Blog Post #140: it’s here!!!

I’ve forgot to post this tsk

On May 30th, I’ve finally received my copy of Fun! Fun! Korean textbook!

 

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So happy that I’m excited to study the book! As of this time of post, I’m not lost at Chapter 4 (this book has 15 chapters). I didn’t bought the workbook because of budgeting problems. Anyway at least I actually have the main book!

Now I’m just waiting for the New Ganada Korean for Foreigners Advanced 1 and 2 hopefully it’ll be released by the end of this year!

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Blog Post #139 / Album review #4 : EXO – EX’ACT

It’s that time of the year! EXO has finally released their third full-length studio album, “EX’ACT“! (pronounced as the word itself ‘exact’). Released on June 9th by their label SM Entertainment (distributed by KT Music), the album comprises nine new songs and two instrumentals. For this review, of course, I’ll go with the majority, thus giving the Korean version a shot. This is actually the first time I’m reviewing a Korean studio album for this blog.

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The album is mostly sound-produced by LDN Noise, so no surprise with the album’s overall sound being acid house or overtly electronic. That means, EXO has finally entered SM’s electropop realm alongside labelmates SHINee and f(x), albeit still maintaining their urban sound. I was actually surprised because on this album, member Kai got to sing plenty of lines and hit some high notes (not the first for him doing this, see Tender Love and some tracks in Sing For You), placing him midway towards the vocal-line members D.O., Baekhyun, Chen and Suho. Same case as Xiumin.

01. Lucky One
This is one of the two title tracks for the album. I have nothing to say about this, there are parts that are dull, there are parts that are bright in sound texture.The song somewhat takes influence on funk, mixed with electronic beats. I liked this, but not really loved. Maybe it’ll be like Growl in which it grew eventually upon several listens.

02. Monster
The main title track of this album. This song completely reminded me of El Dorado (off EXODUS), Lightsaber, and Black Pearl (off XOXO)… might be a hybrid. And look at Kai hitting the high notes before the chorus and Chen doing a higher one midway. Just wow. Same as Lucky One, might grow on me upon several listens.

03. Artificial Love
This gave me a wow factor because of the intro beginning with acid synth bass and those cut-up female stock vocal then the other elements add up by sequence… those beats and the boys’ vocals. Baekhyun’s parts are somewhat high and I felt a bit uncomfortable with it at some point. It quickly became my favorite. Great job to those who’ve created the arrangement and sounds for this song. However, the lyrics is, of course, from the title itself, covers a faked relationship: something that I can really relate to.

04. Cloud 9
This song starts with Chanyeol’s edited vocals then we’ll get to an R&B part and then a trap-like hip hop part but it sounded good. And here goes Kai again, and Xiumin. I love how chill this track is. It sounds perfect. Everything is perfect. Can’t say anything more but perfect.

05. Angel
I love how the piano is the dominating instrument in this song besides the beats. I’ve always loved piano over interesting beats. Of course, thanks to The Stereotypes and company, this song is a bit simpler to listen but I can’t help but to think it’s a song supposedly given to SHINee, IDK. And to Chanyeol too, who co-wrote the lyrics.

06. 백색소음 (White Noise)
My goodness, what is this song even. Acid bass synths again and those trip-hop-like beats. And those muffled neo-soul keyboards. Just wow. I loved everything in this. The lyrics is your typical “even if we’re far from each other I still remember you” type of love song. Good job, LDN Noise. You did impressed me again. You made me like this song instantly.

07. 유리어항 (One and Only) (Glass Aquarium)

We have here a predominantly R&B track. The song is generally chill, and its lyrics are your typical simile-ladden love song which reminds me of Baby Don’t Cry (off XOXO). Not to mention how I loved D.O.’s adlib near the last part. It was cool.

08. They Never Know
Another R&B-influenced track we have here. The lyrics are almost identical in concept with the last track which is “figurative” love. What I don’t understand about this song is that has a electro-trance-like arrangement in between, and then abruptly ends. It leaves me puzzled, thinking that this is a rushed track.

