As we are just starting out a new year, looking forward to bigger and brighter things, I’d still like to take a look back and share with you some of my favorite artists of 2011. These glimpses of the past show us where we will be heading.
It was a great past year for Korean indie music. We saw the rise of live music clubbing, concert going, the birth of more music festivals in Seoul and the rest of the peninsula… and the mere fact that people are looking for something different other than pink, bubble gum K-pop is a good sign for the movement.
Last April, I began DJing Indie Afternoon on TBS eFM. Before we started, there were no radio shows dedicated to Korean Independent music! We’re still the only show in town, but we’re making progress, gaining a following, and sharing great new music with hundreds of people every day. Beyond meeting and interviewing talented, passionate musicians and recording artists, I am always introduced to hidden gems that otherwise would not have any access to the airwaves, anywhere in the world.
Without any further ado, read on and enjoy this list of my top K-indie picks of 2011. You can listen along to the YouTube playlist here.
1. Dearcloud with 널 위해서라고 (It Is All For You)
Truly an indie band, meaning they “independently” produce, record, perform, and promote their own music. Somehow “indie music” has become a sonic genre rather than its true meaning of being independent from major labels and companies. This is the title track from their 3rd full-length album, Bright Lights.
2. Thomas Cook with 아무 것도 아닌 나 (I Am Nothing)
Front man from the rock trio My Aunt Mary, Thomas Cook a.k.a. Jeong Soon-yong (정순용) pursues his sophomore solo album, with warmth and maturity as do most rockers moving into their 30-somethings. Acoustic and sweet, Thomas Cook’s Journey is a great album to listen to.
3. Yellow Monsters with 4월 16일 (April 16th)
Yellow Monsters started out as a project group with guitarist and front man Yong Won (용원) from GumX, bassist Han Jin-young (한진영) from My Aunt Mary, and drummer Choi Jae-hyuk (최재혁) from Deli Spice. They are rockers to the core, bringing the 90’s punk/pop sound into this century. Grinding on the club circuit in Korea with some shows in Japan, and heading off for the U.S.A. this year with the Seoulsonic tour, Yellow Monsters puts on a hell of a show! Don’t miss them if you get the chance.
4. Glen Check with Disco Elevator
These young gentlemen came on as guests to my show, and what a pleasure it was. This was definitely a hidden gem, and I was so pleasantly surprised by their creativity and musical ability being so young. It’s something I wouldn’t have expected to find in Korea yet. Young and energetic, and keen to what makes you want to move. They told me in our interview that their songs are not based on stories or past experiences, but about fun images in their heads. Keep your eyes out for these guys in 2012!
5. Koxx with 12:00 (열두시)
These guys just blew me away. I also got to get to know these crazy and energetic guys through Indie Afternoon, and have been, myself, a crazy fan since. They started off playing for their own organized parties, when they finally decided to give the music life a go. This is a group you DO NOT want to miss live! Watch out for these guys, too.
6. Big Baby Driver with 38,000km 너머의 빅베이비 (38,000km Over Big Baby)
Sweet, subtle and reminiscent of 1920s North American country and folk music, Big Baby Driver is almost ghostly on some of her tracks and vocals. It’s quite a treat to watch as she gently plucks her vintage acoustic and mesmerizes you with her voice. That voice is much bigger than the petite girl she is. She recently released her first full-length album, Spring I Love You Best.
7. 최고은 (Choi Go-eun) with Eric’s Song
Here’s another female singer/songwriter; seems like there have been so many popping up in the last few years. These girls have something to say! I randomly met Go-eun in the Hongik University area with her guitar slung on her shoulder. Politely making small talk about music, she kindly gave me her self-produced first self-titled EP, 1st. What a treat to hear her acoustic guitar and gentle melodies. She later came onto my show with her first full-length album, Good Morning, which was released this past winter. “Eric’s Song” is from her EP.
8. 이승열 (Lee Seung-yeol) with 돌아오지 않아 (Not Coming Back)
Lee Seung-yeol is somewhat legendary in his own right, being one of the first musicians of his kind while being in stride with Bang Jun-suk in the duo You and Me Blue. Carrying on his rock-based storytelling, this is just a different level of musician from what you know to be K-Pop. I can only be in awe of his albums and performances, and always left with something turning in my heart. This is from his 3rd album titled Why We Fail.
I cannot tell you enough to get into something other than the overrated K-Pop scene and experience some real depth in Korean musicians and artists. I hope you enjoyed some of my 2011 picks for K-indie, and please, please support them!
If you like what you’ve heard, you can catch Ray Kang on Sundays at 12pm on 101.3 TBS eFM, our livestream or on your smartphones by getting the TBS smartphone app (교통방송).