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Posted by eric_r_wirsing AKP STAFF Friday, December 13, 2019

[MV and Album Review] Stray Kids – 'Clé: LEVANTER'

AKP STAFF

STRAY KIDS – 'CLÉ: LEVANTER'


Track List:


1. STOP

2. Double Knot

3. Levanter *Title

4. Booster

5. Astronaut

6. Sunshine

7. You Can STAY

8. Mixtape#5 (CD ONLY)


Stray Kids is back with their newest EP: 'Clé : LEVANTER.' It has 7 tracks total, 8 if you get the CD. There are a couple of pre-release singles on this one, notably "Double Knot." The second is "Astronaut," the first single they released without Woojin, who left for personal reasons. On this album and the single "Levanter," they bring the Clé series to a close.

"STOP" is a tune akin to some others we've heard from this band. It's got the electronica that's becoming more prevalent in their work and hyper piping synths. I like the energy in this one, and it might be tied with "Double Knot" and "Miroh" as one of my faves. "Levanter" is more of a ballad. A little bit of a letdown after the first two tracks. There's a bit of the old Stray Kids in there somewhere, but it seems like they were more going for a vocal group style. Which is a bit lacking, IMHO. But lyrically, it's powerful, and talks about a search for identity, the theme running through all their previous albums. Only this time, it's set against a breakup.

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We return to high-energy aggressive compositions with "Booster." While the instrumentation is muted, the vocals are what carry this song. They kind of lose their way sometimes. About half the time it seems a bit by the numbers, and the rest of the time they have that fierceness that I look for in this band. "Sunshine" is a ballad. And while I'm not the biggest fan of the song, I can't deny they did it well. When they want to, they can pull off tender vocals and emotional croons. That's actually a solid point in their favor.

"You Can STAY" seems squarely aimed at the fans, at least if the title is any indication. And it is, thanking you guys for sticking around and enjoying their music. The way they put it, life's better with the fans around. It's soft-pop, and definitely not one of my favorites, but the message is absolutely on point. "Mixtape#5" is more playful than the other tracks. I like how they change up the instrumentation on here, making it seems like a different song once another member delivers their lines. It's a fun tune, so I'm not sure why they left it off the digital release.

So this is the new Stray Kids, minus Woojin. I think I liked them better when he was with the band. Compare the energy on this release to songs like "District 9" and "Miroh." Even the B-sides on "Miroh" sizzled. There's a creeping sameness that's threatened to engulf K-pop for a year or two now, and it's infected this band. They break out of that mold sometimes, as "Double Knot" and "STOP" show. But other times they seem like they're phoning it in, and that's a call I don't wanna take.

MV REVIEW

In the MV, the Stray Kids step through a door that takes them to another world. With red grass and cotton-candy colored skies. Some of the areas they trespass into are ruined, the devastation evident in one of the tunnels they find themselves in.

The doorway is a centerpiece to this alien landscape. Midway through, the ticket they used to get there bursts into flame, and the doorway does, as well. Meanwhile, in the distance, they see a fountain of sparks and a dozen or more shooting stars. In the daytime, they find a way out, the doorway apparently intact, and they're all smiles again. At the very end, the two worlds apparently collide and merge.

Taken literally, it makes zero sense, but it seems to me they're trying to convey the fact they lost themselves after the breakup, but after discovering the door and the keyholes they found a way back to themselves, and are happier for it. That's my fan theory and I'm sticking to it.

This MV is chock-full of striking imagery. The doorway in flames, the doorway itself, the wreckage in the tunnel, the boys dancing on what looks like a mirror with clouds reflected in it (obviously CGI but quite convincing), and all that. Not to mention the dance moves, all of which impels me to give this an enthusiastic thumbs up.


Score


MV Relevance...........9

MV Production..........9

MV Concept..............9

MV SCORE: 9.0

Album Production.....8

Album Concept.........8

Tracklisting...............8

ALBUM SCORE: 8.0

OVERALL................8.5

  1. Stray Kids
  2. CL : LEVANTER
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salamanderrrr476 pts Saturday, December 14, 2019 0
Saturday, December 14, 2019

Sunshine was my favourite b-side so I'll disagree there but I agree that having come out with many musically interesting tracks and being quite experimental since debut, Levanter seemed a step in the safe side after Side Effects and while they pulled it off well, it feels a bit like Red Velvet with Umpah Umpah after Zimzalabim.

While the members may have the range to sing their reportoire (Jisung mainly), JYP seems to have not taught them much vocal technique which would help a lot. Woojin and Seungmin were obviously the strongest vocals but Seungmin is a baritone and having him sing in a tenor range constantly when he doesn't have the technique to support it isn't great long-term. As a rapper, Jisung also may lack in musicality as a vocal and I don't know if he's capable of building more complex musical ideas with phrasing, dynamics etc.

It is a different side of Stray Kids in Levanter (aside from double knot), just not sure it's my favourite side.

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