Fromm’s Erica, and Oregon Week


Because I’m the kind of person who posts things once every three months now, I meant to write about Fromm‘s EP Erica last week for Hellokpop. Didn’t quite have the time to do that, so just jotting down a few thoughts:

  • It’s good. Personal (positive) bias aside, there’s both preservation and innovation here. The big and sweeping instrumentation of Arrival is audible in a few places, while the forlorn tension of lead “서로의 조각” (“Pieces of You and Me”) is something I haven’t heard from her before (Giriboy appears on the track, and fits right in in a way that I never expected from the mellow-but-still-attitudinal producer.)  Like any Fromm release, the thing is held together by a great feel for melody.
  • There’s a sense of comfortable seclusion in listening to Erica. Lyrically and sonically, both “반짝이던 안녕” (“Our Sparkling Beginning”) and “Pieces” build a wall around the listener. Hyper-focused arrangements that eliminate background sound, intimate dialogue that creates separation between the narrator-listener pair and everything else. It’s not a wall in the imposing sense of the word – more like a tall, trimmed hedge, enough to create insulation but also creating an inviting space. (The opening line for the HKP review was going to be “Have you ever been inside a garden lined with hedges?”.)
  • My favorite track is pre-release single “달의 뒤편으로 와요” (“Come to the Back Side of the Moon”), which has a breathtaking chorus sung by about 50 fans. Fromm put out an open invite on social media for fans to send in their voices; I would have totally done this IF I HAD ACTUALLY SEEN THE INVITE BEFORE THE DEADLINE PASSED. FGHIEOWHOIGHOIBW WHY. Turns out the Facebook feed algorithm wants to show me every post from her except for the most important one. My chance to be on the production credits for a Fromm album will have to wait.
  • Lots of pretty shots of Hokkaido in the album jacket. I bought the iTunes copy because I didn’t want to pay for physical shipping this time around, but I had to think about it.
  • One critical note: I’m starting to think that rich (or at least, significant) instrumentation is more necessary to make Fromm’s music work than I had expected. Maybe it’s a melody thing and maybe it’s the voice, but the austere “Blue Night” is by far the least engaging song here – and that was similarly true of the acoustic mix of “좋아해” (“Like You”) from Moonbow, despite the fact that the original undoubtedly had great composition. It’s not necessarily a knock – Fromm has proven adept at arranging her songs for best effect – but it does make me wonder about a comment she made in a recent interview, saying she plans for her next album to be really laid back.

Last Friday was a lot of fun, and may or may not have had something to do with why the Erica review didn’t get written. There’s been plenty written elsewhere already about the win over Stanford, but from my perspective it was simply the most dominant, complete performance I’ve ever seen from Washington in my six years as a fan. The program is back in the national spotlight and it’s a brave new (old) world.

By any measurable standard, the Oregon visit should be a slaughter. But it’s rivalry week, the Ducks are backed into a corner, Mark Helfrich is potentially coaching for his job, and the UO offense has enough skill-position talent to turn the corner on any given week. The one spread offense Washington has seen this year gave them some trouble. They’re starting a true freshman at quarterback who’s played basically one drive this season. I think that in a rivalry game, anything that introduces uncertainty is seen as a bad thing by nervous fans; I still expect a comfortable win, but I wouldn’t be shocked by anything that happens.

That said, if they fumble this away to a bad squad and Oregon’s streak goes to 13 in literally the very first game after Washington justifies the hype, I’m going to break something.

(I’ve seen some opinions that if Washington wins, fans should act like it’s no big deal that the streak has just been broken; Oregon is a bad team this year, it should be expected, and it should feel like we’ve been there before. I can see that, and frankly this game somehow doesn’t feel anywhere near as big as 2013 – when Oregon was elite and UW had what was thought to be a realistic upset chance – or even 2015 with an UO team on the downswing. I’m still going to celebrate the streak being broken. Maybe y’all been there before, but I haven’t.)


