written by: drowningn00b
Indie has a propensity to sound seasonal. The spring is bouncy and up-beat, the fall a bit melancholy and nostalgic, while the winter is brooding and romantic – with summer as the exception. For “Beautiful Day”, Urban Zakapa plays right into this pattern, laying there trademark blend of pop, indie, R&B and jazz into this 6-track mini.
As a spring release, “Beautiful Day” is full of light and feel-good moments. The title track is a horn and drums indie song made to smile. The quick bass makes it dance-lite and the vocals are sweet and joyful. And props must be given to the sound mixer, who understands the importance of allowing instrumental solos and vocal ad-libbing to be heard equally, not one drowning out the other.
The good vibes continue on their cover of the R&B standard, “Just the Two of Us”, a simple piano track with the spotlight on the three lead singers Jo Hyun Ah, Kwon Soon Il, and Park Young In. They’re using a technique new to their recorded material of adding a guttural edge to their singing, which wasn’t there before for Mr. Kim and Ms. Jo, known for their clear singing styles.
For a mini that relies on established sounds and patterns, this technique is a welcomed experiment, and it sounds good to boot. I’ve repeatedly made my case for Hyun Ah as one of the best female vocalist on this blog, so I’ll take a moment to speak about Mr. Kim.
Male falsetto singers don’t get much attention, whether it’s because they aren’t well understood, or because audiences have male-female complexes that prevents the connection of the adult male having a high, pre-pubescent voice. The United States doesn’t have any prominent falsetto singers at the moment, but thankfully,South Korea has two: Jo Kwan Oh, of “I Am A Singer” fame, and the Urban Zakapa leader, SoonIl, the second. Having majored in English, his solo track for “(01)”, “Always Be Mine” was wonderful, not just because his phrasing is great, but also because the falsetto is secondary. As a listener, you move beyond his high voice and appreciate the song for what it is. That said, Mr. Kim extends his talent on this cover, showing he has range, expanding to lower registers just as well. And as the gruff voice on the 9-piece band, Young In sounds his best here. As different as they are vocally, its amazing how well they sound together, especially on the mid-tempo delight “Something Special” and the superb strings and piano ballad, “The Voice That Holds You”. With these talented singers and musicians, its no wonder they rose to fame as fast as they have since their debut in 2009.
Urban Zakapa is a unique thing in music. Their blend of genres is thoroughly their own, even if you catch snippets of other groups, and the origin of their name is odd. Together, and the talented members of the group, is the reason I look forward to each release. Beyond that, “Beautiful Day” is a good, great even, emboldening everything that makes Urban Zakapa one of the better indie bands around.