I’ll be continuing my reviews of HyukOh’s discography, this time focussing on their second album.
Much more upbeat than the previous record, ’22’ aims to charter new ground for HyukOh. Where there were RnB, soul and even funk influences, the band incorporates reggae, Latin melodies, punk rock and contemporary pop sounds. Much less cohesive than ’20’, I feel that the intention was to experiment rather than send an overarching message.
From the get go, this track gives off an entirely different feeling to the last album. There’s a heavy bass line and a faster, higher pitched beat which eventually gives up its rhythm to the drum set. After the vocals come in, HyukOh layers in some guitar to bring variation to the base and drums. The vocals themselves have an almost reggae influence to them, especially during the chorus. At the same instant, Oh Hyuk’s vocals are layered with a higher voice, and add a Latin feeling to the melody.
Comes and Goes
This song reminds me of a jazz bar for some reason. With its simple melody, the bass sets the pace and drums embellish the rhythm. The chords are kept simple, but layered in such a way that the overall effect is complex and different elements are given focus at different times. This time the vocals have a funk sound in the chorus to meld into a more ambiguous style in the verses. Personally, I enjoyed very last moments of the song the most: the section with a guitar solo, suddenly transitioning into an acoustic addition from Hyuk Oh. Overall, compared to many of their previous releases, this song has a more traditional arrangement. In some ways that makes it a little less interesting, but the complexity of the instrument makes up for this in many ways.
Departing suddenly from the last track, ‘Big Bird’ has faster drums and a main melody centered around the guitar. The melody here is probably the most complex and interesting one that has been used on a HyukOh album so far. The RnB style of singing works well with the instrumental to anchor the sound so we don’t feel that it is too whimsical. The vocal melody fits well into the instrumental melodies, and they serve to highlight the most interesting parts of each other. With respect to the vocals themselves, this is one of the few tracks in which Oh Hyuk utilizes his falsetto and I think it’s wonderful here, especially followed by the 70s style, dreamy chorus of vocals. That said, this is not one of my favorite tracks on the album, partially due to the whimsical nature of the vocals.
This song starts abruptly with a chorus of dreamy vocals, backed by a bass loop that seems to run up and down in your mind. A much more interesting guitar melody adds to the instrumental, to join a much more emotional vocal section. The entire song sounds a bit like HyukOh is recounting a story, using pauses in the vocals to give the listener time to take in each line. Similarly, the instrumental literally comes to a stop before continuing as though nothing happened, effectively capturing the listener’s attention. The slow pace of the track brings to mind a person on a journey, slowly taking a step at a time, only to find an oasis at the end. Overall, I find this a pleasant track, but not my absolute favorite on this album.
This is undoubtably my favorite song on this album, possibly of HyukOh’s whole discography. With a ghostly start and punk rock vocals, the track stands out among the more mellow songs in their discography. The track is guitar heavy, with simple but catchy melodies and great stand out guitar sections that bring a rawness to the instrumental. The vocals switch between talking and singing, punctuated with a reggae influence in the bridge and an echoing call-and-answer section in the chorus. HyukOh adds a nice touch by echoing and doubling the call-and-answer section to soften up the the nearly shouted words. All through the chorus, the guitar riff in the instrumental vies for your attention until it takes over just after the chorus.
Gondry starts out with a standard fare guitar loop, possibly the least interesting so far. The vocals don’t immediately help this feeling, but the depressed sound of Oh Hyuk’s voice keeps things grounded. When the the keyboard comes in, the tone lightens up considerably and adds some pacing. The song overall feels like a lullaby, whether that was the intention or not, I’m not sure. As we get closer to the chorus, Oh Hyuk’s vocals are mirrored by a higher toned member. The duet adds to the song somehow, creating depth to an otherwise unremarkable instrumental and melody. As the vocal portion of the song ends, I find myself wishing the track actually ended as well, to leave a greater impression. I actually first heard this after the Primary produced version and the difference in sound quality and mixing is obvious. That said, I’m not really sure I can pick a favorite between them as they cater to different markets.
Look out for a review on the 2 EPs associated with the band, Panda Bear and Oh Hyuk’s collaboration with Primary.