Favorite Track: "Tokyo Inn" Least Favorite Track: "Wanli"
They say Music is the universal language. Hailing from the land of South Korea yet writing hits in English, Mandarin Chinese, and Korean, indie rock band ; HYUKOH’s debut studio album ; 23, is a fantastic testimony to that very statement. The very eminent language barrier for most listeners does make their sound require a little more attention and brain effort to enjoy, but the payoff is 100% worth the thought. I say this because, when not discreetly understanding their lyrics you have to find another part of their sound you enjoy to fill the gap. However, with their 2017 studio album ; 23, you shouldn’t have to look too far because these guys are pretty damn talented. Their sound is consistently groovy, funky, extremely technically impressive, and very unique. Instrumentally these guys can really play, but they know exactly when to pump in the heat of the solo’s and the complex fills, and when to turn down their amps, slow down the speed of their playing, and drown their skills a little, to make a track sound just a tiny bit more subtle. This emphasis on awareness and placement of their instrumentals is very apparent in the way they mix their songs on 23. Sometimes, long, drawn out, and complex instrumental sections are mixed much quieter than you would think for how large of a presence they have. For example in the midst of a guitar solo, the drums will be mixed in just as loud as the guitar is. This fusion of sound and coherency makes the instrumentals more of a complete unit and makes their overall sound much smoother. The intro track “Burning Youth” really does its job as an intro and a hole to peek through into the minds of the musicians we are about to hear from on 23. It’s almost as if it's the dramatic rising of the curtain before the show except the show in this case, is this LP. The track has more of an ambient and marching type of feel to it. It being one of the shortest tracks on the entire record, it truly feels as if it was meant to be simply an intro and it accomplishes that very well. This is followed by one of the grooviest songs on the whole project in “Tokyo Inn”. This track is infectiously funky. I fell in love with the vocal harmonies in the chorus on first listen. I also can’t get enough of the progression and the way the guitar riff builds on itself in this track. Track #4 is more of an acoustic ballad, but “TOMBOY” really shows off frontman Oh Hyuk’s vocal range. The melodic and euphoric melodies on the chorus are gospel enough to send chills down your spine. This combined, with a very clever electric guitar bridge that links the first and second section of the chorus made “TOMBOY” a hit for me. “2002WorldCup” is another notable and great track in my opinion but I don’t love it nearly as much as I do the next track ; “Jesus lived in a motel room”. My mind couldn’t help but drift to an old western movie showdown, or Rocky Balboa training for his next fight, when listening to this track. It sounds like a training anthem (in a good way). Everything from the whistling in the middle section to the stuttering base patterns throughout, “Jesus lived in a motel room” is another amazing track from 23. Track #8 is another one of my favorites and is titled “Die alone”. The whole concept of this track is almost mind-numbing. The best and only way I could think to describe the crash of the hook on this track would just be completely badass. Oh Hyuk sounds completely cut throat as he screams how “We all die Alone” in the chorus. The next couple of tracks do result in sort of a lul for me. They aren’t un-listenable or anything of the sort, but they are less noteworthy than the tracks I previously mentioned. Despite this, the closer “Surf boy” is a decently fun outro. The song lives up to its name and completely gives off the feel of a surf or beach anthem. I like the refrain at the conclusion of the track where Hyuk repeats “hope for the best, plan for the worst” almost as if it was sort of a closing message to the entire record. HYUKOH’s 23 is all in all a very well put together project. There is an obvious attention to detail put into this record that I think almost anyone can truly appreciate and it does a very good job at staying engaging for (almost) its entire stay (the last few songs fall off a little before the closer). This crossover in cultures abolishes the challenges that it’s language barrier presents for it, and stands as a modern day example of well written, cultural fusion within music.