Jun 5, 2014

Infinite starts their "Season 2"

Three years after their first album Over The Top took South Korea by storm and shot the group up the ladder of fame, Woolim Entertainment's breadwinner idol group Infinite is back for a second full length album! I find that Infinite's discography is generally very solid and I have been a fan of basically all their releases so far. Their sound is quite unique and is one they've made their own, although it's liked just as much as it's disliked. Personally, I am almost always in the former category. 

The album opens with a short but powerful one minute intro which starts with some sole piano playing but grows into something bigger och more complex. I think this intro is great, and I'm usually not a fan of intros at all, but of course there are exceptions. I wish this could have been an entire song because the melody is great and the all the instruments sound amazing together, but I also think it suits being an opener well and leads onto the next track with ease. Last Romeo is a song that sounds very much like you would expect an Infinite title track to sound like, and that can be both a good and bad thing. If you like Infinite's 80's influenced style like me you'll probably like it a lot, but I can understand people who feel otherwise too. I do like the use of many different instruments in the song, and I find that it consists of a few sounds that are pretty unlike each other but sound great together. There's clearly some rock in there, as well as wind instruments and of course the familiar synthesizers. For a title track it fulfills its purpose, but I don't think it's their best one to date. 

Following the dark, dramatic first songs on the album, Follow Me comes as a light and happy change of atmosphere. This is pretty much the other genre that Infinite tend to do a lot, and it's funny how their title tracks are usually pretty intense and passionate, but then there are songs like these who are just the total opposite. Woohyun and Sunggyu sound great in the chorus and the use of string instruments sound beautiful but there's really not that much else to the track. Much more interesting is Rosinante, a faster pop-rock inspired piece with the title based of the name of Don Quijote's horse from the novel of the same name. The lyrics relate to this as they speak of a journey through storm, wind and hardships likening the experience of a horse carrying its horseman. The mix of rock elements and electronic sounds fit really great together and it has a melody that gets stuck on your mind.

One of my favorite songs on the album comes in the form of Breathe, which has similarities to the previous tune but it's a bit heavier on the guitars during some parts. I particularly love Woohyun's vocals in the chorus, but I think all the members sound great too. The aggression felt in the song's strong beat is most certainly being represented in the lyrics, which describes a girlfriend's clingy behavior that allows them no personal space or room to breathe. What I think is amazing is that they can try different genres of music but still incorporate their signature sound into it and maintain their own identity, instead of constantly jumping from one end to the other like other groups occasionally do. The contrast is big for Sunggyu's solo song on the album which is up next: Light. This track is much like its title, very light and stripped down compared to Infinite's many other songs that are usually heavily layered. Sunggyu gets to showcase his vocal register and sweet falsetto in this romantic tune, and it's definitely a style that suits him even though I probably like his rock music a bit more. Additionally, it took some time for me to get into his solo this time around unlike Because, which was his previous solo, and while it's easy on the ears it's sadly a tad forgettable. 

Of course, it wouldn't be fair unless everyone in the group got their own time in the spotlight, so why not throw some Infinite H in there as well! Not that I'm complaining though, because Alone is a fantastic track and a clear highlight on the album. Rappers Dongwoo and Hoya get to shine in this mid tempo hip hop gem, and I absolutely love the chorus. Correct me if I'm wrong, but is that Dongwoo's dark, husky timbre I hear singing? Also, Hoya gets to do some adlibs and they sound wonderful. Next song Memories is a nice change of pace and a great stop in the middle for this album. It's almost like an up tempo ballad I guess, or a mid tempo standard song, but it does a nice job of neither getting too slow or two fast. Everyone sounds on point and even without reading the lyrics it manages to convey the bittersweet feeling of losing that love you never had and regretfully looking back on those memories. Afterwards comes the first real ballad: A Person Like Me. I have quite a few Infinite ballads on my playlist actually, and most of them really sounds like those typical cheesy 80's ballads. This song however, does not. It's an emotional, painful story brought to life by the sorrowful vocals of the members, but it's obviously mostly the main vocals who pulls the load. I think it's an acceptable ballad by all means, but it's not a song I would put on repeat. But then again, I'm not a ballady person. 

Since I did not experience the musical era of the 80's myself, I am sometimes not very good at judging whether a song sounds like it fits that type of sound, but that's not the case with Reflex. It only took around 5 seconds before I thought I had been transported back to 10 years before I was born. And as much as it pains my heart to say it, this song is not very good. For me, it's one of those filler songs that are just put onto the album to fill up space rather than contributing to it. While it clearly sounds like an Infinite track, it's at the same time both generic and unoriginal. Sorry boys, but you can't always succeed. The much neglected maknae line, consisting of L, Sungyeol and Sungjong, also gets their own song in the form of I'm Going Crazy. I don't know if this new Infinite F sub-unit is going to be a permanent unit or if it's just for the album, but I appreciate the idea because these members are always short on lines. The song itself is alright, but nothing amazing. The sound is kind of cute which I'm sure is suitable for their image, but it's kind of boring. I do think L sounds consistent as always though and Sungjong shows big improvement, and Sungyeol, well, he tries his best. A for effort right?

The second full scale ballad is brought to us by Woohyun as his solo for this album, and the familiar Infinite ballad sound returns in all it's glory. Close Your Eyes is a beautiful piece and Woohyun really delivers with his emotional vocals, but like I said previously, I'm not a big ballad fan. However, I can appreciate the track because it's very powerful in its simplicity and the instrumental break starting around 2.15 is fantastic. Now we have finally arrived at the last stop with Shower, and it's a great way to end this journey. This song is upbeat, funky and instantly catchy. I truly genuinely like how everyone sounds and the line distribution seems unusually even for a change. After quite a soggy second half, this song makes up for it by being just generally awesome. My only problem is that it's way too short checking in at 3.14 minutes, and a great track like this deserves at least another minute. 

Overall, this is a good album. Not their best perhaps, but clearly still a high quality production and a record to be proud of. But I am a huge fan of the group so my opinion could be slightly biased too. From what I've read online it seems as if many people are disappointed that Infinite's music is getting both predictable and repetitive. I can acknowledge this to a certain extent and I do agree that it's a problem because musical growth is important, but I also think that Infinite's not going to change anytime soon because they've found their niche and it works for them. I too would personally wish for them to try something new at some point, but I also like where they are right now, so it doesn't really matter to me as long as they're pleased with their music. As for the individual songs, I think there's quite a few great ones on there, but there's not really anything spectacular either. There will be better albums, but there will definitely be worse ones too. Infinite continues to solidify their musical identity and continues to release consistent material, and for that I applaud them.

Highlights: Breathe, Last Romeo, Alone, Shower
Least Favorite: Reflex, I'm Going Crazy
Total Score: 3,7/5

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