Bolbbalgan4 Takes Off on a Journey with Red Diary Page.2
Indie duo Bolbbalgan4 is back with their new mini-album Red Diary Page.2, a follow-up to last September’s Red Diary Page.1, and the result is nothing short of impressive. With title track “Travel (여행)” dominating Korean real-time charts in spite of fierce competition with BTS’s recent release, the female duo takes listeners on a journey with an album immaculately suited for the transition from spring to summer.
Fly Away with “Travel (여행)”
Compared to previous releases, this album takes on a much stronger summer vibe with title track “Travel (여행)” and its corresponding music video lending themselves perfectly to the carefree feelings usually associated with warm weather.
Just from the opening notes of “Travel (여행),” the song sounds like the start of a journey. With the use of simple instrumentation (a staple of the group’s organic sound), the sound of the track is uplifting and bright. The syncopated piano sprinkled on top of the vocals really drives the song and gives it a hopeful vibe that injects the listener with optimism. Lyrically, it’s a song to which anyone living in today’s stressful society can relate: “I’m turning off my phone, please don’t look for me/ Even if you shout loudly, I can’t help it/ I’ll lightly wave my hand bye bye.”
Highly-saturated and majestic in its camerawork, the music video for “Travel (여행)” is exactly what the track needs. The video features alternating, beautiful long shots of the girls hitchhiking their way through the countryside and having fun at the beach. While the song may somewhat lack depth both lyrically and compositionally, the music video is fun, bright, and downright cute, and only seeks to expand on the positive vibes of the track. It’s the sort of video you can’t watch without feeling a little bit more hopeful about life. The CGI is low-key enough that the music video remains relatable but magical where it counts (such as the memorable moment when the girls are messing around in a mundane supermarket one second and suddenly in a lush, dreamlike jungle the next). Overall, the music video is simple and yet extremely well done, a perfect complement to the song itself. While I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite BOL4 song, it’s definitely relatable and undeniably the bright, hopeful light in an otherwise subdued album.
The Next Page of the Diary
In spite of its upbeat title track, the remainder of the mini-album is quite melancholic. Filled with songs about longing for lost loved ones or the past, the tone is immediately set with “Wind (바람사람),” a song full of metaphors about a loved one sweeping in and out of one’s life like wind. Instrumentally, the track is waltz-like and dreamy—a perfect introduction to the nostalgic album.
From there, the album climaxes with the uplifting “Travel (여행)” before delving into deeper themes with “Starlight (야경)” which proves to be everything that “Travel (여행)” isn’t. Whereas the title is light, airy, and fast-paced, “Starlight (야경)” is a soft and slow listen filled with beautiful instrumentation and particularly mesmerizing vocals from Ahn Jiyoung as she reaches into her lower register. This song also has a music video which contrasts with that of “Travel (여행),” much like the songs themselves. No longer are the shots of the girls’ shenanigans by the pool, instead they are replaced with somber scenes of the duo on the beach at sunset. The video is littered with cuts of the girls from the “Travel (여행)” video, which makes it feel like they’re reflecting on their journey in the previous video. Compared to the video of the title track, this one is much more subdued in color and content, but the cinematography is almost more stunning, particularly towards the end when the shot zooms out and the sky transitions to night just as the music swells with the help of strings. Overall, this song shows off the vocal, compositional, and lyrical prowess of the duo and, in doing so, it’s honestly the highlight of the album.
The album continues on with two more wistful tracks: “안녕, 곰인형 (Hey, Teddy Bear)” and “Clip.” The former is a nostalgic song that tiptoes the fine line of happy and sad, filled with creative metaphors about missing one’s “teddy bear.” It’s certainly a sorrowful track lyric-wise but musically it still remains upbeat. “Clip” is quite similar in its construction and serves as a perfect penultimate song to wind down the album. The somber track penned by Woo Jiyoon continues the sentimental but hopeful themes of the album, perhaps in the most straightforward way yet (“You were young and scared but now you’re big”).
“Lonely,” the final track on the release, feels like the whole album has been stripping away since “Travel (여행)” only to end on this compositionally raw song. With only piano as the accompaniment, the track allows the listener to focus on the vocals and really highlights Jiyoung’s distinct voice. The emotion built up throughout the rest of the tracklist is released in this song about lost love, especially in the repetitive English lines in the bridge: “You make me cry, you break me down….You put me in sorrow.” It’s definitely a hidden gem in the mini-album that proves the duo doesn’t need to overcomplicate things in order to deliver stunning music.
Upon full listen, the strength of this album lies with its B-sides, which is wonderful considering that “Starlight (야경)” already has a beautiful music video, and a sure-to-be equally mesmerizing video for “Wind (바람사람)” is on its way.
“Travel (여행)” Title Score: 7/10
Music Video Score: 8/10
The Red Diary Page.2 Album Score: 8.5/10
Overall Score: 7.8/10
Lyrics Credit: Color Coded Lyrics