Music Review: FT Island "Five Treasure Box"

I have to say that when I saw that FT Island had a new album coming out, I was so excited! When I was starting to become interested in Korea I watched the Drama "You're Beautiful" and quickly fell in love with the voices on Lee Hong Ki, Jang Geun Suk, and Jung Yong Hwa, and bought the album before I even finished watching the series. Jang Geun Suk is an actor as well as a solo artist, Jung Yong Hwa is in one of my other favorite bands, CN Blue, and Lee Hong Ki is the "Front Man" for FT Island. After that Drama, I plunged into the music of CN Blue and FT Island! They had something that I loved about them. A good, clean, rock and roll sound, produced by true musicians! I loved them as individuals from watching the show, along with interviews and bloopers, but it was their music and talent that really drew me in, and kept me interested. I reviewed Ear Fun by CN Blue, have yet to get to Jang Geun Suk's music, and today I'll be reviewing FT Island! I found it appropriate to write about one of my favorite bands after not being able to write for a couple weeks, and I'm glad I got back in time to see their comeback!

FT Island's 4th Album Five Treasure Box, released September 10th 2012!

Don't get me wrong, I love the electronic Pop music, complete with stylish clothes and dancing, but I like to take a break from Pop and listen to something with a classic rock and roll feel to it. Although they are considered to be K-Pop, FT Island doesn't dance or just sing in their songs, and are more in the "K-Rock" category. They all have an important role in the band, from the instruments they plat to their vocal ranges, and if one of them left it would not be the same! Although "Pop" really just means "what's popular", it has it's own genre and sounds to it, depending on the time period and country. At the same time there are still bands that have stayed true to their original sound from the beginning. Sure, they evolved and added new elements as years went by and they matured, but I highly respect a band that I can immediately say, "I know who this is!", because it sounds like them. If I listen to the radio, or put by MP3 Player on shuffle, I can pick out the sound of FT Island from everyone else, even if I have never heard the song before. (There are many bands like this, including Pop groups, so please don't think I'm excluding them.) 

As I said earlier, I originally heard Lee Hong Ki before I looked up the band. After I found the group I started gobbling up all of their music, playing it on repeat on Groove Shark, and picking out my favorite songs. I watched Music Videos, got posters as Birthday gifts, and quickly began learning the names and role of the different members. Although the Lead Vocalist was the reason I looked up the band, I can really say that I like each member equally and think them all as important and talented members of the group. The group formed in 2007, and released their first album "Cheerful Sensibility". FT Island stands for "Five Treasure Island", as there are five members in the band. They have won several awards since then, including many Golden Disc Awards, starred in Dramas, and performed live countless times. Their fan group is named after a song on their first album, "Primadonnas", and I have to say it's one of my favorite fan names yet! There's something classic and elegant about it, with a hit of "fierce", that I think fits the band and it's listeners perfectly. They have released albums in both Japan and Korea, and have become popular world wide. The first member is Choi Jong Hoon, the oldest member and band leader, lead guitar, keyboard, occasional vocalist, lyricist, and composer, born in 1990. Next is Lee Hong Ki, who is the second oldest, also born in 1990, lead vocals and the frontman. Lee Jae Jin is next, born in 1991, and is on bass and occasional vocals, and also help with writing at times. Born in 1992 is Song Seung Hyun, second guitar, vocals, and rapper. Finally, there is the Maknae of the group Choi Min Hwan, born in 1992, who is the drummer and is also an occasional vocalist. This is the group after 2009, before then there was a different member in Song Seung Hyun's spot, Oh Won Bin, who left the group for his solo career. They kept their original sound, even with a new member, and Song Seung Hyun really is a part of the band and I don't think of him any differently for coming in a bit later. 

Now that all of the Bios are finished, finally, let's move on to the new album! Like most of their albums, this one has a classic rock vibe to it, like the Beatles and other '60s rock groups. Nothing too harsh, but also not being too mellow either. It has balance to it, giving you enough to dance to without feeling like you're in a mosh-pit. (They may sound like how I described Ear Fun, because they have like sounds, but they aren't exact.) I believe that you can tell who influenced a band by their sound, and FT Island sounds similar to older, Western, Rock 'n Roll, and I love it! The album is "Five Treasure Box", similar to the band name, and it makes sense. In other albums you did get to hear a the other members sing from time to time, but the lead vocalist was the one you heard the most. In this one I feel like all of the members get showcased, and not just their instruments, but also their vocal ability. They were never "drowned out" in the past, but it seems like they all shine in this one. It's really like a gift, or box, from each member. Since the album is part new songs and part Korean remakes, you get a gift of the old and the new from the band. The artwork is simple and clever, with a box for each member containing their favorite things and stuff that represents who they are. I wouldn't have it any other way. The title song "I Wish" was made into a Music Video, and has been performed live many times already, but more about the song itself next. 