09. Stronger
An R&B-soul piano ballad with a muffled bass synth, this album closer definitely gets some emotional moment here. I loved the key changes in several verses, the piano progression, and of course, the boys’ vocals. I consider this song to be dedicated to those who have supported the members as EXO all these past few years, as evident in the lyrics that this is clearly a thank-you song. We rarely get a ballad as an album closer for a group like EXO (save for Promise: EXO 2014 being the last track of the EXODUS repackaged) but this happened. That’s clearly how you close an album.

10. Lucky One (Instrumental)

11. Monster (Instrumental)

EX’ACT might be the album I’m expecting from EXO. Just look at how the album sounded like. It was beautiful. I wish they will continue this kind of sound but of course, they need to explore different genres too instead of confining themselves to urban music (SM needs to work on this for their boy bands tbh). Kai actually singing and almost not rapping at all was marvelous, I wish he’ll be like this from now on. All nine members did their job very well for this album. Maybe for the several months to come, this album might be considered one of their best in terms of music quality, and of course I do say so myself. Kudos to LDN Noise,  Adrian McKinnon and the rest who made this high-quality album.

Blog Post #138: Music on conflict

These days, I feel like getting tired of expecting music releases. It’s getting boring.

Basically, the music industry is somewhat plunging, but there is somewhat a balance in there.

For the Korean music scene, of course, I’m an avid follower of SM Entertainment’s releases. Since they’ve established SM STATION, we got ourselves treats every week. Songs from SM artists, collaborations between major label and indie musicians, different genres, this looks like something new. Also, NCT, the second product of the SM Rookies program (the first being Red Velvet), already debuted. Outside SM, there are some handful of hits out there, but most of them didn’t have staying power on me. Anyway, at this moment I am sort of excited for girl group EXID’s first full-length album which will be out June 1st! Also looking forward to EXO’s upcoming album and f(x) member Luna’s solo debut.

For the Japanese music scene, I am proud to say that yes, Utada Hikaru is now back. She has released two digital singles: “Hanataba wo Kimi ni” and “Manatsu no Toori-ame”. Meanwhile, producer and CAPSULE member Nakata Yasutaka is still making me bored through his recent EDM tunes and over-the-edge self-plagiarism. Seriosuly, I really don’t know what to expect next from him now that Perfume’s new album and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s greatest hits album are now released. Should I really expect something in his music now? So far pending his release table is Mito Natsume’s debut album and a possible new CAPSULE album. The last song I genuinely enjoyed from him was Kyary’s “No No No”. The original and remix versions of CAPSULE’s “Dreamin’ Boy” and Teddyloid’s Game Changers were contenders for me.

In other news, record companies here in the Philippines are like in the verge of wrapping up. Just recently (in March), Warner Music Philippines has stated that they stopped producing and distributing of physical formats and has now focused on digital music marketing. In other aspects, other musicians are somewhat struggling on record deals so they end up releasing them on their own and producing CDs upon request.

Which reminds me of my upcoming music project. I don’t have a solid concept of what I should do for now, and I have my deadline set for myself. Since this is what I had supposed to do when I was in high school, maybe it’s about time to take risks. Let’s see what we can do about this.

There are times that I get bored with music, not because of anticipating but because of disappointment. In fact, there are many debuts from last year alone up to now and I don’t even know who they all are hahahaha

Okay maybe I should start thinking of a good plan for my next project. I need some more time to practice and write solid lyrics.

Blog Post #137: 4 years

Today (May 28th) marks four years since I officially ventured into studying the Korean language!

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Even if this is already my fourth year into learning the language, lemme just take note that I took basic Korean class way back October 2011 under the same academy I’ve attended. For a total (not including the aforementioned Basic Korean class) of nine months of classes, that looked fast for me and failed my last class and its succeeding TOPIK exams, so I ended up self-studying.

