Many of our IMK readers will be well versed in K-pop, and have your “go-to” favourite groups and singers. But how many of you have listened to something released from a K-indie artist? The term indie is short for ‘independent music’. K-indie solo singers and groups are not signed to mainstream companies; this means that they usually do not have a large financial backing. Consequently, they must work harder to put their music out and promote it, and often the love of their craft is what carries them through. Normally K-indie artists are involved in several (if not all) aspects of the song-writing process, which can help make their music and performances more personal and engaging for their audience.
So why should you listen to K-indie?
Firstly, anyone who loves music will enjoy discovering something new to listen to. Any genre can be classed as K-indie, and the spectrum of variety available is immense! Keeping an open mind is something that allows us to continually develop and find new things that interest us. That notion goes hand-in-hand with delving fully into learning about another culture.
Secondly, indie artists and bands often play their own instruments. Music shows do not provide adequate facilities for bands to perform on stage (if you see someone with an electric guitar, it is usually not even plugged in!) which certainly doesn’t allow you to appreciate the actual music they have made! This also means that a degree of bias is introduced as to who performs on these types of shows, and listeners will miss out on a whole variety of undiscovered talent.
Thirdly, there is a certain satisfaction that comes with supporting a small group or artist. Sometimes they even manage to hit the big-time (such as Bolbbalgan4 that we featured in last November’s Music Release Roundup and DEAN who was featured in our very first K-SPOTLIGHT) . Regardless of their success, to be there from their humble beginnings and to witness the progression of an artist’s musical creativity and recognition is a wonderful thing. One of the benefits of not being associated with a major label is possessing greater control and creative freedom over musical output. This can result in songs that are intensely emotional, more message-driven or experimental. Who knows, you could be listening to an idea or concept from K-indie that will influence the music scene in a big way in the near future!
With that in mind, we have some K-indie recommendations for you! Why not try something new and support some lesser known names?
1. Wings of the ISANG (이상의날개) – Dark Sea
Wings of the ISANG are a Korean post-rock band. Their track ‘Dark Sea’ is one that could have come straight out of a movie soundtrack. Have you ever noticed that the background music of amazing films and dramas help to evoke the emotion of the scene? In a similar fashion, ‘Dark Sea’ works its way up to a heady mix of drums and guitars to build suspense before vocals are introduced in the latter part of the song. Their live set of this track utilises a theme of stars, sky and sea creating a supernatural and otherworldly experience. Definitely something very different in this first recommendation!
2. Sugardonut (슈가도넛) – Imagine, close your eyes
Some electronica next! Sugardonut specialise in pop punk and rock, often creating energetic and upbeat music. From the exciting burst of instrumentals from the outset, you just know that you are going to experience something uplifting! ‘Imagine, close your eyes’ balances slow and quick musical sections with lyrics and visuals in their MV. For example, when the song lyrics touch on the idea that time slows when meeting someone you love, the video is slowed too, in time with the speed of the music. Watching the skill of the male and female dancers in the MV is quite something!
Bonus: That’s not to say Sugardonut can’t do emotional music too. Check out their track ‘Lost Me’ if Sugardonut have piqued your interest!
3. Yeseo (예서) – Let it all go
Yeseo is a female artist and relative newcomer to the Korean music scene. Yuseo composes, produces and arranges her own music, and we are loving what she has come up with so far! We recommend you listen to ‘Let it all go’ as a good introduction to what she is about. Her soft vocals (she sings in English) on this R&B track are simply entrancing, and the production makes ‘Let it all go’ sound effortlessly cool. We have been keeping an eye on Yeseo because we see big things for her ahead! Highly recommended!
4. Kassy (케이시)- Dream
You may have noticed Kassy previously when she appeared as a contestant on the most recent series of the programme Unpretty Rapstar, though she is still relatively unknown compared to mainstream idols. She recently released a song titled ‘Dream’ which doesn’t include any raps, but we feel that this is the right direction for Kassy because her vocals are good! She could easily have chosen to stray into ballad territory with the voice that she has, but ‘Dream’ is much more of an interesting listen. From hearing the verses, you might be mistaken in thinking this was going to be a slow song. When the song reaches its chorus, however, ‘Dream’ bursts into life and will have you hooked in no time!
5. The Solutions (솔루션스) – Jungle in Your Mind
For whatever reason, not many bands make it big in Korea. The Solutions are a band that have been together much longer than the others on this list, but benefit from the wealth of experience that they have accumulated over the years. Their musical influences from other bands come across in their song-writing and they often release tracks in English. We have been listening to The Solutions for a long time and are pleased to recommend them to our readers! They are especially good at electro-pop rock; their songs are filled with catchy melodies and guitar riffs. The Solutions’ discography is so extensive that it was hard to decide on just one track! We settled on ‘Jungle in your mind’, which is upbeat, and full of fun transitions. Watch this stripped back version of the song, and see their talent for yourselves!
Bonus: We weren’t joking when we said it was difficult to decide on only one recommendation! We also love this older release from The Solutions called ‘Lines’! There is something so heartwarming about singer Park Sol’s vocals in this track; he displays an ability to stray the lines of melancholy and hope. Well worth a listen!
6. Twelve – Monster
Twelve is a male singer who only started posting music on his SoundCloud account 3 months ago. As such, not much is known about him, but we were impressed from his first upload! ‘Monster’ displays Twelve’s smooth R&B vocals, and the effects on his voice are used well here in the context of the song. Recommended for those that like male solo artists!
And there you have it! Thank you for reading, and we hope you discovered something that you liked on our K-indie list. We will keep striving to bring more independent musicians to your attention, and please support them! Let us know if there was anything you enjoyed or would like any more recommendations!
Featured image source: © Bass guitar. egonkling. 12.02.2017. Pixabay website.