Safekeeping: January–June 2017
A rundown of 2017 favorites that didn’t make the cut
I’ve been archiving my favorite non-2017 music discoveries that hasn’t found a playlist to call a home so it doesn’t get lost in the mix. But then, what about the singles I’ve found from this year without a proper place to go? They could use somewhere to stay. Some picks here most likely won’t end up on my year-end list; a good half of them are outshined by another song by the respective artist. They’re all still getting good plays on my rotation, though, so the time’s good as any to give them a spotlight.
Here are 15 songs released from January to June that I don’t want to just throw away. And if you’re interested, here’s a YouTube playlist of 50 of my favorite songs from the first half of the year.
“Afternoon melodrama” aptly sums up this mild breakdown of BiS, whose emo guitars gets to the more sensitive side of their usually aggressive demeanor. But the bleak outlook isn’t anything new: succumbing to self-doubt as well as pride has been at the core of this group’s anthems with or without abrasive guitars leading them on.
Charisma.com: “Like It”
Not Not Me (Warner Music Japan)
Itsuka kicks it back to B-boy rap for “Like It.” From the constant theme of the group’s new album, Not Not Me, I wonder if the title is a dig at social media; they did after all hit us with “#hashdark.” There’s definitely more than a few reality checks here on distracting yourself with upkeep of the superficial — trending topics, the new hot items, etc. — but not at all advancing IRL, so the inspiration wouldn’t be too left-field.
Dreamcatcher: “Good Night”
Nightmare — Fall Asleep in the Mirror (Happy Face)
Dreamcatcher started from scratch this year to re-debut as goth idols, and the group shed all the bubbly appeal of its former get-up as Minx to whip up a legit metal-pop banger. From its speedy, all-black riffs to its ghoulish take on fatal attraction, “Good Night” sells the new makeover and then some.
Heize: “You, Clouds, Rain” ft. Shin Yong Jae
The great “And July” from last summer saw Heize harbor a rather casual crush, one that would sweeten the bitterest coffee. Fast forward a year, she carries a deeper wound as she once again yearns for sunnier days. With any trace of charming B-boy hip hop washed away for a down-and-out ballad, this duet probably could’ve went more saccharine. But I’m glad to see Heize deliver.
Through this storybook entrance, IU presents her new album’s overarching theme: let’s just celebrate the now. The level at which you connect with that message varies in mileage depending how you feel about the fluffy innocence of the song — a softness found throughout the rest of Palette. For me, it’s a soothing stroll away from what I have to accomplish before I turn 25.
Kim Lip: “Eclipse”
The labored spotlessness, the big-budget re-touch, and extensive campaigning behind the LOONA project overall felt slightly exhausting and overworked for me. And then came Kim Lip to prove this all can actually be an effortless act. “Eclipse” still sounds polished to no end, but from the breezy beat to her own performance, it’s far from overdone — modest, even.
Lovelyz: “Now, We”
Now, We (Woollim)
Though the primary colors that filled “WoW” softened into more bashful pastels, nervousness tugs at the hearts of Lovelyz just as urgent. But whereas the nagging of “WoW” didn’t get them very far, narrative speaking, this ends with one finally becoming two. The group, too, ended up with a better single.
Mondo Grosso: “Wakusei Tantora”
Nando Demo Atarashiku Umareru (Avex Trax)
Asuka Saito of Nogizaka46 may stand more blankly here than Hikari Mitsushima in Mondo Grosso’s other lovely single, “Labyrinth,” but the aloof dance track aches with equally amount of melancholy. In fact, there’s something almost chilly in the way she sounds comfortably numb as she sings about how everyone’s just a source of energy, slowly disintegrating.
Playboi Carti: “wokeuplikethis” ft. Lil Uzi Vert
Playboi Carti (Atlantic)
An important sonic architect of Playboi Carti’s latest, Pi’erre Bourne hands the rappers a beat here that sounds like a winding toy — perfect for the tail-chasing nature of the whole project. And there’s Lil Uzi Vert, who steals the show right off from the start, screaming his tag line of this year: “I’m a rock star!”
Sayonara Ponytail: “Houkago Teleport”
Yume Miru Wakusei (T-Palette)
Bashful as the breezy jazz-pop playing behind them, Sayonara Ponytail daydream about their schoolyard crush. The in-between dialog may test with its cheesiness, but you can’t help to hear some fluff from the girls so caught up in their feelings. That sudden change in how you see the world: it’s only what the title alludes to after all.
Don’t Say No (SM)
“Magic” draws an even closer lineage to Ariana Grande than the throwback, piano-led R&B of “Don’t Say No,” though Seohyun follows more from the books of My Everything here than Yours Truly. The beat’s slightly downcast shine as well as its shyly skittering backbone call to mind the Cashmere Cat-produced “Be My Baby” for me. And there’s also the novelty of Seohyun briefly styling the track with a trap-pop cadence.
Suzy: “Les Preferences”
Yes? No? (JYP)
I put on Suzy’s great mini album Yes? No? a lot during my late nights when I just want to sink my mind into the moody chords. “Les Preferences” is my favorite, a big part to that squealing synth solo. But it wouldn’t be what it is without her whispers as if she herself is recording her secrets during the wee hours.
Taeyeon: “Cover Up”
My Voice (SM)
“I Got Love” from Taeyeon’s debut full-length is the more interesting at least in production. I already blurbed it over at the Singles Jukebox, though, and my thoughts on it hasn’t changed much. She goes on a more contemporary path in “Cover Up,” its musical hook not too far from Clean Bandit’s string-laden take on UKG, but her earnest chorus about irresistible attraction feels more relatable than the star trying for adulterated love.
t q d: “Vibsing Ting”
Royal T, DJ Q, Flava D — each producer serves riches of garage bass lines for each of their respective works. All three of them together? As the debut single of their new super-unit proved, the combination is quite the force. They get nostalgic while paying homage to their genre, but it also shows just how fresh this still all sounds.
You’ll Melt More!: “Unmee”
Disco Psychedelic (You’ll)
The voice is unmistakably You’ll Melt More!, but the song is undeniably by Seiko Oomori. Though the music doesn’t ping-pong like her single for Yuu Kikkawa, the word-cramming surely stamps this as her creation. The thing worth keeping, of course, is the bold shouting of trying to find a place, purpose and partner in a life that feels so meaningless.
More songs for safekeeping…
- A.O.A.: “Excuse Me”
- Ai Otsuka: “QueeN”
- Blanck Mass: “Rhesus Negative”
- Chief Keef: “Trying Not to Swear”
- Cosmic Girls: “Miracle”
- Fatima Yamaha: “Playes Beach Bar and Grill”
- GFriend: “Fingertip”
- iri: “Blue Hour”
- Jacques Greene: “Real Time”
- The Juan Maclean: “Can You Really Know Somebody?”
- Perfume: “Tokyo Girl”
- Red Velvet: “Body Talk”
- VIXX: “Shangri-La”
- Yeojin: “Kiss Later”