The album format has always been special to me. Whether it’s a full-length or mini, albums have the opportunity to tell stories and develop an act’s personal style. Occasionally, I dive in and offer in-depth track by track reviews, but sometimes a bite-sized overview is just as fun.
That’s what this feature is all about: sharing notable albums and offering some quick thoughts about what makes them tick.
100% – Time Leap
Released October 13, 2016
(I chose to write about this album not only because it’s a great piece of work, but because 100% have just announced their impending disbandment. Another fantastic group lost to the annals of K-pop history, unfortunately…)
1. Better Day (지독하게)
Oh, this song. This is what you get when you pair performers who can really belt it out with producers known for their excellent vocal arrangements. Sweetune produced this entire album, and Better Day is their opening salvo. I reviewed this track way back when, and when we get a repeat like that on this feature I don’t plan on looking back to see what my initial rating was. Either way, this is a fabulous song. Just listen to those twisting, spacey synths and that sweeping chorus! Better Day manages to remain in constant build, perched halfway between dance track and symphonic Bond theme. It’s so freaking cool.
2. Cause U (너라서)
With Cause U, we’ve entered solid Sweetune b-side territory. The lush, electronic production weaves an instrumental that pulses forward with a satisfying mid-tempo energy. This alone wouldn’t be enough to thrill me, but the melodies here are quite nice. That dramatic chorus segues brilliantly into the shuffling post-chorus hook. There’s such consistency and purpose in every moment.
3. No Goodbye (안녕이라는 말은 싫어)
We’ve got the album’s first ballad, and the cinematic flourish that opens No Goodbye sets the stage for the song’s glorious angst. The production does a lot of heavy lifting here, surging and swelling to give each segment a sense of dramatic urgency. I love the haunting strings and brassy bridge. But the track’s most impressive element is the guys’ performance. Their vocals are so emphatic, especially when pulled together for shots of hair-raising power. If you’re gonna ballad it up, you might as well go all the way.
4. Not Today (오늘 같은 날)
80’s synth may be the trend of the moment, but Sweetune have been doing it long before it was cool! Fresh off their success with Snuper’s Platonic Love, Not Today opens with a similarly icy riff. This is the most upbeat track on the album, and is an obvious favorite of mine. I’m head over heels in love with Not Today’s two-part chorus. The way the tempo becomes brisk and assertive feels like the antidote to all of those awful half-time beat drops plaguing modern K-pop. The melody follows suit, twisting and turning with driving energy. 100% accent the important notes with just enough grit to pin them to your memory. And that climactic guitar? Beautiful.
5. Ugly (내 마음이 참 못돼서)
It’s ballad number two, and the weaker of the pair. But, this one’s not designed to be as impactful, preferring a subdued 80’s sheen. However, the melody is just as strong. It’s sentimental and nostalgic, never overplaying its hand. I appreciate this style of album closer, even if I may not come back to it often on its own. The warbling synth underlining the entire song has such a deliciously retro appeal.