Sailing with AKMU
AKMU is back!
It’s been a few years since AKMU came out with new music, two years, to be exact. The brother/sister duo (Lee Chanhyuk and Lee Suhyun, respectively) were on hiatus due to Chanhyuk enlisting in his mandatory military service required in South Korea. Now that they are back together, they’ve finally released a new album to bless our ears with soft acoustics and sweet vocals.
AKMU has only done short EPs in the past, so this full 10 song album is a treat for their first release in two years. The album is called Sailing, and as one would expect, a lot of the songs have nautical themes and titles. What I like the most about this album is the way it keeps AKMU’s standard soft style, but it has some experimentation in there as well. For example, the song “Should Have Loved You More,” has an almost country-style guitar beat to it. The song is upbeat and sounds a lot like a something you’d dance to in a cute little party in a barn. Don’t ask, that’s just what I imagine.
Overall, I loved every song on this album. It opens up with a solo song from Suhyun, “Chantey.” It’s fitting, considering a chantey is a sailor’s song they would sing at sea. It sounds so beautiful and almost sad, like a hypnotic siren song in a way. Another great thing about this album is the maturation of AKMU’s lyrics. They’ve always been a great and entertaining duo, but this album is lyrically one of the strongest to me. In “Chantey,” Suhyun sings about loneliness and freedom. It’s quite mysterious and feels very personal, a great opening to the album.
Another standout for me is “Fish in the Water.” It’s bright and uplifting. This one feels like a little mantra to repeat: “May we live as if we were swimming, live like the way we sing.” I like the blend of artistic and nautical imagery in the lyrics and the repetitive chorus. It’s a nice song to listen to on a sunny day.
The title song, “How Can I Love the Heartbreak, You’re the One I Love,” is another great blend of art and sea imagery in its accompanying music video. It’s visually stunning, and I love all the shots of Chanhyuk painting throughout the video. The song itself is one of the slow, sad songs on the album. This one is the title track for a reason. The lyrics are gorgeous. This might be one of my favorite songs lyrically that’s been released all year. It’s hard to even pull favorite lines because they’re all powerful. Unsurprisingly, this song has been the most popular to come off the album, and with good reason. If you only look at a few of the songs on Sailing, this would be in my top three.
The last song I really wanted to highlight is “Whale.” This song is super laid back. I love the beat; it fits perfectly with the meaning of the song. The lyrics can be a little tricky, since I haven’t found too great of a translation for them yet, but the song talks about being free like a whale in the ocean. I love this take, because it makes the peaceful, easygoing beat sound like the vision of freedom they’re singing about. This isn’t a call for loud, intense, passionate freedom. It feels more like wanting to be free to be oneself and exist in your own environment. I like to describe songs in terms of what situation I’d listen to them in. “Whale” feels almost like a meditation to me that you would listen to while floating in the ocean where the water is calm and the sky is clear. It makes me want to close my eyes and sit out in the sun. Probably my favorite part would be the little whistle breaks in the song. They’re super appropriate and sound like the clicks and noises a whale would actually make. It’s a small touch that flows perfectly with the rest of the song.
AKMU’s return has been long awaited, and the new album has been doing very well in music charts for a duo that doesn’t have the typical K-Pop group appeal. I love seeing this album do well, and I’d definitely recommend it if you’re looking for new, soft music you haven’t heard before.