- I Wish ()

The song starts with a Spanish-Tango feel to it, complete with a brass section, that reminds me of Ska music. I listened to Ska music alone for a few years, so anything with Trumpets (or Saxophones) is an instant win for me (the Tango feel is also something that I've grown to love in K-Pop since Monalisa by MBLAQ, and Irreversible by GaIn)! It has a consistent beat throughout the verses, that builds up as the verse goes on. I love how the guitar and drums are in sync, and the other instruments sort of "embellish" them with notes of their own that match the sound. After the verses, it sound more like a mash up. You get the sound of FT Island that you are used to, only for the chorus. You want to switch from a slower tango, to jumping around while flailing you arms and hair around, and I mean that in the best possible sense. While I love the whole song, I think that the bridge, and the chorus right after, are my favorite parts of the track. The guitar picks up, getting faster and higher, and ends abruptly to give impact. The brass takes over, while the other instruments slowly join in again. During the bridge you get to hear a different vocalist, as Lee Jae Jin takes over with a rap sequence. I use the term "rap" loosely, since it's not really a Hip-Hop kind of rap, but more of a mesh of talking and singing. Hong Ki joins back in for the chorus, and you hear a subtle harmony of the other members in the background. The music starts and stops while he sings, and slowly go back into their normal pace. If you listen to the instrumental alone, tuning out the singing, you really appreciate the song more. It's complex, and it takes a lot of skill to play powerfully and not overwhelm the vocals. Though I think that is why Lee Hong Ki is the lead vocalist, because his voice is so powerful and intense that it can keep up with the instruments of the other members. The lead guitar really shined in this song as well, and you got to see how talented Jong Hoon is. The best thing about this song is that it's pure fun. 

As for the Music Video... I'm still unsure how I feel about it. I felt like they could have done better. Their video for "I Hope" was great! It has a fun and creative story line to it, and I found this one lacking. It seemed a lot like B1A4's Baby I'm Sorry video, with barely emotional people sulking around a house with the same girl, being happy at one moment and sad at another, with occasional shots of the band. I don't blame FT Island as a band for this, but rather the person in charge of the video. It could have been done a lot better, in my opinion, and the only reason I'm disappointed is because I have loved their past videos so much and have high expectations of them. But when it comes to live performances, FT Island takes the cake! They sounds the same live as they do on the record, and I really appreciate that! Since they each play an instrument, you can watch your favorite member even if they aren't playing, and it makes for a much more entertaining show. (Check out I Wish live on M-Countdown Here) The other thing that I have to say, on my very long review of one song, is that FT Island has great style fashion wise. Their clothes look more casual than other groups, like they could actually wear them outside. It's more street fashion, while still looking edgy and stylish, instead of looking like costume for stage, yet it's still concert appropriate. Each member has his own unique look, but they still look like a group. 

The Music Video makes a bit more sense when you know the lyrics to the song, but still doesn't portray them perfectly. The name of the song is "I Wish", and several times it says things like "I wish it was me (who was with you)" "I wish it was you (who was with me)", "I wish you would accept my love". It's about only thinking of that ones person, and being desperate that they were with you, instead of the person they are currently with. So many people can relate to the song, and I think that the lyrics to the entire song are beautiful. The only criticism, is that "Lonely" wasn't pronounced perfectly, but I still could tell what they were saying. The entire thing is great to sing along to, the lyrics make sense, they can reflect how you feel, and the music adds to it by making you want to dance along as you sing. If you can't tell by now, this is my favorite song off of the album. 

