Posted on May 31, 2017


People always say that the follow-up album is never as good as the first. When an artist has a really successful debut release, they often struggle to reproduce the quality of that first album on their second release. When that second album fails to reach the heights of the first, it can often result in a group completely disbanding. Artists may feel great pressure when they are making their second album; they don’t want to let the fans down, after all. Sometimes, if bands do manage to break this second album jinx, they might just catapult themselves to stardom! Check out the three artists below, who we think have broken the sophomore album jinx:

1. Jun Bumsun and the Yangbans - Revolution Song (by Minjip Kim)

Jun Bumsun and the Yangbans’ second album ‘Revolution Songs’ is the second of a trilogy consisting of the albums ‘Love Songs’, ’Revolution Songs’ & ’Wandering Songs’. After releasing the first album, ‘Love Songs’, Jun Bumsun went to study in the UK. He wrote ‘Revolution Songs’ while studying in the UK, as the theme of the album fitted in perfectly with his studies.

The band's debut album, ‘Love Songs’, featured beautiful, poetic lyrics bathed in a stream of calming sound. The album contains ten warm folk rock tracks, most of them centered on the love tales of a fictional character called Myeongwol. The remaining tracks cover the personal life of Jun Bumsun (the band’s leader) and his stories of studying abroad. Jun Bumsun does not consider this the first album from his band Jun Bumsun and the Yangbans; rather, he considers it the last solo album by Jun Bumsun.

However, when Jun Bumsun and the Yangbans returned with their second album ‘Revolution Songs’, they were suddenly singing about uprisings and revolutions. The line “Jun Bumsun returned after a year with an electric guitar, not an acoustic one” describes the changes the band have gone through rather well. As well as being armed with a new sound, the band returned with a new style. Wearing their hair in  the manner of historical Korean revolutionary figure Jun Bongjoon, the band had reinvented themselves and their sound, which they refer to as ‘Yangban Rock’.

The highlight of this album is that it excellently combines traditional Korean rhythms with a hard rock style. The strong drum and bass riffs along with the rushing guitar parts display the beauty of retro Korean rock styles. Past releases from the band covered various topics and themes, but this album has one consistent theme that continues throughout the album: revolution. The whole composition of the album is structured like a traditional Korean play. The first track, ‘The Face In the Mist’, is where the actors make their appearance on the stage. They then lift the mood somewhat with the more lighthearted and danceable tracks ‘Monster’ and ‘Moondance’. The next song, ‘John of Arc’, focuses on more turbulent times, and then, near the end of the album in the song ‘The Cloud Dream’, the band use the self-deprecating lyrics, “It’s all over, I am neither a philosopher nor a scholar.” The album closes with the dreamy, atmospheric song ‘Midnight Run’, to which the actors leave the stage during a standing ovation.

Jun Bumsun and the Yangbans were nominated for awards in three categories at the 2017 Korean Music Awards. They came away with the award for best rock single, with critics saying, “They showed the true power of music by dealing with the Korean political tragedy with sharp and humorous lyrics.” (The funny thing is that when making this track, Jun Bumsun was not really talking about a social revolution, but was more focused on a revolution in his personal love life.)

Currently, Jun Bumsun is serving his compulsory term of military service. In the meantime, we will all just have to wait for the release of the third and final album in the trilogy, ‘Wandering Songs’.

2. Thornapple - I Keep Stuttering And Have Forgotten How To Sleep (by Yesol Han)

Thornapple released their debut album ‘I Keep Stuttering And Have Forgotten How To Sleep’ in 2010, and then returned with their follow-up album ‘Abnormal Climate’ in the summer of 2014. Now, as the weather is getting hotter and hotter again, I am reminded of listening to that album back in the particularly hot summer of 2014. The title song from the album was ‘Strange Tropics’. I first listened to it when the summer air was heavy and humid, and it turned my ordinary summer night into something a bit more unique; a special memory. In short, this album absolutely suits a stinking hot summer.

Listening to the ten tracks in order, the cool guitar riffs and rich bass sounds that cover everything from high to low ranges, along with the skillful drumming and dramatic composition of the songs, will probably get you picturing all things summer. Everything from cold ice, a hot haze shimmering above the pavement, and the blazing sun roasting your skin to the humid air that does not cool when the sun goes down. The lyric in one of the songs says, ”Just survive today”, which also reminds me of struggling through particularly hot and humid summer days. Maybe what they are trying to say on this album is that we must cultivate a lifestyle that can endure not only the earth’s abnormal climate change but one which can survive the changes within our own minds as well.

The theme of this article is ‘The second album that is better than the first’, but honestly, it is hard to compare their first two albums. The band’s first release <I Keep Stuttering And Have Forgotten How To Sleep> got great reviews and praise from fans and critics alike for the density of its sound and its beautiful poetic Korean lyrics. It will always be picked as one of the band’s best albums. However, as time goes on the band keeps progressing all the time. They are not afraid of change and always pursue new things. Despite always wanting to move forward, Thornapple always manage to maintain the foundation stone of their sound, which keeps the band’s musical colour intact. Anyway, I suggest you start getting into their second album by listening to the tracks ‘Veranda’ or ‘Darkroom’ first.

3. Seenroot - Seenroot's Wonderland (by Hansol Kim)

Strictly speaking, this is actually more a case of the first album being better than the debut EP! Seenroot’s first EP consisted of six tracks, including the song ‘Sweet Heart’ (which recently made a late entry onto the charts and catapulted the band into the public's awareness) and Seenroot’s personal favorite track, ‘Wings of Desire’

I first heard Seenroot back in 2015 when I was working as a supporter at Sangam World Cup Stadium. I was working hard preparing a booth for the event when I heard the song ‘Sweet Heart’ from a distance. I remember thinking, ‘I don’t want to be working over here, I want to be over there watching the performance’. I wanted to run over to the stage and dance.

Of course, it is a good thing that the band has become famous and are known by people other than myself. But I do wish that some of their other songs besides ‘Sweet Heart’ had become more popular, too--especially some of the tracks on their first album, which was released in 2016. The album is very honest and expresses the sensibilities of Shin Hyun-hee and Kim Root really well.  Songs such as ‘Shouldn’t Have Done That’, ‘He and Me’, and ‘Secret Crush’ are about love and thus are those that everyone can relate to, because everyone has experienced love at least once. Also, the track called ‘It’s Meant To Be’ features bassist Kim Root (who doesn’t usually sing) on vocals, giving a really impressive performance.

I really want to recommend that everyone has a listen to ‘Interstellar’ and ‘Hongdae Blues’. ‘Interstellar’ is the what Shin wrote after watching the movie of the same name. In the song she asks herself about what she would do if the moment of her death were right in front of her. The sounds of the xylophone and guitar work in great harmony along with Shin’s calm voice. According to the artist herself, the song ‘Hongdae Blues’ is the most Seenroot-like song of them all. The truthful lyrics tell the story of the band’s move from Daegu to Hongdae in order to chase the dream of music. The almost shouting style of lyrical delivery is very different to that used on ‘Sweet Heart’. Seenroot introduce themselves as ‘a 365 days a year band, a band that doesn’t rest’. I hope they keep playing and I will always be looking forward to their next release.

Written by : Hansol Kim, Minjip Kim, Yesol Han
English Translation : Patrick Connor & Doyeon Lim
Edited by : Rock 'N' Rose


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