Welcome back to Unmetal Monthly, where a proverbial comfy chair and cup of tea await you. Sit back, relax, and enjoy some love songs and not-so-lovey songs from around the world.
Top of the Pops
Elbow – Flying Dream 1
No, you are not imagining things; Elbow’s Flying Dream 1 was, indeed, released in December of last year. It’s also true that I have technically already written about it for the blog, since it was an auxiliary pick for me for the Editors’ Picks of that month. So why the hell am I writing about it here? Firstly, it’s because I do what I want; running the blog has certain privileges, as tiny as they are. But mostly it’s because Flying Dream 1 has followed the same pattern I’ve always had with Elbow albums upon release: first I like them and then I fall deeply, absurdly, inexorably in love with them.
When I wrote up the album back in December, I already liked it; it had a vibe even more somber than Elbow’s usual output and the format of vignettes recorded during the pandemic lockdowns actually contributed to the album sounding very varied and interesting. But I wasn’t infatuated with it; I had yet to discover its charms. To be fair, this album’s charm is hidden deeper than other Elbow albums, exactly because of that chopped, stripped back nature that the pandemic forced its composition process into. As a result, it ends up being Elbow’s most intimate, “small”, and ephemeral album.
There’s no “Open Arms” or “One Day Like This” on this release; there is only a more subtle, more haunting sort of beauty. Which, of course, once deciphered ends up being achingly effective. There’s “Come On, Blue”, a memory poem about star-watching and naming the constellations and the wonderful couplet of words “moon-bathe”. There’s “Six Words”, one of Elbow’s greatest love poems (and that’s saying something, as I fully consider Guy Garvey to be one of the finest love poets of all time). There’s the weird “Is It a Bird”, the somber “Flying Dream 1”, the warm “Red Sky Radio (Baby Baby Baby), and more, and more, and more.
God, Elbow are so good! I want to cry about how good they are. I want to cry about how nonplussed I was by this album to start with, how I then thought it was decent enough, and how, finally, I tumbled heads over heels into a deep, fascinating love for it. And that’s why I’m writing about it here because writing is what I do instead of crying.
Best of the Rest
(G)I-DLE – I NEVER DIE (k-pop)
Back after almost a year and a half (and with one less member), CUBE Entertainment’s (G)I-DLE (hold the G) return with what is astonishingly their first full-length album in four years as a group. Weathering the frustrating scandal that rocked the k-pop world last year, wherein a handful of active idols were accused by former classmates and partners of bullying and abuse, I-DLE was forced to remove sixth member Soojin and terminate her contract. Fans wondered if the group would disband or move on without her, and the long-awaited answer comes in the form of a powerful, staunchly feminist album that flies in the face of popular expectations and carries major weight given the recent election of South Korea’s new, misogynistic president.
Unphased by the untimely excision of a member, leader and producer Jeon Soyeon (whose solo efforts were covered here last year) cooked up a rock song to promote the album, dropping “TOMBOY” as a single to critical praise. The track pulls no punches, decrying their status as “girl idols” and stating plainly that they’re strong women who live as they see fit and won’t be confined to societal standards. Intent on shedding any girlish pretense, I-DLE have asked fans to drop the (G) in their name, even going so far in the lyrics to “TOMBOY” to declare “it’s neither man nor woman, just me, I-DLE” as a call to gender equity. It’s a daring move that’s nigh unheard of in k-pop, but the political bite to the track helps bolster an otherwise straightforward pop-rock toe-tapper.
The rest of the album sees the members individually shine, with Yuqi, Minnie, and Miyeon crooning through Soyeon’s big bass and delicate stringed R&B-centric compositions before all five women hop on the infectious rap cypher “MY BAG” to close the record. Shuhua steps up in a major way this album, covering the parts that would have once gone to Soojin and shoring up any weaknesses the shakeup may have exposed. All in all, it’s a strong comeback from a group whose future was uncertain mere months ago, and a triumph for Soyeon and the rest of the members for springing back unscathed.