[Mini-Album] ASTRO – Winter Dream

Winter Dream is a special album released by ASTRO that was a gift for their fans. Again was used as the promotional track.

winterdream
Released: February 22, 2017
1. Again (붙잡았어야 해)
2. Cotton Candy
3. You & Me (Thanks AROHA)

I actually love Again, even if it is a departure from the brighter and cuter sound of the group’s previous promo tracks. Again is more serious and sadder, but it is still gorgeous. The gentle piano that touches the surface of the music adds a bit of emotion despite the instrumental being fueled by a heavy beat, synths and guitar. The boys also sound great and it is a nice glimpse of their vocal capabilities. Cotton Candy is what we usually get from ASTRO as it is a bright and sweet pop song. I quite like the music because the touches of bass really give it some edge. With that said, I don’t like the pre-chorus where everything decides to switch to a hip-hop edge and then it blasts into the bubblegum pop again. It’s an odd transition and just cuts the flow of the song. With that said, the melody itself isn’t that memorable and I can see it more as a filler. You & Me (Thanks AROHA) is a song for the group’s fans. It’s more of a midtempo pop tune and I surprisingly really like it. It’s not the most interesting song, but it is better than the last one and it is quite sweet. I like the bounciness of the music and it works nicely with the cute melody and the boys’ bright voices. Not the strongest of the group’s album tunes, but a decent one.

Overall: This is an interesting mini, but I think it largely depends on the strength of the promo track. Again is a change, but it is still a gorgeous track and surprisingly works for the guys despite being more serious. Unfortunately, the other two songs are weaker. The fan song is a decent tune, but it is a bit generic and not that interesting musically, while the other tries too much and doesn’t execute anything in a strong way.

B+

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[Mini-Album] ASTRO – Autumn Story

Autumn Story is the third mini-album released by ASTRO. Confession was released as the promo track.

autumnstory
Released: November 10, 2016
1. Lonely
2. Confession (고백)
3. Your Love (사랑이)
4. Colored (물들어)
5. Star (별)

Lonely is an explosive synthpop tune. It has a pulsating beat and reminds me more of the early 2010’s than it does of 2016 music. It’s not a bad song, but it just sounds a bit outdated. My problem with the song is that the melody isn’t particularly memorable and the hooks are a bit weak and not cleverly done with the music. The boys do sound good though. Luckily, Confession is a lot stronger of a tune. It has dance-pop elements, but is definitely more in tune with ASTRO’s boyish image. I love how it starts with Eunwoo on the verse singing in his lower register and I wish this was done again because it is a nice surprise. The song starts to reach higher as it goes on. The chorus is definitely more bubblegum sounding than the verses, especially with how it is sung. I quite like it, but I wish the chorus was tweak a bit so there would be stronger hooks. It’s cute though. Your Love is the ballad of the mini and starts off with a gorgeous piano. I really love how it starts and it really brings the suspense for the chorus. Luckily the melody is quite nice. I think a few notes are a bit odd and not that predictable so it sort of lacks the impact, but it all works really nicely with the music. I quite like how it gains power in the second half as well. It’s nice, but they still haven’t topped First Love. Colored is a nice upbeat pop tune. It reminds me a bit more of summer than it does autumn, but it is what I’ve been waiting for. I do like how the song starts with some disco elements, so it disappoints me a bit that the chorus is just straight on pop. I feel like they could have brought something a bit different. It’s still a pretty catchy tune though. Star is a midtempo pop tune and is a nice surprise. I love it’s laid back feel and the touch of hip-hop in the music. This song has the best melody on the album with its soaring qualities. I do wish the music had a bit more power to it so it really let it go, but it’s still a nice ending.

Overall: This mini was much better than their summer one, but I don’t think it really reaches the heights of their first one. It has some pretty good songs and each of the songs is a solid listen. My biggest problem was that the songs all had interesting verses, but pretty generic sounding pop choruses. I was expecting some variety, but the songs would just turn right back to the straightforward pop sound.

B+

[Mini-Album] ASTRO – Summer Vibes

Summer Vibes is the second mini-album released by ASTRO. Breathless was used as the promo track.

summervibes
Released: July 1, 2016
1. Fireworks (불꽃놀이)
2. Breathless (숨가빠)
3. Growing Pains (성장통)
4. Polaris (북극성)
5. My Style (내 멋대로)
6. Breathless (Acoustic ver.)

Summer Vibes opens with Fireworks and I’m not totally sure what to make of it. It is a soaring pop song and it has some really nice parts to it. I love the heavy beat and the powerful harmonies that pop up here and there throughout the song. It does a good job building to that chorus. However, I feel a bit letdown with the chorus. It just feels like it is missing that thing that really makes me get into the song. I think part of it might just be the vocals that come off a bit too nasally and sweet for this song. It’s not bad, just doesn’t quite hit the spot for me. Breathless, on the other hand, is just great. It keeps up that positive pop vibe that their debut single had. I would say this one definitely fits the summer feeling with its bright chorus. I love the beachy vibe that the arrangement brings with its strong percussion and guitar foundation. The verses are a fun mix of rap and singing, which helps to keep them interesting despite the chorus still being the highlight. Just a fun song that is catchy and cute. Growing Pains is the ballad of the mini-album. I don’t quite like the verses because I find the music just distracts from the gentleness of the melody. The chorus is a bit better and I do like the R&B beat that pops up. With that said, everything does come off a bit forgettable and I don’t think the melody is as strong as the ballad from their first album. The whole song just seems too light and floats along which causes it to be a bit forgotten. Polaris brings back the bright pop sound of the promo track and it does seem like a good follow-up to it. The verses have a similar trade off of singing and rapping, although there is a bigger dominance of rap in the second part. Unfortunately, I don’t find the chorus to be that strong. The beat is so heavy and the melody is really flat in its delivery, which just doesn’t match that well. There is no power in the hooks either. My Style brings a completely different vibe though with its more dramatic sound. I was actually quite surprised to hear the group do this style of song, but it’s definitely a cool departure from their usual material. I do like the arrangement and the verses are cool. The melody is a bit disappointing though. Why does it have no power to it? I feel like it should have even more energy to it. The music should be stronger and the melody should be more dramatic. It’s a bit of a letdown. Luckily, the acoustic version of Breathless comes by and I love it. The melody was already great and this version calms things down, but creates a really interesting twist on things.

Overall: I am really disappointed in this mini-album. I loved the promo track, but the B-sides were just so weak compared to their first mini. They all had potential, but the choruses just lacked something. They just weren’t catchy enough or they lacked the strength to really make them memorable. What happened?!

B

[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+