Plastic horns and heart attacks

As you know, for the past couple weeks the world’s been abuzz with futboll mania. Halfway into the World Cup, and we’re already seeing plenty of entertaining news that’s not even related to soccer. To name just a few:

1. The French team’s soap opera, complete with betrayals, broken promises, and angry tears.
2. Controversy over how distracting the fans’ vuvuzelas are to viewers and players.
3. Players complaining about this year’s official ball.
4. Vuvuzelas.
5. Suspense over whether or not North Korea will actually nuke Portugal’s capital for destroying their team 7-0.
6. Those really loud horn things that make it impossible to hear anything from the game. I think they might be called vuvuzelas.

But hey, that’s not why we watch these things. My family normally isn’t huge on soccer, but like good, dutiful Koreans, my dad and I go into a frenzy over it every four years. The women in the house think we’re crazy. But no matter; when that World Cup season rolls around, we are willing to spend hours upon hours reading up on teams, following the news, and making predictions (but I’m usually more willing). This is all good and desirable.

I do admit that sometimes we get a little too into it. The following is an approximate account of our dialogue at various points of the June 22nd match between South Korea and Nigeria. It’s obviously not exact (technically it’s not even close, if you consider how we weren’t speaking in English), but I hope it carries the gist.

12th minute (right after Korea takes a shoddy goal)
Dad: “WHY was he [referring to a Korean defender] just standing out there?!”
Me: “Uh, why does our defense suck? This is so much bull.”

A few minutes later (Nigeria’s shot hits the bar, bounces out)
Me: (Still recovering from heart attack)
Dad: “WHY are we standing around and opening up dribble space?!!!”

38th minute (score 1-1 after a Korean defender scores)
Dad: “Yes!!! He’s our hope! Would you look at that!”
Me (after the obligatory “Goallllllllll!!!”): “Ahahahahaha, I reallyyy wish any of the forwards would score though.”

49th minute (2-1 when Korea scores again). After about three minutes of intense celebrating:
Dad: “That was absolutely perfect.”
Me: “Wasn’t there a guy who got famous after he predicted the first two games’ scores? If it ends 2-1 he’s three for three.”
Dad: “That guy could probably become a practicing psychic.”
Me: “I love him so much right now.”

64th minute (a Korean player who was screwing up the whole time is substituted out)
Me: “Yep, we’re done. We win. Psychic was correct.”
Dad: “This should have happened earlier.”

68th minute (the guy who just got substituted in fouls in a dangerous spot and gives away a penalty kick)
Dad: (expression turns foul) “……”

69th minute (penalty kick goes in, 2-2)
Dad: “……”

Last 10 minutes of game (Nigeria attacks again and again, almost scores on several different occasions)
Me: (gripping seat for dear life, mentally curses the sub)
Dad: (urgent exclamations of “Ahh!” or “Uhh!” every time the Nigerians shoot)

I forget what exactly happened when the game ended a draw and the Koreans were confirmed to advance to the next round, other than posting the result on Facebook. I think I must have been dehydrated or something. It probably didn’t help that I came back from my school’s senior party at 7am before waking back up at 11am to watch this.

The point is, the World Cup, like the Olympics or the World Baseball Classic or any other big international sporting event, is some seriously thrilling stuff. I get animated. Neither me nor my dad are likely to chew anyone out as thoroughly as we crucify bad players, and the closest thing to a swear word that I ever say in real life is “damn”. Written that way, it sounds like they bring out all the bad qualities, but that’s just part of it. Few things make me happier than a victory in one of these games, and few things make me giddier in anticipation than a high-stakes matchup.

If a sporting event gets me this excited, how come I never follow regular seasons of anything? I watch the World Series, the Super Bowl, NBA championships, international sporting events, Starleague playoffs (don’t judge me.), and March Madness, but I hardly ever catch a game during seasons. But I’m starting to see the reason: it’s all in the exhilaration. Perhaps more than the sport itself, I enjoy the drama, the suspense, the excitement of those events. Where that is lacking, I just can’t muster up the effort to see it. When this World Cup is over, and soccer fans revert to watching the English Premier League or La Liga or whatever, I won’t be there with them. The moment would be over for me. But in the meantime, I’ll continue to wake up at 4:30am to catch games, yell my lungs out rooting for teams, and almost die from heart attacks. And listen to those damn vuvuzelas instead of the game. Sigh.