Springtime is here and with the flowers blossoms the angelic voice of Lee Su-hyun.
Lee Su-hyun and her older brother Lee Chan-hyuk – together, the brother-sister folk duo Akdong Musician – last graced the K-pop scene with the group’s 2014 debut studio album, “Play.” “Play” was also released in the spring – Lee Su-hyun’s airy falsetto and strong vibrato conjure images of soft rain and vivid flora, while Lee Chan-hyuk’s mellow guitar chords and effortless harmonies support his sister’s voice without skipping a beat.
If “Play” is the gentle transition from winter to spring, “Spring” – the duo’s energetic, six-song extended play released Wednesday – is the season in full color.
Like the changing of the seasons, Akdong Musician has also changed in musical maturity and attitude. Lee Su-hyun is not 15 years old anymore, as she was in “Play,”and her voice has become stronger. Lee Chanhyuk has also taken some risks with genre, moving away from folk-inspired sounds and turning slightly toward jazz.
The two singles, “RE-BYE” and “How People Move,” showcase foot-tapping beats and brassy instrumentals while displaying the siblings’ infectious happiness and playfulness.
“RE-BYE” features a syncopated piano line slinking underneath Lee Su-hyun’s trilling falsetto, giving the impression of the siblings starring in a detective movie. The music video also features the brother and sister investigating an attempted murder in a theater, sneaking backstage and performing dance numbers onstage before finally catching the culprit.
It’s a relief to see the siblings’ playfulness hasn’t left since their last album. Often, the K-pop industry makes experienced artists exhausted and weary, but Akdong Musician is still the energetic, goofy and folksy duo from 2014.
“Haughty Girl” is a smooth coffee-shop track reminiscent of a sip of a warm mocha latte or a stroll through sunlit grass. “Every Little Thing” begins with an orchestral melody but quickly segues into a Michael Bublé-esque brass section, smoothly and efficiently transitioning to a slow and heartfelt theme at the end.
A slight downside to the album is that some of the songs, like “Green Window” and “How People Move,” are too upbeat and become frantic.
In “Play,” the standout song was the slow and sad “Melted,” which established soft ballads as the duo’s strong point. In “Spring,” the up-tempo beats and rapid-fire brass in “How People Move” feel like the duo will trip over, but it manages to stay upright at the last second.
The album closes after only 21 minutes, but not before taking the listener through an introspective journey with the final track, “Around.” The song is beautiful and reminiscent of “Melted” – Lee Su-hyun’s gentle minor-key melodies, harmonizing with her brother’s lower-octave vocals, tint the album with melancholy.
The album begins with the playfulness of late childhood and ends with the gravity of adolescence. Akdong Musician has grown up since “Play”: Lee Chan-hyuk and Su-hyun are not children frolicking in the springtime of their youth anymore.
The brother and sister have moved on; their music, much like the two as artists, invokes the transition from the late spring of childhood into the early summer of adolescence.