Christmas has officially arrived early this year, and The Boyz are ringing it in with their latest album, Phantasy Pt. 1 – Christmas in August. Unlike what its title suggests, Christmas in August is the antithesis of holiday jingles, instead harnessing the potential for one of the most summery of this season’s releases. The album is also one of the group’s poppiest and most cohesive in years, bursting at the seams with the familiarity of the bubbly, upbeat music that first put them on the map.

Christmas in August leaves much to be desired, and luckily it’s only the first installment of three separate comebacks, all of which will ultimately add up to The Boyz’s second full-length album, Phantasy. While there is no release date for the remaining two comebacks, all are hinted to be loosely inspired by films from the ‘90s (including South Korean romance film Christmas in August), leaving even more up in the air as far as how the remaining two comebacks and set of tracks will meld with the consistency of this first EP. 

Future uncertainties aside, each track on this first album is straightforward and steadfast in production and execution. Often times, this can be a death sentence for an album so short, but here, that’s what makes it so strong. Plenty of music today strives to catch listeners off guard and take them down the road less (or never) traveled, but Christmas in August aspires to entice them toward a world they know all too well – and it works. There aren’t many surprises within each song on Christmas in August, but that helps to keep the momentum going from beginning to end. 

As a starting point, title track “Lip Gloss” puts the “pop” in the poppiness of this EP right out the gate, guns blazing (“Plumping candy, you make it pop”). Saccharine and campy, “Lip Gloss” doesn’t take itself too seriously, and neither do The Boyz throughout the track. Upon first listen, the track largely hinges on the catchiness of its repeated melody and hook (“Lip gloss, lip gloss / I want to taste your lip gloss”) – that is, until the breakdown led by rappers Sunwoo and Eric at the bridge. Their tempo switch-up quickly ushers in a racing house beats followed by a stripped-down chorus, allowing the remainder of the track to double up on the momentum it had before. It’s a rare moment on the album that features a total tempo and rhythmic switch-up, but also one that works extremely well. 

If “Lip Gloss” is the solid pop ground that Christmas in August starts and stands on, then its b-sides are where they evolve and thrive. Standout “Fire Eyes” takes the relentless gushiness of “Lip Gloss” in a refreshing, ’80s-inspired direction, lasering through retro synths, an animated beat, and another earwormy chorus. Like the end of “Lip Gloss,” the outro of “Fire Eyes” also has that one last, vital moment that levels the entire track up to new heights, this time with a flurry of buzzing synths. “Fantasize” is another equally up-tempo and clear-cut track that finds just the right balance between blatant and breezy, complimenting its dual forces with a chugging beat and bassline, and wistful falsettos.

Christmas in August is recognizably sweet and effervescent, but that doesn’t mean it takes listeners nowhere new. B-side “Passion Fruit” maintains the sugary theme present across the album, only here in a completely different flavor: ’90s funk. Members Hyunjae, Juyeon, Q, Younghoon, and Sunwoo all contribute their vocal and rap talents in this special subunit to conjure up a solid and melodic summertime track, which mesh with unexpected hip hop and electronic synth elements along the way. “Lighthouse” also adds depth to the bubblegummy surface of the EP, infusing mysterious and dark trap elements and hypnotizing vocal moments into this just-as-robust track.

The Boyz may not be reinventing the wheel entirely here consider final track “Fairy Tale,” the obligatory less up-tempo track that’s still earwormy enough to close things out on a high note. And they’re also not entirely reinventing themselves, given that much of Phantasy Pt. 1 Christmas in August is a return to The Boyz that we once knew.

But that’s also what gives this EP so much to rave about. After years of experimentation, Christmas in August places the group’s sound right where it was around the time they debuted and shortly after, only with the sureness and harmoniousness of one that’s now been around for almost six years. Hopefully, there’s only more of that to come.

(YouTube. Lyrics via Genius. Images via IST Entertainment.)