I would like to thank all my teachers who’ve guided me on studying the language. You are all the best!  Also to my classmates on all four classes, thank for creating that colleague-camaraderie. 🙂

Now, I am contemplating if I should take classes again but I think it’ll conflict with my future plans. Let’s see what we can do about it ‘cuz it’s all for my own improvement. Let’s see if we can raise that TOPIK Level 4 into Level 5 by the next four years haha

As part of that fourth anniversary of me studying the language, I got myself a gift. My copy of the Fun! Fun! Korean 4 textbook will arrive by next week and I can’t wait to open it on its entirety! 🙂

 

Blog Post #136 / Album review #3: Perfume – COSMIC EXPLORER

Wow, it’s been a long time since I did an album review lol
anyway, let’s get through it!

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COSMIC EXPLORER is the fifth original studio album (make it the sixth one if you’re counting the Complete Best compilation) of Japanese girl group Perfume, one of the few, well-known active girl groups in Japan and is not only known domestically but also internationally. They are also known for their electronic pop tunes and their recent technological performances. It was released on April 6, 2016 by Universal Music Japan.

The album is, of course, produced by their long-time sound producer, CAPSULE‘s Nakata Yasutaka, which is known for producing songs for the group as well as for Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, making their success and recognition not limited to Japan but also to other countries in Asia, Europe and the Americas. But for this album, we might forget that musically this might not contain the trademark Nakata sounds that we used to hear.

01. Navigate
This intro piece begins with a mid-tempo square lead arpeggio. It could be better if the arrangement leads to a Tibetan instrumental similar to Alan’s Intro piece off her first Japanese album. That would be eargasmic, but we’re just waiting for this intro to cut towards the next track which is…

02. Cosmic Explorer
What’s with the loud mastering, Nakata? This track reminds me of 80’s rock music and some of then-Russian female duo t.A.t.U.’s songs though. I don’t understand why this album has opened with a mid-tempo track for the first time. Not to mention the synth arrangement before the second verse totally reminds me of SHINee. I might feel this track if it’s not for the oooooooohs.

03. Miracle Worker
Okay so this is Toumei Ningen 2.0. IDK what to feel with the lyrics. The only part I liked from this is the one from 0:54 to 1:01. Like Cosmic Explorer, I didn’t like the artificial harmonization, the oooohs and the wowoahs in it and its loud mastering. The last part was subtle and the microbeats made it up.

04. Next Stage with YOU
When I first heard the preview of this song, I was disappointed, and I was right. The chorus in this is the only lyrics. The intro was filled with beats and guitars which for me sounds similar to the C2 iced tea commercial. Anyway, we still have the aaaaaah, oooooh ooooh here. The long instrumental part didn’t work for me. The song was a tie-up to luxury car brand Mercedes Benz’ A-Class car campaign in late November 2015. Not to mention the app version of the song could be better than this tbh (it screams Komuro Tetsuya).

05. STORY
This song was first premiered in March 2015 during their performance in the SXSW festival in the United States. The piece is completely void of the Nakata sound, instead displaying generic EDM arrangements, almost like how Nakata did it with CAPSULE’s WAVE RUNNER album. Maybe a hybrid of CAPSULE’s 12345678, White As Snow and Kyary’s CANDY CANDY (remix).

06. FLASH (Album-mix)
This version is 1000 times better than the EDM-sounding original. Even though still containing WAVE RUNNER elements, this version of FLASH completely wowed me. I loved the reversed piano intro, the piano composition, the beats, the brass, that audience stock vocal, everything. I love how lush every sound is here. For me, it’s the only song I genuinely liked in this album. The original version was used as a theme song to the Chihayafuru movie series.