- Your Words ()

This song reminds me more of the rock I listened to during the early 2000's. Because it sounded so familiar at first, I wanted to keep listening to it. The song starts out strong, and slows down as time passes, and picks up again at every chorus. It sounds very influenced by "Western" music, yet it still has a distinctive Korean flair to it. Just like every song does, once I really listen to it and take apart the different styles and sections of the instrumental, I just gawk at how talented they are. This song is a great contrast to the last one. It is more consistent, instead of sounding like a mash up, and is made more for listening than dancing. For days when I just want to lay on my bed and listen to good music, I would pick this song. The drums are slower and the other instruments match it's pace, giving the song a mellow feeling without sounding too dark. Throughout the song there are parts with harmonies that are beautiful. It may sounds strange, but the harmonies in this song enhance the lead voice, instead of blending with it or matching it. The guitar solo around three minutes into the song is short and sweet, and moves into a part with very little guitar, switching into a more acoustic sound, and the drums switch to the cymbals. The previous song went from strong guitar to no guitar, yet it sounds completely different. As the song comes to an end it's a slow transition, as each instrument gets to finish it's part, each one sounds like it's dropping out slowly, and they get a chance to really shine. It's almost like a "fade out", without any kind of effects needed. 

Something about FT Island is that they have some of the most beautiful and expressive lyrics out there. The meaning of the song, as far as I can tell, is a person who has been left alone by the person that they love, even though they promised to never leave them. They spend time waiting for the person, who never comes, revisiting places that they used to go together. As their heart slowly breaks over time, they remember the words of the person who promised them they would never feel this way. "I'll never leave you, those are your forgotten words, I'll never leave you, your discarded words." It's a song about hurt, you're hurt because you love them and they are gone, yet at the same time you hate them for leaving you. Your heart is confused and empty, "clenched, breaking down, and disappearing." Although it's a sad song, it has a kind of beauty to is as well. The vocals and instrumentals of the song express this as well, and you can tell the type of song it is even if you don't know the words. 

- Stay With Me

Lee Hong Ki sings with so much conviction and passion in every song, it's something that can't be trained into a person, but has to come from their soul. Just as the song is made all the better by how strong the vocals are, the instruments are played with that same passion. This song is so emotional, and has to be my other favorite off of the album. It's as if every note, whether it's played or sung, sounds as if it's in pain. I always feel as though the song ended too soon when I listen to it. The lyrics seem as if they are similar to the last song, as if it's telling a story of the person's emotions. Although they were happy and in love with the person, they did not love them back and weren't happy with them. And even though they know this, they still "selfishly" love them too much to let them go, and are begging them to stay with them. It's as if they are screaming out "I love you so much, stay with me! Please, stay with me!" I feel like crying when I hear this song because it is so heart wrenching! It's the honestly of this song that makes me love FT Island. 

The music of it, as I said earlier, matched the lyrics. The song fades in, growing in volume and clarity. I love the grainy radio feeling to it as it starts, then the guitar interrupts and brings it "into focus". It sounds as if it's in a struggle. Between the pain and talking to yourself, and then talking to the person and yelling, calling out for them with all of your heart, and going back to thinking about it yourself out of breath, before building up the strength to scream again. The sound of the guitar and bass around the two minute mark seem more angry than sad, since the voice isn't there to add that to it, letting you see both side of the coin as it were. The song comes to an abrupt end, and I can almost hear the person trying to breathe once it ends. You're left with the final words of the song, "I loved you, I'm missing you, and I'm waiting for you alone. Stay with me."

- U (All I Want is You)

After a list of sad songs, it's time for an upbeat, peppy, song! This one gets stuck in my head the most. If you read my blog often, you know that I really dislike comparing artists to one another, but it's a pretty effective way to describe things at time. This song sounds more like CN Blue's music than their other music. It has the similar build up and sound of their recent album Ear Fun, and it makes sense because they tour together and are close, and the reason is probably because they have similar musical tastes. I found myself being drawn to the drums the most in this song, as far as instruments go. The percussion and bass drew me in the most. The guitars were still there, but I felt as if they were enhancing the drums and bass, more than taking the spotlight. I have no problem with this, since each member needs a chance to shine in the album, and this is another favorite song because of that. Around the two minute mark the guitars get a chance to shine as well, with a great electric solo. The vocals in this song are also great! You get to hear both Lee Jae Jin and Hong Ki sing in the song, which give it more of a duet feeling.While Hong Ki tend to focus on power in his vocals, Jae Jin is more about restraint. Both of them are great singers, and since Jae Jin has a much smoother voice than Hong Ki, which gives good contrast. As the song progresses, Jae Jin's voice goes higher and higher, and you really get to see his true vocal range! That, along with the harmonies of the other members throughout the song, make this a true "band song", where you notice each of the members. The only criticism for the English is that "Knock, knock, knock" sounds a bit like, "Nah, nah, nah," or "No, no, no", and I could not figure out what they were saying for sure until I looked up the lyrics. Though I imagine that those parts make the song fun to perform live, and have the whole audience join in on the knocking!

