[Review] Loen Tree 'Summer Story'
Watch this teaser.
Now tell me, what kind of song are you expecting? A sad-but-pretty orchestral ballad? That's what I was expecting. Here's the single:
Tricked you, right? It certainly caught me off guard. Of all the things I might have expected from that teaser, synthy, '80s pop was not one of them.
"Sea of Moonlight" is the title track of 'Summer Story', Loen Entertainment's first label-wide collaborative album under Loen Tree. It's a cute little song about making memories on a beautiful summer night, and it's just ambiguous enough to be taken as a love song or a song about friendship. The music video goes with the latter, showing IU and the girls of the yet-to-debut rookie group FIESTAR going on a camping trip. IU runs the show by making dinner, captaining their pretend pirate ship, and putting face paint on everyone.
The video is pure, girly fun from start to finish, with the girls burying each other in sand, dressing up as animals, roasting marshmallows and potatoes over a fire, putting on puppet shows, all while looking way more stylish than anyone I've ever seen on a camping trip and seeming to genuinely have a good time with each other. In movies, on TV, and even on variety shows, girls are always put into a competition with one another, so it's always nice to see a group of girls just having fun without any drama. The video ends on a sweet note, with IU sending FIESTAR off to start their careers, deep in thought as she watches them row away.
The song itself isn't anything new or different (many people have pointed out similarties between "Sea of Moonlight" and '80s Norwegian band A-ha's hit "Take On Me"), but it's not trying to be. It's just a fun, cheesy, summer song that's supposed to be cute and introduce us to FIESTAR, and it accomplishes both things. I'd still like to hear the piano/vocal arrangement featured in the teaser, though. IU and FIESTAR's voices seem to blend really well, and it would have been nice to be able to hear the harmonies more clearly.
If "Sea of Moonlight" reminds people of "Take on Me", Ga In and Ra.D's duet, "Take Out", reminds me of "The Girl from Ipanema", with its soft, coffee-shop jazz feel and and easy, mid-tempo arrangement that features piano and acoustic guitar. Instead of a summer party, this song is a summer break. The lyrics are a conversation between two people trying to make a coffee date. Ga In's a busy woman who can't seem to make time for Ra.D, and though Ra.D's disappointed and wants a closer relationship, he puts up with the situation because he likes Ga In so much.
I tried to find something to criticize, but everything about this song- from the laid-back arrangement that gradually builds throughout the track to Ga In and Ra.D's breathy vocals, to the flowing, loosely-structured melody line in the verses, is just spot on. I wouldn't change a thing.
The next track, "Brave Girls" by Sunny Hill and Zia, pulls the same kind of trick as the teaser for "Sea of Moonlight", by opening with a soft piano, and suddenly breaking into an upbeat, Disney-fied dance song. It was a smart move- going straight from "Take Out" to "Brave Girls" without it would have been a little jarring.
"Brave Girls" is the spiritual sister to "Sea of Moonlight", with its fun, summery, pop feel. While we're used to hearing social commentary from Sunny Hill, this song lets us see their lighter side as they sing about a bunch of girls going to the beach together. Attentive listeners will notice the lyrical reference to The Ting Ting's "Shut Up and Let Me Go" in one of the raps- I'm a Ting Tings fan, so I appreciated the nod.
With all their similarities, "Brave Girls" and "Sea of Moonlight" are different enough to merit both of them being on the album. "Sea of Moonlight" has a more dramatic feel, while "Brave Girls" is more straightforward. It's like pancakes versus waffles- they're both made of the same stuff (mostly sugar, haha), but different enough that you'll probably prefer one over the other on a given day.
"Ride to the Moon" by G. Gorilla (former member of the rock band Eve, currently one of Loen's producers) and featuring Kovo has a kind of '60s pop-rock feel, featuring a lot of hand claps and harmonized back up vocals. The electric guitar riffs and straightforward drum beat with wild, "Wipeout"-esque fills give it a beachy, surfer vibe, kind of an updated Beach Boys sound.
The bonus track is an electronic remix of IU's "You and I". The instrumental is nice- I love the twinkly piano bits mixed in with the bright synths and simple drum track, and how some of the violin and piano from the original song are mixed in. If I'm being honest though, the instrumental doesn't really complement the vocals- I'd actually rather listen to the instrumental by itself than the full version. Don't get me wrong- I love IU, and I'm a fan of the original "You and I", I just don't think it blends well with this instrumental.
All in all, I think 'Summer Story' does exactly what it set out to do- it's fun and summery, it lets us look at some of Loen's artists in a new light, and it introduces us to FIESTAR. Loen wasn't looking to make history, just good music. If you need a sunny, musical pick-me-up, 'Summer Story' may just do the trick.
What are your thoughts on Loen Tree′s 'Summer Story' album? Leave an honest rating and your thoughts in the comments below.
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