Keun Soli’s top ten songs to come out of Korea in 2016.

I think we can all agree that 2016 needs to go fuck itself. It’s been like a nightmare in which each separate month has been trying to outdo the last with how terrible it can be. I’m dying to see how December manages to ruin Christmas in an effort to beat November’s debacle.

But one thing that has been good is the music coming out of Korea. I’d even go as far as to say this year is better than 2015 (yeah take that 2015, you idiot).

So, without further ado allow us to rank the songs that soundtracked the year of our demise and pick our top ten from 2016.

10. Kirara – Blizzard

Korean electronic artist Kirara is so prolific that it’s intimidating. A quick look at her Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages reveal she’s produced a mountain of music for you to hear. Yet, her 2016 release Moves (which went on to spawn a live album, a remix album and a b-sides album) might be the best of the bunch. The album ties together a plethora of dance music influences from the world of house, big beat. drum and bass and techno and the result as an intensely lively audio tirade. Included here is standout moment Blizzard which also has an amazing live version you should listen to.

For fans of Hot Chip, Digitalism, Vitalic, Simian Mobile Disco.

9. Swiimers – Woodstock

Earlier this year we gushed about the alluring dream pop of Korean band Swiimers. Their excellent debut album came out back in January so just about qualifies for this list. We’re so glad it did because the touching and considerate music of Swiimers deserves to be recognized. While other inspirations such as synth pop and indie appear on the album, it’s the band’s love of all things dreampop/shoegaze that shines brightest. Lead singer and chief songwriter MQ is clearly trying to channel the fuzzy layers and hushed vocals of Cocteau Twins, MBV and Slowdive. This is especially true of the albums second single Woodstock with it’s gentle vocal delivery paired to perfection with the epic guitar work. This is really great stuff.

For Fans of MBV, Slowdive, Cocteau Twins, Lush. 

8. Secret Asian Men – Further of Us

Korean/Japanese collaborative project Secret Asian Men released their incredibly underrated debut album back in October. The album, which is available now on the ever excellent Electric Muse records is full of fuzz driven tracks that draw from the world of indie, grunge, shoe gaze and even psychedelia. While Further Of Us is quite possibly the bands most straight-forward pop track, it’s also deliciously infectious. It’s a lively song that makes you wanna see the band live and comes with a fun video featuring retro circus footage.

For fans of Two Door Cinema Club, Smashing Punpkins, Tokyo Police Club.

7. Big Phony – I Need To Be Alone

There’s no denying the major influence of Elliott Smith on the work of Big Phony and this is never truer than on I Need To Be Alone. Like Smith, Big Phony draws on the work of The Beatles but viewed through an American alt-folk lens. The whispered vocals feel similarly intimate and have the same harmonizing style Smith was famous for. There are worse people to look to for immediate influence than Elliott Smith and The Beatles though and Big Phony uses his inspirations to full effect channeling them into some beautiful, well-crafted songs. You can’t really go wrong with any of the offerings on his recent self-titled album but this track is especially worth listening.

For fans of Eliott Smith, The Beatles, Bright Eyes, Nick Drake.

6. Aseul – Fisher

This year, our favorite Korean electro/dream-pop artist changed her name from Yukari to Aseul. With a new name came a new album and a new direction. On New Pop Aseul has moved away from ambient soundscaping and began producing more driven and mature work. Of all the gems this album holds, our choice is the absolutely yummy Fisher. Think somewhere between Grimes and M83, this track really does bridge the gap between both her previous sound and her new one.

For fans of Grimes, M83.

5. 파라솔 (Parasol) – 멀어진 축제

Korean three-piece 파라솔 (or Parasol) features members from a surprisingly eclectic range of bands including Trampauline and the ever-brilliant Sultans of the Disco. In those bands, these members take a supportive role and it’s here in 파라솔 that they can stretch their creative legs. This track is emblematic of the creativity these guys have drawing on the same retro influences as Mac DeMarco and Ariel Pink.

For fans of Mac DeMarco, Real Estate, Ariel Pink.

4. Atlantic AM – Hello Stranger

Atlantic AM released a 4-track EP of choice alt rock cuts this year and the standout track Hello Stranger has made the Keun Soli top 10. Hello Stranger is pulsing Americana brilliance. It has a power-pop chorus which is is undeniable in its catchiness. In a weird way it acts like the perfect accompaniment to Brand New’s 2016 single I am A Nightmare. The lyrics are a tribute to late night rendezvous with old acquaintances and work really well.

For fans of The Replacements, Whiskeytown, Brand New.

3. Sears – 빨간풍선 (Red Balloon)

We’ve written pretty extensively about how much we dig this track. (Red Balloon) is a percussion heavy psych track that boasts some outstanding production work. It’s a song that wears it’s 60s influences firmly on it’s sleeve but that still manages to seem incredibly modern. The nods to Tomorrow Never Knows sit here nicely next to more contemporary references like Tame Impala, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Animal Collective.

For fans of The Beatles, Tame Impala.

2. Jambinai – For Everything that You Lost.

Avant garde post-rock band Jambinai returned this year with possibly their hardest hitting body of work to date. The stunning 8-track album, A Hermitage, sees the band at their least forgiving and most aggressive. Yet, it’s on one of the albums gentler moments were they really stand out. For Everything That You Lost is an incredibly powerful track where the band make their trademark traditional Korean instruments writhe in agony. Over the course of seven minutes this dramatic track unfolds in a torturous score with several movements that invite the listener to interpret a narrative. In this sense, For Everything That You Lost has an operatic feel yet remains explicitly rock. A truly moving experience.

For fans of Deftones, Sigur Ros, Explosions in the Sky.

1. Nice Legs – Just Pretend

Number one with a bullet is the blisteringly fun Just Pretend from our friends and firm Keun Soli favorites Nice Legs. In at a perfectly minuscule 1.21 Just Pretend sees the band try their hand at (kind of) rapping as Lewtrakimou and Henry Demos fall out with one another, fall back in with one another and then immediately fall back out. Backed by an equally fun video, this is a simple song but is remarkably effective introduction to the band and a great listen again and again.

(Footnote – this came out on the awesome Z Tapes and you should go and check out the rest of their stuff).

For fans of fun, beer, blondes.

By Jamie Finn (@jamiefinn2209)

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