THE SOLUTIONS – “TICKET TO THE MOON”
“Ticket to the Moon” slipped under my radar with a late July release, but excellent indie pop shouldn’t go overlooked – when Korean indie is good, it’s very good, but when it’s bad, it sounds like watered-down Franz Ferdinand. The Solutions consists of vocalist/guitarist Park Sol and guitarist Naru. Naru cites the Smashing Pumpkins, Oasis, Daft Punk, and even EDM as influences, while his method, as he explains to Dazed, is to “make soundscapes wider and deeper by using many elements from many genres, but our final goal is to make it sound like pop.” On “Ticket to the Moon” his reach is wide, with an intro reminiscent of 80s soft rockers like Icehouse or Mr. Mister, winsome storytelling akin to Belle & Sebastian, and the stocky percussion and synths of The Killers. It’s familiar, but cleverly reconfigured and layered to not only avoid being dated or contrived, but to create their own lovely pocket of sound.
MOBB – “HIT ME” (FEAT. KUSH)
Only the staunchest YG Entertainment stan wouldn’t see putting together Winner’s Mino and IKON’s Bobby, the company’s new generation rappers, for a double single as a way to recreate the magic of GD&TOP (the hugely popular duo of G-Dragon and Big Bang’s T.O.P). The night and day vocal styles and personalities of Big Bang’s rappers were key, but Mino and Bobby often skate too close to being interchangeable on the bass-heavy but mostly forgettable “Full House”. Its ‘money and babes’-saturated MV might have some entertainment value, but you’re left wondering why YG continues to crib hip hop tropes that fall flat given that the label can not only come up with uniquely exciting ideas but also, like few others, clearly understand that banging songs don’t have to be these huge artifices.
“Hit Me” is naturalistic in comparison. It’s a potent mix of charm, chill, and high energy – its catchy cry of “빨리빨리 전화해”(hurry, hurry, call them)” echoes over a simple beat, while their obvious friendship and enjoyment of the loose style of filming lends the MV authenticity that “Full House” lacked. “Hit Me” is impossible to dislike – hell, it even gets away with making an obvious nod to GD&TOP’s “Please Don’t Go” while ripping visual cues from their “High High” video. There’s a winning formula here; the ongoing advice would be to not fuck around with it too much.
ELO – “ROSE”
First things first, any MV that brings together #pastelaesthetic and a glorious throwback to Roller Boogie is getting all the votes. Secondly, whatever you think of rapper/singer/often shirtless Jay Park, there’s no denying his eye for signing talent to his burgeoning label AOMG. Though a consistent presence as a featured singer on AOMG tracks, ELO (25-year-old Oh Min-Taek) is the least known of his artists, so the Gray-produced debut album 8 Femmes and its lead track “Rose” rightfully puts the spotlight on his dulcet tones. The album’s opening slant is decidedly R&B, but shifts gear into a masterclass of post-enfant terrible Jamiroquai style funk and nu-disco. “Rose” puts down the top, dons the yellow-tinted aviators, and cruises smoothly into the sunset, girl (and rollerskates) in hand.
SPICA – “SECRET TIME”
Five-member girl group Spica have had a rough time – they parted ways with their label, their sales have been on the slide, and they’ve been on hiatus for two years. They’ve had plenty to offer previously, from the Motown-esque “You Don’t Love Me” to the Hall & Oates sophistication of“Lonely”, and in Kim Bohyung and Kim Boa they have vocalists capable of wiping the floor with other singers. On “Secret Time”, they deliver snippets of their sorely missed richness and power, but it’s to a well-intentioned yet overly simple disco homage, its nods to Chic’s “Good Times” and Madonna’s “Holiday” sped up and polished to a diamond shine. Is it fun? Absolutely. Will you remember it six months? Probably not, but it’s a punchy reminder that K-Pop is poorer without them.