We haven’t heard new music from one-man band and musical genius The Black Skirts ever since March 2016, so you can definitely guess how excited I was at the news of not just a new release, but an entire new album by the HIGHGRND band. Here’s a look at Team Baby, the indie act’s latest full-length record.
Bryan Cho, the man behind The Black Skirts, has definitely put a lot of effort into this 10-track release. Its overall sound can be described as intemporal, in a way—many of the songs seem taken straight from the 1960s or even the 1980s. Team Baby also displays an interesting mix of American influences, as well as an acoustic sound reminiscent of classic Korean names such as Im Jihoon or Lee Sooman. Despite that, the album also keeps a contemporary vibe, making it a great indie folk release.
Each song is unique, but there’s a bunch that definitely stand out from the rest. “Big Love” is one of those songs and counts amongst the happier and faster-paced tracks on the album. In many ways, it feels like a continuation of the first and previous track, “That’s Not Me,” since it starts just as the previous song ends and has some of the same chords at first (though “That’s Not Me” is much more sorrowful both in sound and in its lyrics).
“Big Love” will give you that exact “big love” feeling: big love for the catchy chorus which you’ll nod along to, big love for its slightly bittersweet, yet lovely lyrics, and big, big love for the undeniable road trip vibes you’ll get from the song. It’s definitely a great track to listen to with your hair in the wind during an extended drive on some highway. Another lovely road trip surprise is “Love Is All,” a sweet rock’n’roll song with a romantic twist and a catchy beat that’ll get you on your feet (or tapping the steering wheel) as soon as its introductory guitars resonate.
The title track, “Who Do You Love,” cannot be enjoyed fully without its music video. On its own, the song is already a stunning ballad, starting off with dreamy strings and the later addition of drums, guitars, and a piano accompaniment. The vocals are just as soft and dreamy as the music they sing along to. There’s a melancholic edge to it all, though, and it’s reflected in the slightly gloomy lyrics—but the experience is only complete with the music video, detailing the story of a couple who gets tangled up in a crime together. Like the lyrics, the video depicts a loving, passionate relationship, but there’s still a dark element to it, leaving us a little confused, but mostly intrigued. I’m still not sure exactly of the chronology of events depicted in the music video, but I sure as hell love it and will rewatch it again and again.
Previous singles also made it on the tracklist. “In My City of Seoul,” an old-school, typical folk ballad with its slow guitars and simple drums will take you back in time to younger days you’re probably still not done going through. Just like its music video, the song has very strong old-school vibes, reminding me of Korean artists from the 1970s and 1980s. It’s a very nostalgic ballad, and it definitely stands out amongst the best tracks on Team Baby for me. The song was originally released as a single in March 2016.
“Everything,” a single from 2015, also appears at the bottom of Team Baby’s tracklist. It’s a typical rock ballad, the type that will make you want to slow dance in your room all alone on some Thursday evening. “Everything” has a sound and lyrics that have been done over and over again in the industry—it’s a romantic, “I can’t live without you” type of song with guitars that will remind you of Arctic Monkeys—but it’s done so well, it’s impossible not to fall in love with the song.
Overall, Team Baby gets a big thumbs-up from me. It’s not an outstanding album, but every song is good and has a memorable element to it which makes it special in its own way. If you have a soft spot for old-school indie tunes and a constant melancholy staining your heart, this album is for you.