I wanted to do this post when we hit the 2014 halfway mark, but it was the summer of kpop comebacks and I had an opinion on everything. It took a lot of “””””trimming””””” (this post is still close to 2000 words…), I narrowed it down to my three top albums of 2014 so far. Let me know what your favorites have been so far and make sure to check the end of the post – I’m giving away a copy of BTS’ Skool Luv Affair !
IN THE LONELY HOUR – Sam Smith
Featured Track: Leave Your Lover
I love love love Sam Smith and his debut album, In The Lonely Hour, was every bit as exquisite as I thought it would be. It’s a fittingly titled album filled with lush wistful songs about unrequited love. In an interview Sam gave for BBC Sound of 2014, he says: “I’ve never been in love with someone who has loved me back. So I wanted to write an album about unrequited love. An album for people who are lonely.” UPPERCUT TO MY HEART. Sam has an amazing voice with an incredible vocal range and an even more impressive ability to glide seamlessly from one end of that spectrum to the other (as heard in his album trailer feat some of my favorite songs). I’m not much of a fan of falsetto, but I’ve made an exception *^* I still find myself playing the album once a week nearly three months after it’s release.
“Stay With Me” has gotten the most radio airplay and rightly so! It’s gorgeous and the choir in the chorus knocks me off my feet. Howeeeever, I’m starting to get a little sick of how often I hear it and I can’t wait till Sam promotes something else off the album. Hopefully, it’ll be my current favorite song which is “Leave Your Lover”. Originally, I was convinced that I wasn’t going to like it because the title was crass (all the track titles could use some work lbr), but it’s quiet and lovely and it sets the tone for the rest of the album. It’s so easy for unrequited love songs to be filled with bitterness and it’s so common to hear songs where the narrator lashes out at someone’s significant other (I listen to Tswift, but yknow what I mean) or self-deprecates because they’re not The One. With a song title like “Leave Your Lover,” I was expecting to a dance beat with resentment all over, but I was surprised when there wasn’t any. There doesn’t seem to be resentment in any of the songs, which is so surprisingly and refreshing given the topic of one-sided love. Do we remember when everyone was head over heels for Adele’s “Someone Like You”? I think one of the aspects of Adele’s “Someone Like You” that resonated with people was the sincerity in the message that she was trying to convey – “I love you, but you don’t and that’s okay” – and it’s this same exact sincerity that’s reflected in all of the songs in ITLH. The tone and feel of this entire album is as if Adele’s “Someone Like You” were a 12+ part event (would I even survive?!). All of the songs are especially heartbreaking considering Sam came out shortly after the album was released and explained that some of the songs are about men he loved that didn’t and wouldn’t ever feel the same about him.
ANYWAY, I love this album. It’s sad and dreamy. Very samesound if I’m being honest, but we listen to certain artists because we expect a specific sound from them and I can be forgiving. I can’t wait to hear what Sam will release next and although I love unrequited, I hope sincerely that he finds someone wonderful to write love songs for :'[
(If you like the sound of In The Lonely Hour, but found it too passive, you might also fancy a listen to James Arthur’s eponymous debut album. It fits under the musical umbrella of warbly-male-vocalist-with-English-accent-sings-sad-love-songs, but James Arthur’s singing style has that grit and tragedy that Sam’s does not.)
REANIMATION – Lights & Motion
Featured Track: Home
I first heard “Reanimation,” the title track, in a performance on So You Think You Can Dance and my first thought was SPACE MIX. I’ve been working on a space-inspired mix for 8tracks, but I might have to shelve it because Reanimation, the album, is possibly the earth/space mix I’ve been waiting for.
Reanimation is almost entirely instrumental save for the last track, which means I can chop out that huge paragraph where I cry about the artist (you’re welcome). That’s not to say Christoffer Franzen isn’t AMAZING: “I learned all the instruments I needed for what I could hear in my head.” IDOL. That kind of dedication to your art and your craft is incredible and absolutely worth aspiring to.
The sound of Reanimation is ~heavenly~ full of soft delicate guitars, ambient noise, pianos and triangles and drums that build to sweeping crescendos. So dreamy and cinematic. If you don’t mind the busy-ness of “Epilogue”, I think it’s worth it not to skip the track because the album is one 70-minute story and you have to hear the whole thing. I can see several tracks used as bgm in an artsy visual Bildungsroman piece; I listen to this album and I itch to travel with a backpack, map and a camera, falling asleep in front of a sunny window on a long distance train. It’s a great album to listen to when you’re working because even the louder songs aren’t so loud that they’re distracting. If you like M83, Explosions In The Sky or God Is An Astronaut, but need a break for something softer, then this might be it.
