LEE JIN-AH | Random (2017)

K-pop’s not all about boys with coloured hair. Lee Jin-Ah’s jazzy, layered compositions first might sound like easy listening, but they’re too subtle and surprisingly inventive for that. She plays piano with a real machismo flair, whipping out some exceptional solos. But then her soft, breathy, autotuned voice tops it all like a synthetic Japanese anime pop creation. Yes, it’s K-pop neo-jazz easy listening.

The opening track, “Stairs”, really sets the tone for the album, flipping wildly between thundering, angular bass piano, twittering Disney orchestration, bebop-style soloing, inspirational power ballad writing, percussive minimalism, and gentle acoustic pop, all within the first minute. Yet, despite all that, there’s somehow — impossibly — a cohesion. It’s virtuosic, yes, but it’s fun too.

The second track, the single, “RANDOM”, is perhaps a bit more poppy and accessible. The chorus is light and bouncy, but listen out for those angular linking sections with rapid-fire slap bass, organ, and harp sweeps, as well as the vocalised a capella waltz refrain. With its swinging brass and cheeky backing vocals, “Everyday” offers another commercial pop track, albeit with clear jazz influences.

The rest of the short 7-track album is far more chilled out, and demands more concentrated listening. Lee’s distinctive vocal certainly lends itself to these softer songs, but the real thrill of this album is hearing her inimitable voice work so unexpectedly well against rocking, high-energy tracks.

Listen to RANDOM online.

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