Although I’ll primarily be reviewing singles, there are some albums that are too influential or strong to not cover. In this segment, I will be spotlighting those standout albums and giving my thoughts on each and every track
Probably my favourite album of the year so far, Dreamcatcher’s first full length album is an absolute triumph. Not only does it manage to sound distinctly like a Dreamcatcher project, but it also stretches the groups sound in unforeseen and exciting directions. Although the group deserve credit for their incredible performances throughout each track, producers Leez and Ollounder deserve a standing ovation. They have composed almost every Dreamcatcher track since debut, but they’ve managed to steadily evolve it over time so that each track feels incredibly refreshing in its own way. Although I’ve liked many of the groups singles in the past, their albums (bar a few tracks) never really connected with me. Thankfully this ends with “Dystopia: The Tree Of Life”, their strongest and most versatile project yet.
2. Scream (review)
A strong callback to the sound that drove much of the groups earlier comebacks, the j-rock influenced bombast of Tension is one of the albums most relentless tracks. From the moment you hear that opening guitar riff, the track never lets up rocketing to its head banging hook at full speed. And what a hook it is. The only thing that Tension really suffers from, is its similarity to much of the groups other work, hence dulling the overall songs overall kick.
4. Red Sun
Probably the most “trendy” song on the album, Red Sun is an inspired blend of trap and eerie music box samples. Rather than opt for standard delivery and production, the entire track carries a constant sense of unease. Opening with ominous, bell like chords it immediately sets the tracks tone. Though I usually don’t enjoy trap laced arrangements, Red Sun‘s minimalist delivery and hypnotic hooks carry much more personality than many other tracks of the same style. While in no way a bad song, it’s probably the weakest on a stellar track list.
5. Black or White
A track that’s in strong contention for being my favourite b-side off the album, the brilliant Black or White is the slickest track the group have ever put their name to. While the punchy guitar driven verses power forward in standard Dreamcatcher fashion, the chorus switches things up completey filtering out most of the instrumentation to give way for an incredibly funky hook. The hook is impeccably arranged, managing to feel both weighty, yet minimalistic at the same time. The production in this track is incredibly streamlined, continuosly morphing and twisting in unexpected directions whilst still feeling like a cohesive whole. Despite the immense number of ideas this track has to juggle, it pulls it off with ease.
6. Jazz Bar
I’ve often expressed my discontent about the overabundance of “coffee-shop” music. Flimsy RnB tracks that pretty much go no where, acting as more a toe tapper or background noise than engaging musical moments. But as with any genre, there are tracks that surpass the general notion of said genre to become something much more. Jazz Bar is one of those tracks, and is Dreamcatchers most enjoyable mid-tempo yet. The track completely lives up to its name, sounding like something that would soundtrack late hazy nights at a city bar than a coffee shop. It’s an incredibly relaxing, yet groovy song and one of the groups strongest vocal performances yet. It actually sounds alot like a long lost city pop track, all the way down to that addictive all english hook.
An invigorating blend of middle eastern influences and trap, SAHARA builds to one of most bombastic choruses on the album. It’s a mammoth refrain, introducing a heavy dose of guitar and percussion and raising the stakes to 11. In fact, it kind of plays like a lesser version of Scream. But then again Scream was a phenomenal single. The verses are no slouch either, combining an otherwise lethargic trap beat with twists and turns that genuinely feel unexpected and interesting. The middle eastern influence being the standout element that helps differentiate SAHARA from its many peers. Though it’s one of those tracks that does fall into the unfortunate trap breakdown, everything around it is so strong, that it comes and goes without much bother.
8. In The Frozen
Tied with Black or White in merit, but just etching it out in sheer ambition, the ever-changing edm-trance of In The Frozen might just be my favourite B-side track off the album. Heavily recalling last years almighty Silent Night, the track fully embraces psytrance, a genre popularised within the kpop industry by acts like Stray Kids, ATEEZ and Dreamcatcher themselves. Whilst Silent Night was tethered to a more symphonic arrangement before exploding at its climax, In The Frozen follows a much more aggressive template. The ever twisting big house loop at the tracks core is an addicting centrepiece, only made stronger by the thumping psytrance post chorus hook that follows. But it isn’t until the tracks climax that In The Frozen really sheds its true colours. We hear the tracks title for the first time, before the instrumental absolutely explodes into an incredible fusion of the tracks bombastic hook and the psytrance post chorus. It’s all exhilarating stuff, and easily one of the strongest album tracks of the year.
The albums second mid-tempo, Daybreak reverts to a more standard musical template than we’ve seen throughout most of the album. In fact, it’s probably the closest this album has gone to generic coffee shop fare. As I discussed in my review of Jazz Bar, this isn’t the kind of track that I normally gravitate to. But once again, the strong vocal performances and incredible production are enough to have me coming back to this track much more than I expected to. I primarily attribute this to the hook, which swells and crests in an immensely satisfying manner, tethered to a very potent refrain. Though it’s the weaker of the albums two mid-tempo’s, Daybreak is still a strong example of its particular genre.
10. Full Moon (released 2018)
The first of two previously released fan tracks on the album, Full Moon returns the album to its more upbeat soundscape. Full Moon has always been one of my favourite Dreamcatcher tracks, and it’s immensely pleasing to finally see it as part of an album. Dreamcatchers music has always been compared to anime openings, and this is probably the track the fits the bill the most. It’s one of the groups most fleshed out tracks, building from a melancholic piano led opening to a flurry of stomping drums and soaring guitars. This combined with one of the strongest hooks of their career, results in a track thats both at once enjoyable and melancholy. My favourite moment is actually when the backing track of the hook carries into the verse around the 2:13 mark. It’s all breathtaking stuff, and easily a track that can sit comfortably in the upper echelons of Dreamcatchers outstanding discography
11. Over The Sky (released 2019)
The second fan song on the album, Over The Sky is another song perfectly serviceable for anime soundtrack status. In fact, I’d say even more so than Full Moon. Although a continuation of their rock sound, Over The Sky is actually one of the more upbeat and bright tracks within the groups discography. I remember absolutely loving this shift in sound when the track came out early last year, but I just didn’t find myself returning to it as much I though I would over the following months. But that’s not to discount the tracks chorus, which bursts forward with the kind of unrelenting rock bombast that the group pull off so well.
12. Paradise (Siyeon solo)
I’m kind of gutted that I never got around to reviewing this song when it came out. And even though I placed it as my 3rd favourite single of January, in hindsight I would probably bump it up to number 2. Siyeon is one of my favourite vocalists working in Kpop right now, and to see her get her own solo track is an incredibly gratifying experience. Even better, it wasn’t a boring soapy ballad! Though still a very vocal centric track, Paradise injects a healthy dose of electro pop to really transform the track into a breathtaking spectacle. It carries all the hallmarks of a great LEEZ, Ollounder single, building from reserved, melodic verses into an incredibly bombastic centrepiece. Though definitely not one of the their strongest tracks, Siyeon imbues the production with so much pathos and character that pretty much nulls most of the tracks other lacklustre aspects. And just for that here are two versions fo the mv.
Best Album Tracks
- Full Moon
- In The Frozen
- Black or White
- Jazz Bar
Final Thoughts: By far the groups strongest album yet, “Dystopia: The Tree Of Language” is an incredibly strong album from start to finish. Although full of standout tracks, it’s also notable to mention that the album doesn’t have a single stinker. For an album this long, this is a very rare feat. Especially when considering that the lowest score on this album is an 8.25. This combined with the sheer number of styles explored, along with the overall impeccable production makes it an incredibly easy choice to award the album with a rating of:
Album Rating: A