Lyrically, it's also a great song. It was composed by the band leader, Choi Jong Hoon, which is why it sounds so much like FT Island. This is the first full on love song of the album, it doesn't have sad undertones or a story of breaking up, it's just about only loving that one person. Out of anything and anyone, "all I want is you". My favorite line has to be, "My heart is riding the passing wind, la la la, it's dancing"! From the sound of the song, and the consistent "U, all I want is you", you can tell what kind of song it is without me explaining it. The best part, as I said earlier, is the group effort in the song. Multiple people sing, the different instruments all get a chance to shine, and Jong Hoon was able to write and compose the song, and that is what being a band is all about! 

- Let Her Go... ()

After so many song that focus on strong instrumentals, this song is a break in the album with a slow piano as the main instrument. Gradually acoustic guitars and chimes join in as Hong Ki sings, and the song picks up. By the chorus there are drums and stronger guitar, but they are still slow paced and don't get highlighted. The guitar takes over for a short solo, and Hong Ki cuts in once again. The song is short, simple, and touching. The song has to be sung with soul, my a person who put their whole heart into it and truly means it, and that is why only Hong Ki could sing a ballad like this. His voice is so honest and breathtaking, he can make you cry without even knowing why you are! The mournful sound of the piano and the chimes add so much to the song, yet I can't help but want more vocals. Since the song is so simply and powerfully done, I can't go too much into it. The entire song flows well and seems to go by too quickly as it slowly fades away at the end. 

The lyrics are beautiful, once again. Similar to Stay With Me, it's an internal struggle between being speechless and screaming. Your hearts shouts "Let her go" or "Forget Her", but you can't forget her even if you die. It's a touching yet painful love song, and even though I am not the biggest ballad person around, I love the song. 

- Paper Plane

While the first five songs were new, these next five are Korean re-makes of their Japanese songs. First up is Paper Plane, which they performed live along with their title song (click Here to watch)! This song features three of the members for vocals, hurray! Jae Jin starts off the song with his smooth vocals, Hong Ki joins in to take over the chorus, like in all I Want is You. Song Seung Hyun sings "like paper plane" a few times in the bridge, and then is able to sing a verse on his own. At first it's difficult to tell that there are three people singing, since Jae Jin and Seung Hyun's voices match each other so well! It almost sounds like an echo when they harmonize, but if you listen closely you can tell. I also love the subtle addition of the high notes being sung in the background, which come in more later in the song. The more you listen to the song, the more you notice. Yet you can also just enjoy it without dissecting it, like I am. The guitar is well done, and the music has really great balance throughout the song. When the song ends it's a sudden stop, like slamming on the breaks. 

Okay, I'm going to get this out of the way. The English in the song has pretty bad grammar. If they added a few more words in their sentences, they would be much better, but to make the words fit the music better it gets choppy. You know what else, who cares? I understand what they are trying to say, and it's actually a really cool and inspirational song, so having broken English really doesn't bother me as much as people think it would! It's about placing your heart on a paper plane and throwing it as far as you can. When you are flying that high no one can hurt you or bring you down, it's about continuing to chase after your dreams! Just fly away from other people, because "no one can stop you when you fly".

- WANNA GO () 

Another remake comes after, with a similar sound. You can tell that they are older songs because they have that same sound as all the songs FT Island has put out. Jae Jin wrote the lyrics, and Seung Hyun and Min Hwan composed the track. Once again, three of the members sing throughout the song, balancing each other out. I can also tell it was originally Japanese, since J-Pop (and J-Rock) have a distinctive sound, that this song shares. It reminds me a bit of GO! by FLOW, which you may know if you watch Naruto (wow, that all rhymed and I did not mean it to...). Not too much, but the style is similar. I can imagine this being the opening to an Anime that's part action, but also romantic, if that makes any sense. This is a great "driving with the windows down" kind of song. It is upbeat and exciting, and is perfect to sing along with at the top of your lungs. I can't help but tap my foot and join in. Jae Jin and Hong Ki have great vocal chemistry in the song, and even though Jae Jin has a great restrained and cool voice he matches the energy of the song well while "keeping his cool", and the parts when Seung Hyun is able to add rap sections throughout the song take it to another level, and you get to hear him in his element as well.

