Seoul - I Become A Shade (of cool pop-rock)
Seoul is a mysterious group from 2015. “Why 2015? It’s 2018!” you say...
Well, recently at WIDR, as I spelunking the depths of the office, I stumbled across a strange, grey-ish container. It had been hidden away, so that time would pass it by, and low and behold, it was from 2015. A time capsule! Within it, I found a peculiar looking CD in monochrome. Upon the cover there was a man, running away from the viewer, towards alien looking buildings made of cement. It was I Become A Shade, an album by Seoul.
I Become A Shade is an ambient indie pop/rock album with laid back vocals. Subtle groove and tight instrumentation make this album radiate chill energy. Similar to Atlas Genius’s When It Was Now and their style of electro rock around 2013, I Become A Shade feels like a natural continuation of that sound, despite coming from Seoul, not the former band. The album does feel more laid back, and less.. pressured, I’d say. Each song fits well with the other while still maintaining a good amount of individual identity. Seoul also do have some more dream/ambient pop vibes, similar to Mind Monogram or perhaps a little Postiljonen. Overall, I Become A Shade is for early nights of light relaxation, or getting over that slow feeling you get in the beginning of the afternoon.
Getting into specific songs of album, the first song starts out with a shimmering of ambient synths and slow, melancholy vocals, evoking feelings of loss and confusion, while deeply immersed in a foreign world.
Track 2, “The Line” quickly transitions from the previous song into an upbeat, catchy and synth led track, reassuring you that even if you’re lost, not all is lost. Perky tamborine, creative syncopation, and generally bright instruments keep this song happy and light, along with an neat breakdown featuring drawn out -but not slow- vocals.
The next song, “Haunt / A Light” features an interesting style of song where it almost seems like two types of songs are meshed together per verse and chorus, and they sometimes slowly, but sometimes spontaneously transition to each other. Groovy synths and bassline keep the pace as ambient vocals once again take the forefront with the woes of living in a “miserable city”.
Come to think of it, this album and its contents remind me a lot of Why We Run’s Hologram, which is also a laid back, ambient album about being sad in unfamiliar settings. Obviously that’s quite the generalization, but I’m being general here on purpose.
Jumping forward a bit, track 7, entitled “Stay With Us” has been a clear favorite of mine ever since I got my hands on this album. I regularly return to it, and I think it’s very groovy, with subtle, shimmering synths, a touch of clean rhythm guitar, and placid yet tranquil ride cymbal that brings the whole thing into a simply grand level of cohesion. It also has that Atlas Genius feel of more electro rock that I mentioned earlier.
Without going into too much more of a rant, I also really enjoyed track 9, “I Negate”, which is a very laid back and calming piece with great harmony and ambience.
Track 11, “Silencer” is nice, upbeat, and has a touch of the feel of The Diogenes Club, though with more explicit language that I was disappointed to hear. It’s not that I have anything against it, it’s just that on this album, this is the only song that has it, and it’s very casually thrown into the lyrics. I would get if it was to prove a more extreme point, but this song is just as laid back and pop-y as the rest, so I don’t get it. Anyway, good to listen to if you’re sensitive of your audience.
And here I was, trying to avoid a rant.
Anyway, Galway, the final track of the album ends it out with a nice ambient soundscape, which solidifies into one last pleasant song to conclude the twelve songs, or perhaps transition to the beginning of the album once again, depending on how much you liked it. Yeah, I listened to it on repeat a few times, you caught me.
Overall, I Become A Shade is a delightful stable of the modern, more indie pop sound, with influences from other genres thrown in as well. If you’re looking for your next album to get into casually, this is it. It’s perfect for most of the day when you’re feeling generally alright, and you’d like something to keep your spirits high.
Best Tracks: The Line (2), Real June (4), Stay With Us (7), and I Negate (9)!