There are times when approaching a release with zero musical expectations confuses me (as the case of another review I'm writing), but there are also times when that same approach gives me the chance to see the music better, as the case of 2YOON's "Harvest Moon". I didn't listen to any of the teasers, I haven't even seen the video (I will though, after I write this ;D), and because of the fact that this is Cube, I only expected, and hoped, that their vocals be done justice.
I got that, and more. I got great vocals outside of the shadow of 4Minute, I got interesting tracks, but also tracks that made for a dynamically cohesive album. "Harvest Moon" was the kind of album I first listened to from start to finish, knowing when the songs transitioned from one another, but afterwards I remembered the flow of the entire album just as much as I did the individual tracks. If this is Cube's one good album quota for the year (as BEAST's releases were in the past), I'm perfectly okay with that.
When I heard that their lead single would be "country-inspired", I was a bit worried because I really do doubt Cube's A&R most of the time, but now I regret every worrying. Honestly, "24/7" really intrigues me because I never thought Cube could do something like this, let alone pull it off. It's really interesting because you actually do hear the country in it, with the cowbell and the banjo, and also melodically and in their choice of chords -- the people who put this song together clearly knew what they were doing. But what hit the nail on the head for me was how instead of just being a country-rip off, this still sounds like a K-Pop song, in the best possible way. You hear it in the bridges, you hear it in majority of the melody, but you hear it best when it gets mixed up with the country elements. It's striking not because it's a stark contrast, it's striking because it's not something you expect to work. That's why this, my friends, is what I call creativity. Well-executed creativity.
Underneath all that though, "24/7" is not only a sonically well-done song, it's also technically proficient. Considering how brilliantly the sound was put together, I'm not surprised. The structure is your standard verse-bridge-chorus, but the elements themselves are dynamic enough to one, keep you on your toes, and two, sound less "boring" than the structure should've made the song out to be. There are so many things going on, yes, but the shifts are both natural and swift, giving the song a sense of conviction. This song knows exactly what it has to do, and it knows exactly what it's doing. And in the end, you get an effortlessly creative song, with that same effortlessness channeled in the brevity of it all. It's a song that's good from all angles and depths -- fun on the outside, intriguing in the middle, and ridiculously creative on the inside.
The rest of the EP is hardly country-influenced (I'd say it isn't), and usually that would instantly be a downside for me because that's the simplest way to deliver cohesion and it's what majority of acts do, but we have to remember that "24/7" is half-country, half-K-Pop. And I love Cube for getting a hold of the K-Pop, and clinging on to it, because regardless of whether they did it on purpose or because they couldn't keep up the country influences, they delivered a solid EP.
This is what I mean when I say that it's okay to take the easy way out, but you have to make sure that you can deliver with brevity. Contrary to popular belief, easy isn't always the safest choice. But anyway, I really do love the rest of the EP because I didn't get an EP with four filler tracks and a lead single -- I got one with five, strong tracks.
"Nightmare", which features BTOB's Ilhoon, is one of those songs that go for the subdued epic sound, with the flat, gentle melody, and all these generic instruments made to sound bigger and fuller. But I like how they took that template and instead of singing it like other people who hide behind it and let the song do the work (which works too sometimes), their vocals gave the melody some intensity, and created some good friction between the melody and the instrumental. There were some really gorgeous moments when their vocals smoothed out but retained the intensity -- brilliant. 2YOON's vocals are hard to do A&R for, honestly, because there are times when their vocals end up making the song cheap, and what I expected to happen on this song was that the producers try to cover up the intensity, which is a really, really bad idea. Instead they did the complete opposite, and it actually worked. This isn't only a good A&R decision, it's also an aptly-executed song.
I love "Clap Clap Clap", because it's the type of song that could have been a filler track, but it turned out anything from that. It's a welcome break, not from good songs, but from intense ones. It's laid-back, not lazy. Those verses are gorgeous and that chorus is so unassumingly pretty, and unlike the other songs, the vocals don't give it intensity, they give it body. I also really like all the little details they threw in -- the pretty harmonies, the gentle, but audible ad-libs behind -- they keep you interested, but they don't distract you.
"Harvest Moon" is one of the rare albums that prove the value of not only a cohesive repertoire, but also an album that delivers that cohesion in the right order. Track order matters more than people think it does, and it's good to know that Cube seems to think that way too.