Song Review: AKMU (Akdong Musician) – How Can I Love The Heartbreak, You’re The One I Love

It’s been over two years since I last wrote about Akdong Musician. I’ve missed their musical perspective, but most of all I’ve missed their voices. In the summer of 2017, right before Chanhyuk enlisted, the sibling duo released their spin on light, radio-friendly EDM. Dinosaur marked a fun shift in their acoustic sound, and left me wanting more. I love it when AKMU go ultra-quirky, but longtime fans will likely be pleased that new single How Can I Love The Heartbreak, You’re The One I Love hearkens back to their classic, folk-informed style.

AKMU’s new album has a nautical theme, and Heartbreak feels formed from the kind of primordial melody passed down over land and sea throughout the ages. Their music has always had a well-worn quality to it, like old diary entries kicked around Chanhyuk’s head for years before materializing as songs. And with Suhyun, he has the perfect conduit to convey those sentiments. She’s the kind of performer who can stop you in your tracks with the simplest of vocalizations. Heartbreak opens with her voice — clear and restrained and more than a little resolute.

Suhyun is joined by her brother in small, important moments, most notably during the second repetition of Heartbreak‘s emotive pre-chorus. As usual, their vocal blend is unmatched — the kind of sound that only blood can forge. As a title track, I’m a little surprised that AKMU opted for such a restrained ballad. Their ballads always do well on the charts, but Heartbreak is the album’s longest track (and longest title!). Compared to a song like Last Goodbye, it feels meandering at times — more a delivery method for tone and lyrics than a tightly structured pop track. AKMU are one of the few acts that can get away with this. They bottle a feeling better than most, and Heartbreak sends it sailing across international borders without the need for translation. Just close your eyes and let the mood transport you.

 Hooks 8
 Production 7
 Longevity 9
 Bias 8



5 thoughts on “Song Review: AKMU (Akdong Musician) – How Can I Love The Heartbreak, You’re The One I Love

  1. The whole album is fantastic. It is very folky and acoustic, a bit like if Allison Krauss were to sing with Peter Paul and Mary, in Korean, sans fiddle. The songs would not be out of place at your local folk -bluegrass -roots festival – what we call “back porch” music down here. Suhyun’s voice is definitely the anchor here, that clear bright head voice.

    These songs definitely swirled around Chanhyuk’s head for a while – he composed them in his mind humming the melodies and lyrics to himself while deployed as an enlisted marine on a ship. During his monthly call to his sister, he would sing it, and she would have him on speaker phone recording the song on a second device.

    My favorite so far is the first song “Chantey” which opens with Suhyun singing acapella, adds acoustic guitar, then layers in a mournful cello, and finally higher strings. Its a fantastic composition and performance. I am not familiar enough with Korean traditional music to name the style, but in the European tradition we would call it similar to plain song. Then the second song hits, and we are down from the mountain and in downtown Asheville or Nashville. And then … and then … and then …
    It is really a fantastic album, one I will be listening to for a long while.


  2. I listened to this album just today and i think its excellent from the start to finish. To me their artistry peaks in Whale…what a well crafted song!


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