07. Sweet Refrain (Album-mix)
This was the first single from the album, released in late November 2013 as a tie-up to Japanese drama Toshi Densetsu no Onna. I honestly don’t have any thoughts about this song. The original version was a trainwreck of dubstep, making it not radio-friendly. No wonder Perfume didn’t performed the original version in any of their concert legs. This version, meanwhile, is already listenable. I liked the piano intro, the microbeats from the extended mix of Kyary’s Tsukema Tsukeru, the bass arrangement, and how the first verse was free of dubstep (it returns to the second verse), the additional guitars and stuff. Still, the song isn’t anything special and is boring. If the instruments used are similar to those in Mito Natsume’s Maegami Kirisugita, maybe it’ll work. I do appreciate Nakata retouching the instrumental but I just don’t know why he didn’t re-recorded Achan’s vocals again (in which at that time she was sick).

08. Baby Face
Here comes the last of the new tracks in this album. We start again with subtle synths and guitars. I feel this sounds like a summer theme. I’m just complaining about the lack of beats this song has and the long instrumental part. Also, we have the banjo from Kyary’s Sungoi Aura appearing in this song. Overall, this could count as a MAVERICK (MEG’s last album with Nakata) reject. I also feel weird with the lyrics in this.

09. TOKIMEKI LIGHTS (Album-mix)
A B-side from the STAR TRAIN single and the tie-up to Eisai Pharmaceuticals’ Chocola BB Plus, I think this is the only genuine-sounding Perfume track in this album tbh. I agree with others that this is like a song that fits within their third album JPN. I remotely liked this song, even with some little re-arrangements. The last part was a bit quiet than the original, and I liked it. My second fave in this album so far.

10. STAR TRAIN (Album-mix)
What’s with the taiko intro? I honestly thought that this will be the last song in the album but why put it as a tenth one? The original didn’t worked for me as if Nakata is attempting this to be SPICE 2.0, but it ended up sounding like Wiz Khalifa’s See You Again. We have here the wowwoooooaaaaah especially in the chorus. Although the harmonization was appreciated, this doesn’t sound anything Perfume at all. The excessive use of the taiko drum and the brass sections were just enough for this to be called an ‘Album-mix’. You failed again, ystk. The song was released as a single in late October 2015.

11. Relax in the City
Released in late April 2015, nine months after Cling Cling. Just gonna keep the same comment about this track, it was good but it would be better if the CM version was used for this. The song is a tie-up to Sapporo Beer’s Green Aroma variant.

12. Pick Me Up
The second A-side with Relax in the City. Still keeping my first impression of this track from last year. For me, this could be the worst title track Perfume has promoted. The song was nothing Nakata Yasutaka, but more of like Calvin Harris, Avicii or David Guetta. In other words, generic EDM. I could at least accept the Nicki Minaj-sounding Spending all my time, but not this. Guitars, the synths, no, just no. No wonder it just peaked at number 69 in the Japan Hot 100 then they forced-promoted it against Relax in the City.

13. Cling Cling (Album-mix)
The only single of 2014 is having a makeover. I was actually surprised with the intro. From G-F#-E-B to the hypnotic C-B-C-D-E-F#-G-A-B. Then cut after first chorus. Ratatatatatatatatatatatata. Instrumental featuring a pitched-down manipulated vocal from one of the members going aaaaaaaa~ I loved the arrangement of the intro. I also loved the ‘I will cling to your chest’ part and how the manipulated vocals were obvious. I liked this waaaaaaay better than the original as its ‘update’, but there’s still something missing in this version and IDK what it is.

14. Hold Your Hand
The B-side of the Cling Cling single and a tie-up to Japanese drama Silent Poor. IDK why Perfume bugged Nakata to include this in the album as its closer, as it sounds nothing special. But then they said that because of the lyric video project, it makes the song special for them and thus, makes the album close in a sentimental way, but not musically. Maybe the lyrics make it up, but nah. The song was okay, sounds nostalgic late 80s synthpop, but it’s missing something.

