On the Yves of OT12: A Retrospective of Loona Teasers

If you pay attention to K-pop, you may have heard of a group called Loona, or “이달의 소녀”. If you’re unfamiliar, this is a girl-group project that started in 2016, debuting its 12 members one at a time each with her own single and also promoting them across three subunits. This pre-debut process is now concluded, and on August 7 the full group is set to release its first single – that’s less that 24 hours from now, at time of posting. (I’ve also written about the group a few times for Hellokpop.)

Following this project has been a great ride, and I thought that it might be fun to do a little retrospective through Loona’s already eventful history so far. Now, people have done this already for albums and songs, but I’m not sure that we’ve ever really looked at the history of Loona’s teasers in one place.

Teasers can be a crucial tool for garnering interest in new acts, and Loona and BBC are somewhat special in that they’ve had two years of very frequent practice in making and using them. Under the direction of Digipedi, the group has put out some excellent teasers over this time: some are aesthetically pleasing, others are hype-inducing, and still a few more dip deeply into Loona’s burgeoning background lore.

So let’s turn the clock back to 2016, and track the path of Loona’s teasers to the present.

By my count Loona have put out 36 “content” teasers as of August 6, 2018. I’m excluding the LoonaTV arc teasers, since those are not polished for promotion, and also excluding things like album previews that have no visual element. Finally, the V App versions of the teasers didn’t seem like they merited separate inclusion.

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13 Years On & On

나더러 인생의 최애곡을 꼽으라면 주저없이 “꿈에”를 택할 것이고 그 외에도 박정현의 음악을 애청하지만, 의외로 나는 박정현의 디스코그라피를 다 들어보지는 않았다. 처음부터 끝까지 들은 정규앨범은 4집, 6집, 7집, 8집이고, 다른 앨범은 대표곡만 몇곡씩 들어본 정도. (싱글은 다 섭렵했던 것 같다.) 예전 음반일수록 일부러 찾아듣는 게 왠지 귀찮기도 하고, 90년대 R&B 발라드를 그렇게까지 좋아하진 않기에.

다만 5집인 <On & On>은 옛날부터 들어왔던 대표곡들(“달”, “미아”, “하비샴의 왈츠”)을 워낙 좋아해서 가끔씩 피지컬로 소장하고픈 마음이 들었다. (게다가 스포티파이엔 딱 5집만 없더라…) 이번에 이달소 음반을 몇 장 주문하던 김에 생각이 나서 끼워넣기로 함.

이달의 리나박 (루나박?)

근데 이거 듣다 보니까 내가 알고 있던 다른 정규들보다 훨씬 좋은 것 같다. 분량도 긴데 거의 모든 곡이 기복 없이 퀄리티가 좋고, 사운드에 신경을 많이 쓴 흔적이 보인다. 여러모로 실험적이기도 하다.

  • 특히 발라드의 화법을 벗어나면서 개성있는 편곡으로 채운 곡들이 흥미롭다. 영롱한 무드의 인트로부터 비범하더니, 곧 팝락 스타일의 “아름다운 너를”에서 청량하게 질주해준다. 김조한이 참여했고 가스펠을 이식해온 듯한 대곡 “미래”는 반복적이고 단촐한 멜로디 구성이지만 점차적으로 사운드를 쌓아올려 어떤 경건함이 느껴질 정도의 경험으로 승화시킨다. “싱글 링” 또한 (바네사 칼튼의 “A Thousand Miles”가 바로 떠오르는 리프와 스트링이긴 하지만) 제법 여운이 남는다.
  • “달”은 그때나 지금이나 정말 빼어나다고 생각한다. 휘몰아치는 오케스트라, 처연과 격정을 넘나들며 토해내는 보컬, “닿을 수 없는 것”을 달로 풀어낸 은유, 그리고 그 속에서 은은하게 빛나는 갈망. “꿈에”가 히트한 후였는데도 뜨지 못했다는게 안타깝다.
  • 윤종신 작사의 “미아” 역시 폭발적인 후반부를 통해 감동을 전하고, “하비샴의 왈츠”는 소위 말하는 박정현 광곡 중에서도 애처로운 광기를 가장 잘 담아낸 트랙이다. 한동안 안 들었던 곡들인데 재생을 멈출수가 없어요…

아무튼 이 아티스트에게 <Parallax>보다도 좋은 음반이 있었다는 걸 뒤늦게나마 알았다. (팬을 자처하면서 고작 8장을 다 안들어봤다는 게 웃기지만.) 마침 올해 20주년을 맞아 9집이 나오고 싱글컷도 두 장 한다는 소식이 며칠 전에 떴다. 이 앨범 같은 스타일을 기대할 수는 없겠지만 작년 “연애중”도 좋게 들었던 나로서는 기대되는 컴백. (심지어 달총 작곡이라니!)

