features the subunit together on every track, Restore ventures down a road less traveled for its remaining tracks, giving Jinjin one solo song and Rocky two to round out the rest of the album. Fitted to his personality and the song’s title, Jinjin’s solo number, “Lazy”, lands on a laid-back, easygoing feel. On the track, which features a bubbly piano riff and soft and sweet vocals from Weki Meki’s Choi Yoojung, Jinjin gets candid about fighting the relatable and constant urge to procrastinate and simply do nothing, especially during these times:

Makes a lot of excuses
The things you don’t wanna do tomorrow
After putting it all off, what I was supposed to do far away?
I’ll take care of it tomorrow (Yah, yah)

While Jinjin’s mostly autotuned vocals during the chorus–in which he repeats the line “I’m feeling lazy”–are catchy and addicting, it’s Yoojung’s airy and fresh vocals during the pre-choruses and bridge that round out the track and take its listenability to a whole new level. 

Rocky’s two solo tracks, “Complete Me” and “CPR,” necessarily switch things up, while still staying in line with Restore’s retro and authentic undertones. The two songs are almost entirely different from one another. “Complete Me” mixes electronic synths and strong percussive elements with Rocky’s high and low singing and rapping vocals, while “CPR” showcases his impressive, emotive singing skills in the form of a heartfelt, ‘90s-inspired ballad. As the last track on the album, “CPR,” which also earnestly and cheekily begins with beeps from an electrocardiogram, leaves a lasting impression: Rocky quite literally ends the album on a high note with powerful vocals, lucid ad-libs, and even an unexpectedly raspy tone. 

Restore’s result isn’t all that expected or predictable, which is part of what makes it such a fun and impressive release for Astro’s newest subunit. Once known only as rappers and leader and dancer respectively, Jinjin and Rocky have made a grand entrance to a crowded stage, showcasing their previously unseen personalities and talents on a bigger, shinier scale. 

(YouTube. Lyrics via Genius. Images via Fantagio.)