[Mini-Album] ASTRO – Spring Up

ASTRO is a boy band that debuted in 2016 under Fantagio Entertainment. Despite being just over a year old, the group already has five releases and has steadily gained popularity for their bright and youthful image. Hide & Seek and Cat’s Eye were both used as promo songs.

springup
Released: February 23, 2016
1. OK! Ready (OK! 준비완료)
2. Hide & Seek (숨바꼭질) [MV]
3. First Love (풋사랑)
4. Morning Call (모닝콜)
5. Cat’s Eye (장화 신은 고양이) [MV]

Starting off with OK! Ready, we are given a sparkling pop upbeat pop intro. I love the beat, but I especially love the cool synth refrain going on. I think it would have been cool if it was a full something, although it does have a sample of the next song.

Hide & Seek is pretty cool, too. It’s very fitting for the season with its cheerful and bright pop sound. I love the use of synths throughout the song. The verses are a nice fusion of vocals and rapping, but still retains the energy before it enters the soaring chorus. The chorus hook is really catchy and the more sung out lines is a nice contrast to the sing-talking and rap of the verses. Great debut promo song!

First Love is actually a ballad, which was an interesting switch. I would expect this to end the mini. However, this ballad is surprisingly good. I really love the verses as the melody is quite gentle, but does a good job building into that anthemic chorus. I really like how the first run through is quite gentle, but it gains more steam as the song progresses. It is a really powerful tune. I’m not a huge fan of the rap as I wish it was more gentle, but everything else works around it. One of the strongest idol group ballads recently.

Morning Call is something a little more lighthearted with its focus on the acoustic guitar. It actually reminds me of some of the pop songs of the early 00’s with its fusion of acoustic and synths. While it is quite catchy, it does sound a bit cheesy to me because it really brings me back to those days. It’s a solid tune and the boys sound great.

Cat’s Eye is the most upbeat tune since the first promo song. I do like it though because it has a bit of ska to it during the rap. It’s unfortunate that it doesn’t really continue much after and returns more into the pop territory. It’s a good tune and rather catchy, but it reminds me more of an older B1A4 song (not that it is bad, just a bit outdated). Still a solid finisher.


Overall: I was pleasantly surprised with this mini-album. Every song is really strong and it did feature a bit of variety with different tempos, although the generally sound is bright. I do think the raps need to be worked on a bit more as they come off the same in every song.

A+

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[Single] A.C.E – Cactus

A.C.E is probably most well-known as the boy band with the short shorts, however,  they have started to gain a strong international following. All the members used to be former trainees of rather well-known companies. Cactus is the group’s debut single.

cactus
Released: May 23, 2017
1. Cactus (선인장) [MV]
2. Cactus (Inst.)

Cactus is an interesting twist with something more along the lines of hardstyle. I feel like it has a very aggressive sound that combines the elements of new and older K-Pop. The beat is quite strong and is covered with an array of synths. The melody flows right over it, especially during the verses. At first, I wasn’t very keen on the chorus as the melody is quite heavy sounding when compared to the flashy music. However, it has grown on me and it’s quite catchy. It really doesn’t rely on the repetitive hook and highlights the group’s vocals. It’s a cool song.


Overall: While I do enjoy the song, I’m not sure I’m totally into as much as I want to be. The song is definitely something more on the interesting side and I do hope they continue to experiment with their sound. It’s a solid tune.

A-

[Mini-Album] April – Dreaming

April is DSP’s first girl group in six years after the debut of Rainbow. Sporting a much more innocent concept due to their age, the girl group has steadily started to gain more fans despite a few member changes. Dreaming is the group’s debut mini-album and is their only release to feature former member Somin (who later went to KARD). Dream Candy was used as the promotional track.

dreaming
Released: August 24, 2015
1. Dream Candy (꿈사탕) [MV]
2. Hurry Hurry
3. Knock Knock
4. Feeling (느낌)
5. Luv Me x3
6. Thriller (스릴러)

Opening with the promo track, Dream Candy is a blissful pop song. Despite it being more focused towards the innocent concept, the song isn’t particularly aegyo-filled in terms of vocals. The music is filled with sparkling synths, a steady beat, touches of guitar and an interesting bell sound. I really like how the song builds up to the chorus because the music seems to gain a bit of steam. The chorus itself is quite colourful and I think the melody is nice mixture of more melodic and repetitive hooks. It’s a great start!