SKOOL LUV AFFAIR – 방탄소년단 (BTS)
Featured Track: Boy In Luv (상남자)
Bangtan’s Dark & Wild album came out last week, but I haven’t heard it yet because I’m still hung up on Skool Luv Affair , which has been, hands down, my favorite kpop release this year. The stage is set for D&W because SLA was well-produced, cohesive and had a fantastic title track. I temporarily revoke the honor of “Everything I Want In A Pop Song” from EXO’s “Baby Don’t Cry” and bestow it on 2014’s pop masterpiece “Boy In Luv”. So many “hit songs” take dozens of listens before they leave an impression and I find that I end up liking a lot of music by default; I listen to it so many times that I get brainwashed into thinking it’s enjoyable (ie. EXO’s overdose mini – although Overdose as a single was the BOMB). “Boy In Luv” was good alllll the way through and the rap verses and vocal parts had just as much impact even if I think the line distribution could be better. GURL IN LUV.
The rest of the album is solid as well. There’s a nice mix of upbeat songs and a few mid-tempo songs that could pass for ballads. My second favorite track is “Cypher Pt. 2: Triptych” because it’s DISGUSTING. It’s sick how good Rapmon and Suga’s verses are (sorry J-hope, soon young padawan). I want to karaoke to Triptych and just angrily yell Rapmon’s English verse that’s how much I love it. Suga’s fast rap at the end bye YASSSSSSSSSSS. BTS d r a g g i n g my lifeless body through a soggy field and all I can do is thank them for the free mud facial.
I think it’s just really cool that BTS has stuck with their school concept for three mini-albums. The industry moves through trends and concepts so quickly that it could have gotten stale, but it was always interesting to see how they would re-invent the concept for an upcoming album. It’s also a plus that for a group where the average age is 19, school isn’t so much a concept as it is a recent life experience. They’re rapping about the school system and graduation songs for their peers. “Spine Breaker (등골브레이커)” on SLA is literally about being good to your parents – it’s about filial piety!! Even the album titles are fitting – remember when we were part of that typing mess in high school? Seriously, HOW ADORABLE. I know that they’re ending the school trilogy officially, but I hope they still continue to make music that genuinely reflects where they are in life. Also please continue having INCREDIBLE choreography.
BTS were my favorite rookies of 2013 and I’m terribly excited for the release of Dark & Wild I have a feeling that it won’t top SLA for me, but they always give it their all and I love when you can tell a group really enjoys what they do. I really liked the album – so much that I not only got a copy for myself (& thanks to my friend V, it’s complete with ♡ a signed note from Suga ♡), but I also got brand new unopened copy to give away!
✧ SKOOL LUV AFFAIR GIVEAWAY ✧
There are two ways to enter the giveaway! Please make sure to read the instructions (below) to make sure that your entries are valid. This giveaway is open worldwide~
1. First, gain an entry by commenting on this post telling me what your favorite BTS song is. You can choose anything from their discography including pre-debut work. Once you have left a comment, log into the Rafflecopter module below and under “Leave a Blog Post Comment,” click “I COMMENTED.” Make sure you use the same name and email address between your comment and the Rafflecopter entry.
2. Once you’ve commented, you can enter again if you have a Twitter account. Get a second entry by tweeting the following message:
“ENTER TO WIN @grandeur: ‘FAV ALBUMS OF 2014 & SKOOL LUV AFFAIR GIVEAWAY’ ✧ HEARTMADE ✧ http://blog.susanwu.net/2014/08/fav-albums-of-2014-and-giveaway”
Then, just like in the first entry, log into Rafflecopter below, but this time, tell me what your Twitter username is so that I can verify the tweet.
The giveaway ends September 3, 2014 at 11:59PM EST and the winner will be notified by email. If the winner does not claim their prize in 48 hours, I will select someone else. For more information, see the Terms & Conditions link in the Rafflecopter module.
Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway. The winner is Ana from the US.
Feel free to tell me about your favorite albums of 2014!
(Honorable mention to f(x) who had the 2014 AESTHETIC OF THE YEAR)