It honestly took me a while to decide which album I wanted to write about. I don't really like to write unless I'm "inspired to", because if I don't love the album entirely, I don't want to talk about it as much. As I sifted through the different December albums, I chose the new release by Nell. I absolutely love this band, and they are one of the first "K-Indie" groups that I listened to. I think that music like this deserves attention, and that people should know more about it. There's just an unnamed "something" about their songs, that thing that draws you in, though you can't really explain it. It's because of that something that I can't resist this album.
Nell's "Holding onto Gravity", released December 4th 2012!
Though Nell may seem like a recent band to some, they were formed in 1999. The band often performed in Hongdae, and later signed to Goesoo Indigene, and switched to Woollim Entertainment in 2006. They have continued to put out great music, and have ranked at number one in several album charts, and won awards in the Rock category. As far as members go there is Lee Jae Kyung on Lead Guitar, Lee Jung Hoon on Bass, Jung Jae Won on Drums, and Kim Jong Wan is the vocalist, as well as a guitarist and pianist/keyboardist. (Kim Jong Wan recently appeared on G-Dragon's colo album for the song "Today") Their music is Indie-Alternative Rock, that is influenced by Brit-Rock bands. When that kind of classic British Rock sound mixes with Korean Indie, it makes for some pretty amazing sounding music! They released teasers for the album before its release, and it really got people amped up for its reveal (You can watch the teaser Here). This album has a really enchanting sound to it, almost like a mix of being magical and mysterious. The cover art replicates this with a portrait of the moon, that's been made into more of an abstract piece of art that draws you in. Both their experience in the music industry and their influences show through, making for a unique and engaging album. Onto the songs!
- Coin Seller
The opening for the song is almost like an appetizer, it's a short instrumental clip that introduces you to the sounds of the band. It slowly fades in with footsteps and the sound of people going about their day, and slowly the background noise quiets down until it's the music by itself. I love the way it was recorded to sound like a street performer in a subway tunnel, or something along those lines. That kind of echo they achieved sounds really natural and gives the allusion that you are right there as they are playing. The music sounds slow and methodical, and it sounds slightly sad as if it's telling a story. It's very simple and beautiful, and I think it was the perfect fit to open up this album.
- White Night (백야)
This song was the one that they used for their Music Video. I loved the abstract and artistic style of the video, with the frozen sets, and the industrial style props. The actress, Lim Soo Jung, in the video did a fantastic job, and I feel like she was able to match the level of the song. Both the video and the song have a dream-like, etherial, look and feel to them. (You can watch the MV Here.) The lyrics to the song are very touching, and the way that they are sung express the feelings further. The song, simplified at least, is about lost love that you cannot let go of. The song says many times, "I need you", "Come back to me", and "I can't get over you". The words sound so personal yet poetic at the same time, and I feel that they really express the cold and deep hurt of losing a person that you love, however they are lost. That, no matter how many times you try to conjure them up, time is frozen like ice, and it can't be done. That every breath is full of memories, that you cannot erase them, and all that is left of them is their breath.
As you get to know the words better, the music video makes more sense. It's not just something artsy for the sake of creativity, but a kind of physical depiction of what the lyrics are trying to describe. I absolutely love the voice of Nell's lead singer, it's not just that his range is incredible, but the passion that he puts into it as well. To be completely honest, the bridge of "I can't get over you" really did make me cry when I heard it. (I'm the type who doesn't cry for Romeo and Juliet or Titanic, so that takes some skill to do!) The harmonies in the song are also great, though there aren't many of them. It's not just the singing that I love, I think that the music for this is gorgeous as well! It's really what give the song that "dream-like and etherial" feeling, that I mentioned before. The music almost sounds like it's being stretched as it fades in and out, and the light effects give it just the right touch. All of the instruments work together perfectly, and none of them are overpowering. Because of all of these factors working together, this really has to be one of the most addicting songs that I have heard all year.
- Holding onto Gravity
This is obviously the title song of the album, though White Night may be more "popular" because it's the Music Video Song. The fast piano paired with the slow vocals at the beginning of the song are a great contrast. It somehow works, instead of just sounding like chaos. Although I like the intro for this song, it's not throughout the entire song, and I like the rest of it as well. I think that the percussion in this track is especially good, like the strategic clashing of the symbols, and stood out the most to me (besides the piano during the beginning). It's always great to have a song where you really get to hear the talent that the Drummer has. The addition of the Cello also added to the forlorn sound of the song, and I always love Cello in a song (when done right). This is another kind of sad song of not being with who you love, and you feel heavy because of it. It slows down at the bridge and each word is especially pronounced, and there's a slight harmony, giving more weight to the lyrics. I think this song is equally as enchanting as the others, and matches the cold feeling of White Night (and the loneliness of space, like the cover). While this song isn't the type you typically put on to sing along with, it's the kind that you would want to put on when you just need some good music injected into your day. At least for me, there's times when I think, "I need good music right now", and this kind of brilliant song is perfect for those occasions.
The final track starts off with the sound of rain, and while a lot of artists use rain, I like the fact that they did as well. At first the percussion-bass sound seems like it's off tempo, but slowly, as it repeats itself, it seems more consistent. Some people may be thrown off by it, is you need everything to be even and in "normal" time signatures, though I think it grows on you the more you listen. The vocals seem very easygoing for this song, and you can hear each breath the singer takes before the lines. I like the rain sound because it matches the song, in that it sounds like them playing at a coffee shop while it's raining outside, plus the song mentions rain itself. While the other songs had a kind of emotional and sad theme to them, this song is more casual and imaginative and describes the city during the rain, and the blue color of it. It's a really soothing and gently brings the album to a close, after a roller coaster of emotions from the previous songs.
This is a short album, sadly, so that's all the songs that are on it! Although it's short, it's packed with emotion and talent. Nell is not a band to overlook, from their style to their lyrics they are an original. Holding onto Gravity is a wonderful album that I think everyone should listen to at least once, and own if they are looking for some great music. Sadly, it's not currently on iTunes, but some of Nell's older music is. You can buy the physical album on Yes Asia or Kpop Plus for roughly $12-$15. If you already have heard, or own, this album let me know what you thought of it!
I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did, and will continue to support this band.
See you next time you jump down the Rabbit hole,