Perfume has once again defined themselves through their vocal contributions in this album, mixed with Nakata’s Vengeance Sound packs (yes he uses them), COSMIC EXPLORER is an album longed for by the P.T.A (Perfume’s fans) but not for those who avidly follow Nakata Yasutaka’s works. Patterned after incoherent tie-ups and concepts plus the margin of release dates of every nine months per single, this album wasn’t clearly organized. Maybe it’s something special for others, but for some, not. This was even worse than CAPSULE’s WAVE RUNNER. The new songs didn’t helped, too. It looks like more of a compilation album rather than a studio album. It would be better if Koi wa Zenkei Shisei (B-side of Sweet Refrain) and Ijiwaru na Hello (one of Cling  Cling’s three B-sides) were included because so far those were the only awesome songs and the only genuine-sounding ‘Perfume’ for this era. I just hope Perfume won’t release any new song for the rest of this year, do more outside collaborations and just continue doing tours. We might put the blame on both Amuse and Nakata for this, but let’s not forget that the girls are what being talked about here. I’m just hoping their next single releases leading to their future album won’t be like this anymore. Still, I appreciate this album only for the members’ vocals.

Blog Post #135: Dull moment

Hi, everyone, This is Philippine Saram.

I apologize for the inactivity of this blog. I would be lying if I said I’m still interested to blog. Yeah, these moments come. Once I start blogging, I eventually get bored over time. That happened to my first wordpress blog.

Nevertheless, there are times that I have the need to update because I need to, but I often forget doing it.

Anyway, I’ll just try my best to update this blog to my utmost effort. I will be making a recap post sometime.

Thank you for understanding,

Philippine Saram

Blog Post #134: resolution

Belated Happy Holidays, y’all!

As always, I’m quite busy with the remaining stuff from last year. For those who don’t know yet, I already stepped down on my post as a full-time performer and I’m now a free agent. Doing such activity for three fruitful years brought me nothing but happiness and learning. Nevertheless, I will still find time to do one of the things I love — performing.

I am so thankful of all the blessings I am receiving.

Anyways, tomorrow, I will go back again to the job I did last year — being an English teacher to Koreans. This might not be new stuff for me but at least I’ve got a hold of what’s gonna be back in that profession once again. I’m happy for the news and oh… I hope the students will cooperate or I’m doomed hahaha

And yes, what resolutions do we have here for 2016? Aside from finding ways on being a performer at the least, of course, language learning. Since I got TOPIK Level 4, it made me concentrate more on studying the Korean language. (I haven’t got my certificate yet ‘cuz I got one letter of my name wrong, they’re fixing it and IDK when will I be receiving it.) I think I must buy the follow-up dictionary to the Tuttle’s Learner’s Korean-English Dictionary titled Essential Korean Vocabulary. The said dictionary covers Beginner to Advanced level vocabulary (as opposed to the former only covering Beginner to Intermediate). It was just released last year and it’s already available in our local bookstores so, yeah, I should never let this year pass without buying that book hahaha

Also, the institution I’ve previously attended now offers Intermediate Korean 2 class! So sad that I can’t enroll for the sake of ‘human activities’, and that I wasn’t able to pass Intermediate Korean 1 hahaha but hey there I’m willing to retake and advance. IDK when will I be back there though.

As for the Japanese language, I’m sorta not studying nor reviewing everything for the past several weeks, so I think I should start reviewing and practicing too ‘cuz I plan to take JLPT N4 by July (or if something happens I’ll push it back by December). Of course, focus is still the Beginner level.

I will also wait for another TOPIK paper to be randomly published, and I would love to answer one test again.

And for those who missed it, Korean boy band EXO will be here in the country for a one two-day concert! Too bad I wasn’t able to prepare properly for this, but still, I was able to be given a chance to watch Day 1 of the concert. I also wanna watch Day 2 ;;;;;;;; The concert will be on January 23rd and 24th at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

I have many personal goals and hoping I could at least accomplish over half of it ‘cuz last year I did. What’s your plans and goals for 2016?