The parts of "Go, go, go, go!" make you want the pump your fist and cheer them on, and the part with the "na-na-nas" at the end is a great way to close the song. Some people said that it is better in Japanese, and I can see that since the style suits Japanese better, but I love this version as well.

- Life

While different members were able to shine on their own in the first few songs, the songs from their Japanese album really showcase them all at once, which I enjoy. This song was composed by Jong Hoon, and the lyrics were written by Hong Ki, which shows that all of the members are able to write, sing, and perform at the same level. The song has a slower pace, but is not a ballad at all. It's another inspirational song about finding yourself, and living your life. My favorite part of the song is how it goes up and down between the higher and lower parts, like climbing up and down a hill. The songs wasn't one toned in the least, just in the chorus alone it moved around a lot. It still flowed nicely, while still keeping you listening and entertained with the rises and drops. I probably could have guessed that the song was written by Hong Ki without looking it up, since they really sounds like something he would write. As a person, you can tell he went through a lot to chase his dreams and now he is grateful for what he has and wants to share it with the world. The message of finding your true self, your life, is performed passionately since all of the members can relate to it. It's a great song and I'm really happy that it was put on this album, and remade as a Korean song. 

- Compass ()

The next song also has lyrics by Hong Ki, and was composed by Min Hwan and Seung Hyun! The intro for the song is great, with a musical sounding tone from the speakers are the guitars tune in and start. Usually that sounds makes you cringe, but it gave a more artistic and "live" feeling to the song instead. The instrumental for this song is very instracite. Both guitars have their own parts, as usual, but they sound more distinct in this one. There's an acoustic sound, along with an electric, and while the acoustic is strumming along, the electric is playing it's own way and later gets a solo. The bass also adds so much to the song, and it wouldn't be as good without it. The drums are constant and aren't too fancy, but the vocals give room for you to really get a change to listen in on them. Multiple vocals take over the song, and like most of them, Hong Ki gives a powerful feeling to it with his almost strained voice saying "I'm sorry" and "I love you". Instead of it sounding like there is a lead vocalist, it's about the band as a whole. The bridge is great, with that "ahh-ahh" break in it, complete with the usual great harmonies. The song as a whole is great, is really their style, and is a good break in the song between the high intensity tracks.

- Let it Go! 

Finally, we get to the final track on the album! The song was fully written by Jong Hoon, Hong Ki, and Min Hwan, and is a great final note to the album. This was released as a Japanese Music Video last year (2011), which you can watch Here. They also performed this song, along with the title track, on M-Countdown which you can watch Here. I didn't see an incredible difference between the Japanese and Korean version of the song, they both sound great and I don't really prefer either of them myself. When it is performed live it has a much more raspy feeling to it, which makes it a lot more fun. I love the parts of "let it go, my baby!" There are a lot of short English phrases throughout the song like "wanna drive you crazy" and "we can go anywhere", plus "make it happy and free"! I cannot resist songs like this and I want to sing along with the English phrases so much and jump around. This is how FT Island is, they can inspire and excite you at the same time. You want to dance around and chase your dreams at the same time. This has the best Rock sounds out of all of the songs. There are some effects adding throughout, but they add and don't take away from the song at all. Overall, it has addictive Engrish, encouraging lyrics, and a really positive sound. What's not to love?

It's great that they started the album with a song that has a Music Video and a new sound, and ended it with a song that has a Music Video and an old sound. Both versions of FT Island are great, and they put their own twist on everything that they do. I really love the band and want to own everything they have put out, but I am especially happy that I own this record! I got to know each member better in the first five songs, and got to know them as a band with the final five. I really feel like it's a gift, especially to Koreans who get to have their songs in Korean now! There are love songs and sad songs in the beginning, which transition into inspirational songs about hope and the future, so the album as a whole takes you on a ride! They started it off with a new song and style, and closed with something all Primadonna's are familiar with.

I really recommend that you pick up this album, or at least listen to it once. You can buy it online from Yes Asia, Kpop Plus, or another website of your preference for about $15-$25 (depending on the poster option and shipping). You can also but it digitally on iTunes for about $9, which is less than a dollar a song. It's a great price for such a well done album, at least I think so. If you want something that's Korean without being overwhelmingly "Poppy" this is a great pick for you! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! So, give it a chance and let me know what you think!

See you next time you jump down the Rabbit hole,