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The Glen Check Experience (or, Whiplash)

I’ll be honest: this column was totally unplanned. I was thinking of writing about Primary’s shininryu this week, and leaving Glen Check’s new EP for next week. But here’s the thing: the moment I listened to the EP, I simply couldn’t keep myself from writing about it. Honestly, you could just take one listen to the release, and you’ll definitely know what I’m talking about—but I’ll tell you now, anyway, because I absolutely have to.

If you’ve ever listened to Glen Check, you kind of know, usually, what you’re in for—catchy indie rock, with an electronica touch and a distinct West Coast vibe. It’s the sound they’re known for, the sound they’ve won awards for, and their teenage-energy infused songs have made it on variety shows in 2013 just like they still do today in popular dramas (I’m looking at you, School 2017). And so, you know that no matter how different one album or another might sound, you’re to expect at least a rock base to the album with that distinct Glen Check touch to it.

This release is anything but.

Titled The Glen Check Experience, the new EP, released on August 13, is just…worlds away from what I expected. For starters, it doesn’t even fit in the rock genre—it doesn’t even dare resemble it at all. The EP takes on a strong R&B turn, something unheard of from Glen Check themselves. In fact, it’s much more similar to “I Don’t Wanna Love You,” the single vocalist Kim June One had put out featuring f(x)’s Krystal. I absolutely loved that single—but never did I think it would become synonymous with Glen Check’s sound from then on.

Then again, the pair hasn’t put out a concrete release in almost four years, when they put out their second full-length album Youth! in 2013 (that excludes a few remix singles released in 2014, but we can agree that those don’t really count). So maybe, definitely, in that time, they have explored their musicality and tried new things. The Glen Check Experience then becomes a product of that musical discovery, and it shows: it’s well executed, complex, and it works, oh so well.

Let’s talk about the songs. They’re drenched in R&B: from the beat, to the melodies, to the way June One performs in each of them. The songwriting has also greatly changed (there’s swearing!) and that’s normal; it fits the music, and it fits the vibe of the EP as a whole.

Each song is different, yet possesses the same vibe and energy as the rest of the songs—that’s something that hasn’t changed from Glen Check’s previous releases. “Dreaming Kills” opens the EP as a haunting intro, before it takes on a more upbeat rhythm, with dreamy guitars and introspective lyrics. It’s a song about self-discovery, and you could tell even without the lyrics, just from the sound of it—but let me tell you, the lyrics are still definitely worth a listen.

The title track “Follow the White Rabbit” is just…perfect. Or almost. Very close to perfect, anyway. It’s new, as new as the rest of the EP is, but it has a stronger electronica influence than the rest of the tracks do, and it makes for a perfect product. There are sounds—not musical elements, sounds—spread out through the song, and they build the beat, with the vocals and a piano hook constructing the melody. It’s a song that’s hard to describe, but it’s filled with imagery, just like its music video. Just take a listen (or a look).

“Long Strange Days, Pt.1” is a hybrid of rock elements (surprise!) and an R&B structure, submerged in electro beats and smothered with synths. The song is long, and has a lot of interludes—some of them drastically changing the song to a jazz and blues track, for a short moment. It works with the flow of the song, its slow rhythm, its dreamy quality.

The last two tracks are absolutely incredible. Titled “Mayhem” and “Rude & Confused,” both truly stick to the urban R&B genre, and both possess the same haunting and mysterious atmosphere as the rest of the EP. “Rude & Confused,” however, changes things up at the very last moment, slowly becoming one of the high-energy electronica songs we know Glen Check for, but without losing that new element to their sound, remaining in the electro realm and not once adventuring itself in the rock genre. It’s brilliant, and makes for a perfect last track.

Though part of me regrets the fact that I might never hear the catchy and eclectic sound that I loved so much about Youth!, for example, I’m still undeniably in love with this EP. The urban atmosphere that surrounds each of the songs is relaxing and addictive, and even if it takes me a while to process that, “yes, this is Glen Check I’m listening to,” I can’t help but be in awe with each of the songs.