Bolbbalgan4 have been an absolute force in the Korean music scene ever since their 2016 breakout hit Galaxy. Yet even as their music has become ubiquitous, I’ve continued to consider them too indie/acoustic to compare to the usual acts I write about on The Bias List. New title track Travel (여행) changes that. It’s their poppiest release yet, and the perfect opportunity to finally dip my feet into the Bolbbalgan4 universe.
We’re at the time of year where summer songs start to become the norm, and Travel kicks off the season with a burst up upbeat energy. Thankfully, the girls didn’t follow 99% of their peers and go tropical, though that would have been a potentially interesting addition to their repertoire. Instead, they’ve taken their usual acoustic sound and sped up the tempo to create a rousing, singalong pop track. This aversion to trends all but guarantees Travel‘s longevity, as it feels like the kind of timeless track that could have been released in any era.
Jiyoung’s quirky vocals are perfectly suited to the opening verse, imbuing the track with a clipped, rhythmic delivery that adds incredible spunk to the already bouncy melody. The chorus brings in electric guitar, utilized in a way that feels more country than k-pop. It’s a wonderfully organic arrangement that feels fresh in this age of overly programmed pop. The same could be said about Travel‘s straightforward hooks. Their uncluttered nature give the song a shot of vitality that is difficult to resist. This is a slice of summertime comfort food, plain and simple. It isn’t going to change the world, but it definitely makes you feel good.