A passion of mine is letting people know about great Korean musicians outside of Kpop. I love Korean music! In my opinion, Korean music (and Japanese music too) tends to experiment a lot and try new things— sometimes even bizarre things! But, the artists always have a lot of fun with their sound. Korean music feels like an amalgamation of different genres into one cohesive sound, and I love it. Musicians and artists in the Korean music industry have an obvious love for Western music as a whole. Rock, rap, pop, et cetera. I want to let you readers know some of the best bands that the mainstream music fans might not know about. Or if they are well-known, then the best indie groups out there.
I’m going to start with JAURIM, one of my favorite bands ever. The band is composed of Kim Yoon-Ah on vocals and guitar, Goo Tae-Hoon on drums, Kim Jin-Man on bass and guitar, and Lee Sun-Kyu as the last guitarist and vocalist. Kim Yoon-Ah’s voice is pure beauty, and her personality magnetic. She naturally oozes charisma that captures the imagination. Seeing her onstage is something everybody needs to experience in their lifetime. JAURIM has been around for 20 years (so, I guess they’re not really indie), with 16 albums under their belt— nine of which are original full-length albums. JAURIM’s songs are beautifully arranged. But, I have to admit, Kim Yoon-Ah is the prime draw to JAURIM. All hail the Queen of K-Rock.
Normally, JAURIM is an alternative rock band, but they also dabble with other genres and it’s hard to choose just a single song out of their discography. Their music talent has allowed them to tackle other genres and sound great. Their tracks range from light and upbeat songs like “일탈(Deviation)” to darker songs like “마왕(The Devil)”, silly happy songs like “Carnival Amour” to serious mournful songs like “Anna.” But, if I had to choose one song, it would be “25, 21” from their latest album, goodbye grief. I also recommend listening to their cover of “Even Flow” by Pearl Jam.
Also known as Dalmoon or Rooftop Moonlight, OKDAL has been around since 2010. The duo consists of Kim Yoon Joo on vocals, guitar, and keyboard, and Park Se Jin on vocals, melodeon, and xylophone. And given that they play a melodeon and a xylophone, I’m pretty sure you can guess that OKDAL is a quirky band. Their music sounds like a TV show opening, like “Full House.” It’s very happy and bouncy, easygoing music. Their music has a nice beat to it and has the quirky element to it. Their songs deal with difficulties of life, like love and adversity, so the songs are cute and nostalgic— nostalgic for carefree days where you didn’t have to deal with adult issues.
You have songs like “Intern,” which is about keeping optimistic in the face of adversity. It’s a really corny song. Any more corny and it would be literal corn. And then you have songs like “Love Advice,” a song that sounds like something you would hear in Animal Crossing. “Love Advice” is a lazy, happy song you would listen to while catching beetles in a butterfly net. In other words, it’s a song without a care in the world.
Keeping in theme with happy songs is CHEEZE. CHEEZE is made up of Dalchong the singer, Yasu the other singer/rapper, and Gooreumi the producer. CHEEZE sounds like a less corny and more romantic version of Okdal. An easy-going, enjoyable beat and crooning about love make up CHEEZE’s music catalog. And similar to OKDAL, CHEEZE’s music sounds like the opening to a K-drama. Songs like “How Do You Think” feel listless and vaguely optimistic.
Their music is jammed packed with sound. There are a ton of levels to CHEEZE’s songs that it’s hard to believe it’s only three people in the band. Their sound speaks to the talent of Gooreumi. CHEEZE songs are simplistically well put. The wall of sound, simple composition, and sweetness of CHEEZE’s songs remind me of songs from the 1960s like “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes or “Then He Kissed Me” by The Crystals. CHEEZE has great production values, making refreshing baths of sound. I recommend that you listen to “How Do You Think.”
7. The Kitsches
Now for something completely different: The Kitsches. The Kitsches are a hardcore punk band from Seoul. We have Jae Hyun on vocals, Gun Hong on guitar, Si Yoon on bass, and Seung Ho on drums. This is an awesome band! Their music is aggressive and to the knife’s point. The Kitsches make fast music— on average around a minute each. Their self-titled full length album is a little over 10 minutes in length. One of their EPs, Tonight, You Will Be Rejected is 9 minutes and 13 seconds total. The Kitsches have also experimented with other bands and made two split albums, one with The Dead Gakkahs and one with Assassination Squad.
I love this music and wish I could describe it better. It’s awesome, angry music. If energy was put into a song form, then the Kitsches would be playing that energy. They remind me of bands like Black Flag and post-hardcore bands like Silverstein and Hawthrone Heights. The Kitsches are pure fury. You get the screaming vocals with the fury of classic punk. Singer Ja Hyun’s wails are awesome. Gun Hong and Seung Ho’s furious playing boils the blood. Now, this is workout music. The band does have a Bandcamp page that you can visit by clicking HERE. If you guys like them, then show them some love!
6. Flash Flood Darlings
Stepping away from the acoustic and further into the electronica, we go into Flash Flood Darlings. I wish I could tell you the DJ behind Flash Flood Darlings, but I haven’t been able to find out the DJ’s real name. Flash Flood Darlings is a DJ who plays ambient electronica and dance music. He plays music that hit the mainstream a while back, but still maintains its original audience as well. His music transports you to another world. Flash Flood Darlings has described his music as a way to explore and express his emotions via melody.
So far, he only has one album out, Vorab and Tesoro. Vorab and Tesoro is described as a story, and the single “Byeol” is his coming out story. It’s a personal album. The low beat tempo and cool rhythm make their music pretty easy to get into. Some songs have more of a dance vibe to them, like “In The City.” It’s music you would listen while you fly over the city and look down at the lights.