Works discussed in this post:

박정현 (Lena Park) – On & On (2005, K&C Music)
T-Entertainment Co.
1. Ode
2. 아름다운 너를 (Beautiful You)
3. Long Goodbye
4. 달 (Moon)
5. Miracle
6. 알아볼게요 (Will Recognize)
7. 미래 (Future)
8. 그러지 마세요 (Don’t)
9. 오늘이라면 (The Day Will Come)
10. 미아 (迷兒) (Lost Child)
11. 싱글 링 (Single Ring)
12. Very Thought
13. Ghost
14. 하비샴의 왈츠 (Miss Havisham’s Waltz)

Easy-Listening, Hard-Hitting (Rise From The Ashes; Hitch)

Keeping up with new music is a force of habit for me, but there are still seasons when my attention is more limited. And even within the overall bustle of graduate school,  a big looming deadline like I’ve had this semester crowds out the times when I can really sit back and lean into a song.

So these days I’m particularly appreciative of music that immediately, clearly shows me the ways in which it’s good. The kind of stuff that hits like a ton of bricks, argues its own excellence, and stands out equally well in a crowded bus ride and in a focused work session.

Two of my favorite early-2018 releases are both like that, and I want to take brief notes on them before I start wearing them out. I’m going to be spending a lot of time with these in the next couple weeks, continuing to prep for my candidacy.

Rise From The Ashes, the solo debut EP of Lulileela (Lee Ru-ri, quadrupling as a member of Bye Bye Badman, Lee X Lee, and Seoulmoon), is five ethereal tracks driven by instantly memorable riffs. (Lulileela’s YouTube channel has the whole album here.) It’s a synthpop and alternative hybrid much like the recent Seoulmoon singles, and sharing that same ease of listening.

Lulileela’s bass is a key ingredient in each earworm motif, often accompanied by sparkling, breaking synths or electric piano. “선인장 꽃 (Cactus Flower)” is basically an entire song built around this, but the other tracks all feature at least one powerful melody snippet that distinguishes them. There’s something so viscerally satisfying about each – this being the artist’s talent.

The dreamy BBB-like arrangements are so absorbing that I’m not even listening to the words half the time, and after three months of having this in my playlist I still can’t tell you what “Light Beside You” is actually about without looking up the lyrics. But there are some moments of solitude and crystalline clarity, like the opening of “Oasis”, that have stuck with me. Forlorn, desperately seeking; the place between fatalistic and hopeful.

After hearing “안녕 (Hi)” when it came out in March, I only caught up with the rest of Echae Kang’s Hitch a couple days ago. I was already enamored by 2016’s Radical Paradise and subsequent singles, and I think she actually outdid herself with this little EP. It’s freer and more spirited, while holding onto the experimental spirit that made her solo debut great.

The key is in the big, bold movements comprising these compositions, the deep breaths they take in anticipation of the next step, the earnest joy they portend and then express. No filler track here either, which is always appreciated.

Kang’s violin is always soulful, and the lush and upbeat arrangements she tries here are a breath of fresh air. My favorite track, though, is still the heavier “둘 (Two)”, which is mesmerizing in its mysterious pizzicato and explosive groove. One of the best of the year, I think.

(Album available here.)

Works discussed in this post:

이루리 (Lulileela) – Rise from the Ashes (2018, Poclanos)
Peaches Label & Magic Strawberry Sound
1. Light Beside You
2. 깊은 밤 깊은 바다 (Seaside)
3. 선인장 꽃 (Cactus Flower)
4. 나비 (Butterfly)
5. Oasis

강이채 (Echae Kang) – Hitch (2018, Warner Music Korea)
Private Curve
1. HITCH (히치)
2. Foolish
3. 안녕 (Hi)
4. Morning Morning Love
5. 둘 (Two)