The best songs of 2017 - Part 1 #21-#40
What a year it has been for music here in Korea. Last time we did a run-down of our favourite tracks it was only ten songs long but there was so much great stuff this year, we couldn't cut it down any smaller than 40. Here're the first half of our selections with the second half coming soon.
Yoonkee Kim | Briefcase
Alternative, indie, folk. For fans of Daniel Johnston, Half Japanese.
We’re kicking off our list with one of Korean independent music’s most unique voices. The incredibly prolific singer-songwriter has had a busy year releasing several albums and a multitude of singles. His low-fi production and his unconventional nature make Daniel Johnson an obvious comparison with Kim. Like Johnson, Kim’s unusual sound is often accompanied with humorous sketches that have been drawn by the singer. The track Briefcase sees Kim in a concise poppy mode with a short and simple guitar song. For more information click here.
UZA | Ordinary
Pop, electronic. For fans of Grimes, FKA Twigs.
Korean singer UZA topped off a good year with her awesome single Ordinary. The track is a sultry slice of synth-based pop. It’s a very contemporary sound, especially on the driving, glitchy drums. With that said, the atmosphere the song creates shows that UZA’s love of 80s music is still at the heart of everything she produces. For more information click here.
Exclamation Mark! | Dust Wind Evacuation
Indie, pop. For fans of Public Service Broadcasting, Paul McCartney.
Frustratingly elusive band Exclamation Mark! are not easy to track down. Their 2017 album Find You is a collection of vintage indie pop that draws on the band's love of Paul McCartney for inspiration. Album opener Dust Wind Evacuation is our personal favourite. The short track is a sweet slice of EM!’s sound and makes for great listening. For more information click here.
Rabbit Project | Black Night
Electronic, pop, ambient. For fans of Bjork, Massive Attack.
Rabbit Project are showing how, with a little thoughtfulness and depth, pop music can be done well. The three-track demo this song comes from was produced by Huh Jun-hyuk and was used as a vessel for him to work with three different singer/songwriters. Black Night is a dreamy ode to the night shows the incredible talent involved with a strong orchestral vibe giving way to an electronic crescendo at the end. For more information click here.
Don Malik | Touche
Hip-hop. For fans of Kendrick Lamar, Tyler The Creator.
The interesting thing about listening to hip-hop that isn’t in your first language is that the vocals are heard without context and the result is you can just appreciate the delivery. This is never truer than with Don Malik who gives an awesome performance on his 2017 single Touche. It helps that he’s backed up with a unique musical backdrop. The melodies are almost labyrinthian, switching and changing from one sound to another several times during the 3-minute track. For more information click here.
FWD | The Lion
Indie, pop, electronic. For fans of Oh Wonder, Lapsley.
Young Gifted and Wack’s FWD are well known for producing subtly emotive music and their 2017 single The Lion might be the best example of that. Their trademark heartfelt piano is here with the usual powerful atmospheric emotion and subdued vocals. This track is notable for having Korean lyrics, something the band don’t do all that often. Yet, you don’t need to understand the words to really feel the sincerity behind this song. For more information click here.
3rd Line Butterfly | Present
Experimental, indie. For fans of Goldfrapp, PJ Harvey.
Korean indie veterans 3rd Line Butterfly returned in 2017 with one of their strongest albums to date. The band have been around since 1999 producing eclectic, genre-defying music and their recent LP Divided by Zero continues this tradition with RnB, funk, electronica, and more featured. For us, the band really nailed the bridge between experimentalism and listenability on the track present. This highlights the band's introspective nature while drawing on the bands artistic inspirations. For more information please click here.
Cogason | Teenage Love
Alternative, indie, rock. For fans of Teenage Fanclub, Feeder, Ash.
This is surely going to be the only b-side on the list. The Hongdae-based indie band released their awesome debut album POP in 2016. Teenage Love is taken from the B-side of the 2017 single release of Thinking of You. The track is a perfect representation of the band's melodious nature. Drenched in Britpop influences with just a slight touch of pop-punk, Teenage Love is a three-minute guitar-pop wonder that would make Ash or Teenage Fanclub envious. For more information click here.
Raw by Peppers | Pale Blue Dot Part 1
Post-Rock, indie, experimental. For fans of Radiohead, Muse.
Earlier this year Seoul-born post-rockers Raw By Peppers released their most ambitious album to date in Cosmos. The album draws heavily on the band's love of Radiohead to create a body of work full of intensity and depth. For us, the stand-out track was Pale Blue Dot part 1. The slower and more atmospheric half of a two-part series that really captures the interstellar ethos of the album. For more information click here.
In the Endless Zanhyang, We Are | And So It Goes
Ambient, post-rock. For fans of Sigur Ros.
As you’ll probably see from this list, 2017 was a good year for atmospheric post-rock inspired music from Korea and one of the major highlights of this was In The Endless Zanhyang, We Are. As ambitious and grandiose as the band's name would suggest, ITEZ,WA released their first EP under their new name this year and it’s a gorgeous, sweeping affair. Their large sound draws instant parallels to Sigur Ros and piano-led stand-out track And So It Goes is a perfect representation of this. For more information click here.
