In this month’s main K-SPOTLIGHT music special, we review singer-songwriter YOONCELL’s debut album, X1. YOONCELL is just starting out in her music career, with more music to come very soon. She is one of four artists/groups that are associated with On the Record, a sublabel of Universal Music Korea. They use the tag ‘Ordinary but special’ to describe those that the label are trying to promote. Here is a sneak peak of their current artist roster! Watch the short video of the launch party below.
Video source: On the Record official YouTube channel
If you missed our interview with YOONCELL, please go back to read the article and learn more about her interesting background. Thanks again to YOONCELL herself for participating in the interview, and sharing her story with our readers! 🙂 She was also kind enough to give some extra information about the songs and artwork featured for this album which we hope everyone will find interesting.
If you would like to support YOONCELL, you can purchase her music digitally from iTunes/apple music, Amazon music or Google Play. A physical copy of the X1 album can be bought from YesAsia and you can also stream the album in full on Spotify too.
We’re going to give our recommendations on our favourite tracks from the album together with YOONCELL’s comments on each song, so read on to find out more! You can listen to all of the songs on Spotify while following our review!
An introduction to YOONCELL
What immediately appealed to us about YOONCELL is that she has a quirky, energetic and eccentric style to many songs in her first album, which made us sit up and take notice. She was wholly involved in putting together all the songs in X1 which is impressive in itself, and it is especially refreshing to listen to music that an artist personally wanted to create and share. YOONCELL keeps to her strengths in each track, utilising the guitar particularly well. Overall, the album is a nice little collection of songs that showcase some of YOONCELL’s diversity – we recommend that you take a listen!
Video source: On the Record official YouTube channel
We will start with the promoted track ‘Hot Noodles’ which marked our first encounter with her music. This is an example of YOONCELL’s more eccentric side: we can’t imagine anyone else writing about noodles! This song was made during a songwriting class when YOONCELL was studying in the UK.
YOONCELL: “I think I had the most ramen noodles at that time in England. I shared my idea that I wanted to write the lyrics about ramen and shared it with Mark Carlisle who was attending the school at the time, and the melody was spontaneously created from the lyrics. This photo is a magnification of a loofah. It seems to look like ramen noodles…”
YOONCELL shows off her ability to flit between English and Korean lyrics well. ‘Hot Noodles’ is bright and great fun. It captures a soft rock sound and shuffle rhythm plucked straight from the 60’s. Watch the video below! (Click ‘CC’ for English captions if you are interested in knowing the lyrics)
Video source: YOONCELL’s official YouTube channel
Our favourite of the album has to be ‘K’. We loved the confidence of the extended introduction that allow the drums and guitar to make themselves known, the melodic line is simple but brilliantly effective and YOONCELL’s voice is at it’s laidback best. This is a track that just sounds effortlessly cool. It has a wistful and dreamy nature and hidden intricacies embedded within it which we loved. All the parts are wonderfully arranged and balanced; from the accompanying piano single notes that dance up and down in the middle of the track to the isolated acoustic guitar sections where you can hear the sliding movements on the fretboard, there is much to admire in ‘K’. You can’t beat an electric guitar solo either! More of this please! Highly recommended. Listen on Spotify.
YOONCELL: “It is a song that has lyrics to content that fall in love with someone. I have expressed my dream-like feeling through various other effects. I chose to match this song with a microscope photo of an unknown plant.”
The mellow atmosphere of Summer Night is something we enjoyed immensely. You’ll be bobbing your head along to this one! The melody is pleasing and YOONCELL’s voice is comforting against the strumming of the guitar in this soft rock track. Listening to ‘Summer Night’ is always satisfying; it has an air of nostalgia and the lightness of a passing breeze. We consider this a strong inclusion in the album and a definite highlight of X1.
YOONCELL had this to say about the song: “It is a song that I developed with a melody that I liked. I thought that the melody of the chorus part would give a cool feeling, so I finished the lyrics with reminescent (sic) of the night scenery of the ocean where sounds of waves were heard based on the notes I used to use as lyrics. I think it would be nice to have a cool feeling during summer vacation. This photo, like a sea or star in the night sky, is actually a photomicrograph of cartilage tissue and has been colour reversed and corrected to match the night sea.”
This track adopts a darker tone and strong beat, which was a little unexpected given the title. This is a different type of ballad altogether, a stark contrast to those ballads that regularly pepper the Kpop world. The violin and guitars are the main instruments here, with the former being particularly strong. We did enjoy the violin sections immensely. YOONCELL’s vocals are able to sound eerie, mysterious and dejected, a complete 180° flip compared to the first half of the album.
There are some effective harmonies in places, and when the drums kick in, it really helps to drive the song forward which was much needed. However, ‘Missing You’ does end abruptly-almost like a straight scathing cut-which was a surprise. This was something that did bother us at the first time of listening because it seemed like the song was less complete this way, but after repeated listens we did get used to the idea and thought differently as a result. This song does mix things up in the album and demonstrates another style to YOONCELL’s music.
YOONCELL: “This is a song I like personally, and it repeats guitar playing with a fingerstyle method, which is used in the unusual chord progression. It is a song where I built up the idea of a vocal melody with violin over the guitar playing. Through vocal recording and mixing, it changed much more than it did in the demo. The picture is of a lancet (needle), so I thought it would match the feel of the song.”
Continuing the theme from ‘Missing You’, ‘Sorry’ also feels like a song for night time listening. The rhythm did seem interesting at the beginning. If there was to be some criticism, we felt that it was slightly forgettable in that it didn’t present as many different ideas to us as listeners compared to other tracks on the album. Perhaps because we tended to play ‘Sorry’ directly after ‘Missing You’, the song didn’t stand out on its own and felt repetitive.
YOONCELL: “I liked the riff that I made while playing the guitar in the studio. I was looping it and made a vocal. It is a song that harmonizes with each melody in (sic) in different vocals. Originally it was the same drum loop repetition from the beginning to the end, but as I worked (on it) for the album, I changed the bass and drums so that the mood of the song was up and I was going to have a break. The lyrics were originally “I’m Sorry” but the lyrics (became) totally different…I assumed more specific situations and (adapted) the lyrics (to their current form) now.”
The remaining image from the X1 album artwork is of an ice crystal. Such intricacies in the pattern are captured from viewing it up close with a microscope!
Our main recommendations from X1 would have to be ‘K’ and ‘Summer Night’, followed closely by ‘Hot Noodles’. Overall, we think YOONCELL shows most promise in her brighter songs so far, but it is also good to see an artist experimenting too. We hope that she is encouraged to avoid ‘playing it safe’ by challenging herself with some bolder sounds in the future. There should be new music from YOONCELL available in the months to come, so if you like what you’ve heard so far, then you can follow YOONCELL’s activities using the official social media links below.
Official Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/yooncell/
Official YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTWJ9F0bHesk3Hv9MYwvZyw
Featured image and in-article images source: © YOONCELL. 11.09.2017. All rights reserved. All images for provided by the artist for specific use in this article and should not be reproduced without permission.