Hello, everyone. We’re now just over halfway through 2019. Needless to say, it’s been another wild one for music coming out of South Korea. It seems like every week we’ve got a new artist or group vying for your attention. Obviously that means there are several dozen who get lost in the fray. Thus we have this new segment!
5 Fire Songs will highlight five tracks that you probably missed from artists not from the (arguably at this point) Big 3! Songs from artists that should’ve gotten a little more shine. This is going to be a broad list, focusing on the first seven months of the year. But it will become more focused on each month as the segment continues.
So … without any further gilding of the lily:
01 Junoflo — Statues
Released January 9
Honestly, any number of Juno tracks could’ve ended up on this list. But I decided why not start off this new segment off with a bang since he so graciously began 2019 with punch in the face.
Junoflo really needs no introduction. He’s a talent that gets sort of buried under a lot of flashier, even more annoyingly brash hip-hop artists from South Korea. Juno’s delivery and lyricism touches on so many aspects of hip-hop that I’ve come to love over my lengthy and tumultuous relationship with the genre.
“Statues” is one of those tracks you put on full volume, bass boosters at 12!
02 Big Phony — Love Like a Down
Released February 26
Again, we have an artist in which any track of theirs could’ve made this list. After over a year, indie singer/songwriter and recent actor and screenwriter Big Phony came back with arguably his most personal, most poignant album. “THE SILENT MOTTO” could easily crack you to pieces if you let its melancholy and Bobby’s introspection in too deep.
Bobby does so much for independent music in South Korea, his voice and his honesty are commendable. This EP already stands out as a classic.
03 the orchard — Question
Released March 29
At this point I don’t have to tell you how much this man means to me musically. As The Voice™ behind one of my favorite Korean bands, Dennis Jin moves something in me that’s hard to pinpoint. It’s the same sort of emotional weight that I feel whenever I listen to anything Bobby releases. The same depth of heartache when I listened to Jeff Buckley.
With the release of his first solo EP, “DFMO,” he explored the volcanoes and icy waters of Iceland and brought back with him music that’s poignant, meaningful, sweeping. It’s a self-indulgent project that allows him to open his voice and do some truly raw exploration of himself as a singer and a man. “Question” is a vocal masterpiece!
04 So Yoon — Noonwalk (feat. SUMIN)
Released April 21
Seems like 2019 is the year of multiple artists releasing multiple bangers music. So Yoon is another vocal powerhouse from another favorite Korean band of mine. She’s also another who released her first solo album and truly explored the reaches of her talents. “So!YoOn!” is a journey from first note to last. It was damn difficult choosing which song to add to this list. So I went for a track that might be a little outside the box for many of her fans.
R&B, electronica with the hint of her signature blues-rock perfection, “Noonwalk” is just a magical piece of music! As eager as I am to see Se So Neon back in the studio (for more than just the occasional track, like the one the band created for this album), damn I can’t see what else this woman has in store!
05 404 NotFoundead — Leave (feat. Zoorumpug)
Released May 25
To be honest, I had to search for this one. I had a handful of songs I already wanted to share on deck. They miraculously all fell within the first four months. Thank all the angels in the firmament for HiphopKR!
404 NotFoundead is certainly a surprise. I had to add this song just for the sheer trippines of it! Korean R&B and hip-hop, as with all popular music eventually, have become a bit one-note. “Leave” comes to me at a time where everyone’s following pretty much the same trap-heavy moody R&B conventions. This is a song that’s so slurred, so warped and twisty that I almost had to make sure it actually came out this year! Damn is this song ever gorgeous!
BONUS TRACK: MRSHLL X Tommy Strate — pancakes
Okay, so I couldn’t end this list without adding MRSHLL to the mix. Technically since June would’ve been the actual month of reflection, this fits!
It’s undeniable. MRSHLL is one of those artists you have to pay attention to. More than just his incredible voice, with its sultry lower register and unbelievable amount of soul, he’s just damn fabulous. What’s more, he knows he’s the bast bitch in the room! Everything about this track is delicious, from the title to what it implies. Sexy, fun, incredibly cheeky. Yeah, best believe if MRSHLL releases it, it’s sure to be a summer jam!
Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list! These are just some of the songs that made a huge impression on me in the first part of 2019. What are some of your favorite fire tracks so far this year?