K-pop history is stuffed with great albums, and there’s only so many Buried Treasures and Battle of the B-sides features available to cover all these noteworthy tracks.
The album format has always been special to me. Whether it’s a full-length or mini, albums have the opportunity to tell stories and develop an act’s personal style. Occasionally, I dive in and offer in-depth track by track reviews, but sometimes a bite-sized overview is just as fun.
That’s what this feature is all about: sharing notable albums and offering some quick thoughts about what makes them tick.
GFriend – The Awakening
Released March 6, 2017
1. Hear The Wind Sing (바람의 노래)
“Tropical” blips and bloops were so popular in 2017, and Hear The Wind Sing fits within that trend. But, the instrumental augments its percussion with swoops of gorgeous violin and other strings. This creates a musical through-line that powers every moment of the track. The melody isn’t quite as strong, but it’s buttressed so well by that gorgeous production. I love how reserved the vocal performance is, making its occasional climaxes stand out all the more.
Fingertip will always be frustrating. It shoots for the rafters and totally succeeds, yet for some weird reason the listening public just wouldn’t embrace it. Can you imagine a 2018-20 where GFriend built on this towering synth-funk sound? Alas, Korea wasn’t having it. I absolutely adore this track. It’s the kind of girl group song we rarely hear: ballsy and brash but melodic and unaffected. The squealing guitar and hard-hitting pulses of electropop are pure perfection. Fingertip works itself into a frenzy during its thrilling breakdown, offering the kind of rousing centerpiece that can only be bettered by a resounding power note from supreme main vocal Yuju.
3. Contrail (비행운:飛行雲)
We turn the heat down a bit for the mid-tempo Contrail. This is an odd little song, bopping along a brittle electronic beat. The melody is almost loungy in execution, yet builds to a thumping chorus. The production occasionally delves into retro chiptunes synth, yet also makes room for a warm bed of disco strings here and there. It’s certainly not title track material, but works as a slightly offbeat b-side.
4. Please Save My Earth (나의 지구를 지켜줘)
This has got to be one of the most earnest song titles in K-pop history. When the album was released, I chose this as my “buried treasure,” and I wouldn’t change that decision. This disco-tastic highlight represents my favorite GFriend sound: powerful, symphonic and super melodic. I love the use of backing vocals, from ebullient exclamations during the verses to a swirling choir in the chorus. The entire song is drenched in 70’s cheese, and that makes it a ton of fun.
5. Rain In The Spring Time (봄비)
A K-pop album isn’t a K-pop album without at least one ballad. GFriend ballads are always nice, though I rarely return to them on their own. I’d say the same about Rain In The Spring Time. It’s my least favorite track on the album, but I still think it’s quite pretty. There’s plenty of sappy strings, but I’m partial to the fizzy synths during the pre-chorus. I like my pop ballads filled with plenty of made-for-the-stage drama, and Spring Time delivers that sentiment.
6. Crush (핑)
We end the album on a high, as Crush kicks in with a great new jack swing beat. I appreciate how the producers took this genre and melded it with GFriend’s own signature sound, adding plenty of orchestral elements to flesh it out. The melody feels off-kilter all the way through, zigging when you expect it to zag. This is definitely the most rhythmic track so far, and points toward a direction GFriend rarely explored again. Because of this, it remains a fun curiosity in their discography.