Aseul is in the same ball park as Flash Flood Darlings. It’s ambient electronica music with a more romantic feel to it. The music video to “FISHER” has the singer, Aseul, draped in pink and blue lights while wandering around in the dark. Her latest album, New Pop, was produced entirely by herself. The album is on her Bandcamp page that I’ll link to if anybody reading is interested. Funny enough, Aseul’s New Pop reminds me of the movies “Drive” and “Blade Runner.” The album explores human emotions, but has a sense of the otherworldly— like the emotions of an android in “Blade Runner.” Human emotions stirring in something non-human. Or feeling non-human.
The song “Loveless” is otherworldly, and you can feel its 80s inspiration. I love that the 1980s are coming back in music. You hear dreamy synthesizers fusing with its shoegaze singer. I love this combination of music! Aseul shyly sings the troubles in her heart, and she attracts people with it. Aseul’s charm comes with the sincerity in her music. She bares her heart to the listener with her beautiful singing.
4. Danpyunsum and The Sailors
Danpyunsun and The Sailors is an experimental rock band that consists of Hoegidong Danpyunsun himself on vocals and guitar, Jan Dohyuk on drums, Choi Wooyoung on bass, and Jang Soohyun on the violin. And I want to emphasis “experimental” for this band because they have performed in different genres. Danpyunsun and the Sailors have a big resume. They’ve done folk music, classical music, and even a more pop sound influenced by both Eastern and Western artists. The interesting thing about this band is that Danpyunsun was already an established solo artist before his band. All he really needs is his voice and acoustic guitar. But, his “Sailors” add a ton to his music. The Sailors already sound like an established band, but together, Danpyunsun and The Sailors sound better. The “Sailors” give the music a new majestic life. It doesn’t feel like “The Sailors” work for Danpyunsun, even though his name is billed first. Everybody is an equal partner in the band and a valuable member.
Also, props to violinist Jang Soohyun and past violinist Kwon Jeeyoung, because, wow, I’ve never heard a violin so furious before. I bet the violin bursts into flames during a live show.
3. Cherry Coke
I originally fell in love with Cherry Coke because she shares a name with my favorite soda, but I completely fell in love with Cherry Coke because of her music. Cherry Coke has only released a few songs. “Like I Do” is her leading single at the moment. She has great vaporwave style to her music. I love her dreamy ambient music. It’s the best way I can describe it. I’ve noticed that vaporwave has really started to take off in a lot of underground music throughout the world. I’ve heard the influences in musicians everywhere. It’s strange to hear what is basically elevator music become popular, but it has. Cherry Coke has gotten inspired by this new music movement, and makes her minimalistic vaporwave. In my experience, vaporwave tends to have a lot of layers to it, but Cherry Coke has taken a minimalistic approach.
She’s pretty new, so there isn’t a whole lot to Cherry Coke yet, but keep an eye out for her.
Seoulmoon is my favorite new K-indie band. They’re comprised of Kim Hyemi on vocals and guitar, Shin Hyemi on drums and chorus, and Iruri on drums and chorus as well. As far as I know and according to my research, Seoulmoon released their first single late last year in December. I want to be wrong and say that they’ve been around for a longer time, but I can’t say with certainty. I’ve only been able to find a few songs by them. One thing I know for sure is that they haven’t released an album yet. It’s only been a few songs. I like their indie pop style; it’s bouncy and sweet. I’m bad at describing music but Seoulmoon has this ethereal sound in the back of their songs. It’s vaporwave, and again, it sounds like elevator music. Distinct and ambient, Seoulmoon reminds me of groups like Chromatics and The XX. It’s that dreamy sound. Seoulmoon mixes that with their instrumentals, and its comes together great!
1. Puer Kim
I love Puer Kim. She is sexy. I love powerful female vocals. Puer Kim sings with a raspy, quiet voice. Her voice feels intimate in your ear. Like Kim Yoon-Ah and Aseul before, Puer Kim oozes charisma and you become immediately attracted to her vibe. All three women have their distinct style of singing. Yoon-Ah has a powerful and demanding voice with different flavors, Aseul’s voice is sweet and cute, and Puer’s voice is red wine. Sour, bitter, and sweet to the taste, but you want to keep drinking. She’s intoxicating and dark.
Puer Kim is known for her lyricism and heavy subjects in her music. “Manyo Maash” is a damning song directed at the music industry in South Korea. “Manyo Maash” is her best known song, and I’ll link the MV down below. She is not afraid to let her opinion of her industry known. Puer make herself vulnerable by strapping herself to an electric chair, forced to sing while stared at by mannequins. The song comes from the album Purifier, which is more mainstream than her previous album, Korean Vowels. Ironically, Puer Kim struggled to get into the mainstream with her first album, but the song that criticizes the mainstream is the one that achieves fame. Ironic, but understandable. It stirred the pot and shone a light on Puer Kim.
What do you think of this week’s list of recommended artists from outside Kpop? Which one is your favorite?Are there additional K-indie groups or artists that you would recommend? Please let me know! I’m always on the look out for the newest fire.
KyeongJun is a writer for WTK, where he gushes about his love for Korean rock music (You guys need to listen to Jaurim). When not writing, he’s at the gym listening to the newest K-Rock bands. You can catch KyeongJun @ElCrazy_Diamond on Twitter (Don’t worry that it’s a bit barren—he’ll soon be posting regularly! You can also Tweet him if you know any cool new artists you would recommend!)
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