Hurry Hurry is definitely a nice laidback pop/R&B song, but it’s a stellar track in general. I love how exciting and interesting the music is as there are odd little quirks that pop up from time to time like a twisting wrench sound. The melody is definitely more on the repetitive side, but it is done in a way that flows well with the music. I do find the vocals a bit too saccharine at times for this type of song, but it is a good follow-up.

Knock Knock keeps up the lighthearted sound, but with something a bit more pop with a touch of jazz. I love the bouncy piano tied with the touches of brass in the background. I don’t think the melody is as intoxicating as the last two songs, but it’s still works nicely with the music. It’s not bad.

Feeling is definitely more on the cuter side of things with its more upbeat sound. However, I’m not particularly into this one as much. I do find the music interesting, but it just does not work well with the melody. The melody seems like it is going too fast and doesn’t blend well together. I think it is just a bundle of different hooks that comes off a bit lacking.

Luv Me x3 keeps up the upbeat pop sound and while I do think this one is catchier than the last song, I’m still not particularly impressed. The verses are pretty decent, but the chorus is where it loses me. The music and the melody just do not mesh that well and everything sounds rushed. This time the repetition just doesn’t come off as clean. The middle eight is really nice though.

Thriller is the wild card of the album as it sounds like it ditches the more lighthearted sound for something more aggressive. Luckily, things are pulled off much better here than the last two upbeat tunes. The blast of synths combined with the heavy beat really get things moving. I do wish the melody was catchier, but the melody doesn’t sound so messy and rushed. It’s a nice change.


Overall: This was a decent debut. There were some really great songs and there were some that were more forgettable and messy. I do like the fact that DSP tried to play around with the sound instead of keeping the group with just the more innocent style (although Dream Candy is wonderful). I do think a one or two songs could have been left off, but there were songs that made up for it.

B

[Mini-Album] Rainbow – PRISM

PRISM is Rainbow’s fourth mini-album and the group’s last release. Whoo was used as the promotional track.

prism
Released: February 15, 2016
1. Saying I Miss You (보고 싶다는 그 말도)
2. Whoo [MV]
3. Black & White
4. Click!
5. Eye Contact
6. Whoo (Inst.)

I think the oddest choice with this mini-album is that it opens with Saying I Miss You, a piano ballad. At first, I was a bit worried because Rainbow’s past ballads haven’t been that interesting. However, this one is surprisingly pretty good and the girls sound great. They almost sound unrecognizable as they come off far more mature. The song is pretty standard with its standout piano, gentle guitar and touches of percussion. The thing that really brings the song up is that the melody is nice and memorable. It’s a bit standard, but good.

Whoo brings some life into things with its pop/rock sound. It’s probably most reminiscent of the energy that their single, A, brought, although the synthesizers are replaced with heavy percussion and guitar riffs. It’s insanely catchy. The chorus is the highlight of the song with its melodic hooks. That and the breakdown, where the repetitive title hook comes in handy. It’s great.

While Whoo was a great promotional track, Black & White swoops and in and takes the crown as the strongest song on the album and one of Rainbow’s strongest tracks in general. A much more serious twist that seems to combine the 80’s synths with the rock elements of the last song, Black & White is an explosion of energy. The verses do a great job of building up the energy, which is let loose in the chorus. That array of synths combined with the background vocals really give the song some energy. It’s an exhilarating song!

Click! is a great surprise with its much more 70’s retro sound. I really love how this song just screams of something from that era with its groovier sound with its wicked bass line and splashes of brass. I think the funnest part is that the song has these really odd vocal parts and sounds added in that really give it a weird, but cool edge. This is all tied with an infectious melody. This seriously could have been a promotional song.

Ending the mini with the shortest song, Eye Contact is a sultry pop song with a nice eeriness to it that is reminiscent of 90s R&B. While it isn’t the most exciting song on the album, especially compared to the last three songs, it does help bring some variety. It’s not particularly catchy, but it does get back. I quite like the music with its recognizable beat and the melody just seems to glide right over everything. It’s quite smooth and cool. Not bad.


Overall: I knew Rainbow delivers from time to time and their last mini was great. This is just as good as that one. The mini is filled with five high quality tunes and while three of them are definitely higher, everything seems well-produced and brings variety to the table. Some of Rainbow’s strongest songs are on here and it’s a great release to depart with.

A+