With their new EP Her, Korean indie pop group ADOY continues to impress. Moving away from the stereotypical “K-pop” sound, ADOY have made their mark with a diverse electronic-driven dreampop vibe that enchants.
ADOY’s first album, 2017’s Catnip immediately grabbed people’s attention, shooting them to the top of Korea’s growing indie scene. From there, they’ve continued to release tracks and tour, and even have a North American tour coming up in 2022. It’s an impressive career trajectory for an independent band in one of the most corporate-dominated music industries in the world.
Her refines ADOY’s sound without significant reinvention, making it an excellent entry point into their catalog. It starts out with Simply, beginning with smooth synth pedals and a laid-back beat. Lead singer Oh Juhwan’s vocals are languid, reverb-y, and with just a hint of deliberate Daft Punk-style electronic tuning. In this track, and throughout the album, their synth tones have a slightly organic feel, and often play parts that would otherwise be handled by acoustic instruments.
The result feels like sinking into digital seas, being guided along by slightly wistful, slightly melancholy lyrics which are longing for love and acceptance. The entire album is sung in English, for the record.
Things get more upbeat with Antihero, a surprisingly upbeat tune about loneliness in a life of illusions driven by Hollywood. The earworm chorus sounds like it would be a good fit for a TV show main theme, with grand synth swells that call back to classic 80s new wave bands like Duran Duran. Although who or what the ‘antihero’ of the title remains unclear – perhaps a tribute to David Bowie?
Saint is probably the most energetic track on the album, starting off with tinkly echoplexed synths before exploding into a full range of production, developed by keyboardist Zee. It has a real Shiny Toy Guns vibe, as does much of the rest of the album. The feel is of an introvert at a high school dance, watching people swirl around him.
Another interesting feature of their production is that their synth tones frequently sound a bit ‘detuned’ with impure tonality. However, this never sounds unmusical. It gives them an almost organic quality, that further reinforces its odd electronic-accoustic sound. One could almost think this was music from another planet.
They switch things up with Baby, as female backup vocalist (and bassist) Jung Dayoung steps to the front. The sound strips back to a blues feel, with jazzy drums adding energy without disrupting the laid-back mood. As it develops, Oh Juhwon comes back for a duet, giving it shades of Japanese city pop. This is the most chillout track on an already chill album, and it does a good job setting up for the final stretch of Her – especially when some wonderful 70s rock flutes come in at the end.
By contrast, NY starts off hard with some major future funk synth energy – someone’s a fan of Macross 82-99! As with Antihero, it’s an ode to the fantasy of American success, this time focused on the Big Apple. It continues the City Pop vibe, but this time with visions of a pixel-art Manhattan skyline sliding by in the background.
Finally, Up wraps up the EP in unexpected fashion – a downtempo, melancholy instrumental piece that sounds like pure Wendy Carlos, with some of the most retro synths on the album. It concludes on a single quivering tone that gives the ending a slightly ominous feel.
All told, Her is a smooth, slightly melancholy, expertly-composed 25 minutes of pure electronic-driven dreampop bliss. It’s easily recommended to anyone who’s a fan of the genre, or of throwback synth work in general.