Offing | Circle
Indie, pop, minimalist. For fans of Feist.
Just like it’s accompanying video, Circle is a deliciously simple song. A minimalist drum beat and bass accompaniment make up most of the song's structure with the occasional synth overlay with some warm yet haunting vocal harmonies. The simplicity works though and the song is an absolute gem. For more information click here.
Smiles of a Summer Night | Run High
Alternative, indie, rock. For fans of My Vitriol, Foo Fighters.
Drawing from the same 90s guitar-pop as Cogason (see above), Smiles of a Summer Night create melodic, upbeat indie with a hint of melancholic fuzziness. The entire self-titled debut album is full of gems like this but the stand-out was the lead single Run High. This track is energetic but sad indie that draws both from 90s guitar music and early 00s rock bands such as Hell is For Heroes, Rival Schools and My Vitriol. For more information click here.
Ureluna | Sympathetic to Each Other
Alternative, ambient, folk. For fans of Sigur Ros, The Cranberries.
Ureluna are one of the most exciting new bands on the scene at the moment. Despite only forming in 2016, the duo already has one absolutely gorgeous EP under their belt in 2017 Monument. The 6 track release is filled with brooding and introverted lullabies driven by real heart and emotion. Sympathetic To Each Other is an especially moving track. Made up of two distinct parts, the track effortlessly drifts from pop-folk lightness into a sweeping, string-backed epic that will knock you off your feet. For more information please click here.
Machines | Seoul Will Have Its Revenge
Punk, hardcore. For fans of Black Flag.
Hardcore punk provocateurs Machines released their debut album this year and it was a doozy. The 12 track blitzkrieg is a masterstroke in speed-punk brilliance and lead single Seoul Will Have Its Revenge is a highlight. The track reflects perfectly the hectic nature of Seoul both in its lyrics and its style. For more information click here.
BAXA | It's For Real
Disco, funk, house. For fans of Daft Punk, Justice.
Seoul has been undergoing a disco revolution over the last few years which is handy for us at KSM since we love disco more than anything else in the world. At the centre of this revolution is the very awesome Hwang Baxa aka BAXA. The Seoul born DJ and producer has been filling dance floors between here and Berlin where he now lives with his huge selector sets. He also produces his own music such as this silky smooth disco-funk track he released back in February. For more information click here.
Kirara | ct16041
House, electronic. For fans of Hot Chip, Cut Copy, Simian Mobile Disco.
Yeah, OK, we can be prone to hyperbole from time to time here at KSM but trust us when we say this - Kirara is the best producer of electronic music in the country today. She’s had an amazing year that included international shows, remixing and producing loads of artists and a huge shout out from Grimes! We’re eagerly awaiting the follow up to her 2016 album moves but the super prolific artist just can’t stop creating. Her January EP cts5 (part of her cts series) demonstrates this and funky electro opener ct16041 has been a regular on our playlists. For more information click here.
Aseul | Wake Up
Electronic, pop, nu-gaze. For fans of Grimes.
Another release we’re eagerly anticipating is Aseul’s follow up to the AWESOME 2016 album New Pop. In the meantime though we’ll have to remain content with her fantastic recent single Wake Up. The track is a typically emotion driven slice of synth-pop that. Its fuzzy wall of sound style production shows that the singer is influenced by shoegaze as well as electronica. For more information click here.
Grey Watson | Softer Shores of Nothing
Garage, psychedelia, rock. For fans of Black Keys, White Stripes, The Beatles.
Earlier this year, Grey Watson released one of the most criminally overlooked albums of 2017 with his psych-garage-blues tour de force Ruins. One of many highlights from that album is the blisteringly confident Softer Shores of Nothing. This incredibly well produced indie anthem delves into Watson’s love of 60s music while sounding very modern. Unusual guitar work peppered throughout this acts as a constant surprise and a punky vocal performance from Watson make this track a must-hear. For more information click here.
PBWYC | Bonobono
Pop, RnB, electronic. For fans of Bombay Bicycle Club, HAIM.
Speaking of criminally underrated artists in 2017 – Palmbeach Wasted Youth Club has to be in that conversation. This year he followed up his exceptional 2016 release Primrose Hill with a seven-track EP called Shores. While it still has it's jammed, the release sees the RnB inspired producer in a more reflected, introverted mood. This is perhaps best summed up by opening track Bonobono, a lilting and gentle song that has more in common with Bombay Bicycle Club than RnB. It’s a sound that suits PBWYC though and one of our favourites of the year. For more information click here.
Night Tempo | Dance?
Disco, electro. For fans of Justice, Daft Punk, Breakbot.
How can you not love Night Tempo? Seoul’s disco troubadour produced an absolute classic album this year in Fantasy. The 12 track LP is filled with retrocentric funk jams that fuse Night Tempo’s love of classic disco styles with his passion for contemporary dance music. Of all the party jams on here, we’ve chosen Dance? With a solid nod to French electro, this track wouldn’t be out of place on Daft Punk’s Homework or Justice’s Cross and is blessed with the same pop-party vibe that so much of Night Tempo’s work comes with. For more information click here.