Album Review: Sam Kim – Sun and Moon (South Korea, 2018)

Sam Kim is probably one of those artists who fly under your radar but really does deserve the attention. He’s not a household name but he’s collaborated with a few talented artists Kim, who grew up in the States, competed in the 2013-2014 season of South Korean television show K-pop star, where he came in second place. His song “You’re The One” peaked at No. 55 on the K-Pop Hot 100 Billboard chart dated April 5 of that year. Currently signed to Antenna Music, he released his first EP I Am Sam in 2016. His new album released 22 November 2018, Sun and Moon,  is a more mature, contemplative album, with retro and modern R&B elements, folk and even country!

“Sun and Moon” is a track with modern country elements produced through the acoustic slide guitar. Sam Kim’s vocals are, as usual, soothing and melodically pleasing. Along with the instruments, Sam Kim’s vocals highlight the strength and fragility he’s trying to portray with the lyrics. This song is so meaningful, especially the line that sums up the entire song: “Even if we can’t see each other, we’re under the same sky/ Together like the sun and the moon”.

Title track “It’s you” features ZICO and is more upbeat, combining jazz and pop to give us this.  ZICO’s rap is a necessary addition to the track, it meshed well and didn’t interrupt the flow of the song. Once again, Sam Kim shows how he’s perfected the falsetto, adding to the jazzy tone of the song. The music video doesn’t offer much in terms of storyline but it does seem like two friends conversing- one whining over a girl and the other telling him to man up and ask her out. It’s a cute song, what more can I say?

Sam Kim teams up with smooth-crooner Crush again for “Make Up”. The song is a sensuous lovelorn alt-R&B track that thrives on jazzy percussion and groovy, rockish strings as the pair sing, with Kim’s mellow tone countering Crush’s breathier one. A music video was also released that shows Kim as he sings his request to “Make Up” while going through the stages of getting over a breakup, with Crush acting as his wingman.

In “Sunny Days, Summer Nights”, the album tone shifts to folksy vibes which is not a bad thing! Just like the first track, Sam Kim’s voice leans towards a raw tone, which lends it that authenticity. It’s one of those songs you’d hear at a cafe, maybe sipping on a cup of coffee while reading a book.

Things sift again for “The One” which has more modern R&B elements and is more upbeat and playful. The bass underscores his signature high voice and drives the song extremely well along with the horn section (that horn section though!).  And the key change towards the end of the song really surprised me but it added to the R&B tones of the song.

If retro was the aim, then Sam Kim successfully does that through “Would you believe”. Slow jazz permeates the track, giving it a retro, 70s kind of feeling. The gospel-inspired backup singers in the chorus also really add to it.

“The Weight” is a ballad, with all the baggage it brings with it. In the first verse, there’s only his vocals and the piano backing him. It’s slow and reflective, and his voice is very tender here. This is where some of the roughness in his voice works fantastically, pushing emotion to the limit. The orchestra adds to the tenderness even though it threatens to keep him even.

The folk sound returns for the final track, “If.” It’s a very full-sounding acoustic guitar along with a slightly jaunty tempo. His voice sounds freer in this format, able to do some nice time changes here and there. The last part of the tune, with his harmonies, Sam Kim delivers a beautiful ending to this album.

Each song sounds similar yet different, but it’s great to listen to in its entirety. Thanks to the track progression, the album is cohesive; it flows well from one song to the next but I actually like his B-sides over the title tracks. Given this is only his second album, there is definitely room to grow and hopefully, this album will make Sam Kim an artist to look out for.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Sun and Moon is out now.

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