Aug 16, 2016

GFriend Kills It Once Again With "Navillera" And First Full Length Album "LOL"

Another GFriend comeback, another chart and music show domination period. What else is to be expected from this incredibly successful six-piece? Personally I still have a hard time understanding that this is only their second year because it feels quite difficult to remember what it was like before this group existed. As I'm writing this GFriend just had their 14th win with title track "Navillera" and "Rough" is still in the top 50 on Melon after seven months since its release, breaking the previously set record by Girls' Generation and "Gee". If that doesn't speak of how huge their success is then I don't know what does. As you know I love these girls so much so naturally this review of their new album "LOL" is written from a biased point of view, but I don't think anyone can deny that this comeback is, just like all of their previous ones, a continuation of their ever-growing brilliance.

I knew from the teaser video already that I would love this song and I was not disappointed in the slightest when the MV dropped. "Navillera" is another fantastic track which sounds unmistakably GFriend-like, proving that this group does have a very typical sound which penetrates all of their title tracks. Some will argue that this sounds too much like either this or that and I understand why, because there are a lot of similarities, but as I've said before I don't really care as long as the song is good, and this one truly is.

It took a few listens to get into the structure of the song and make out the different sections as the song is quite intense from start to finish, but the "Na-na-na-navillera" line in the pre-chorus had me hooked from the first listen. This is also another one of their title tracks to feature an awesome guitar solo complemented by a fierce dance break, and I like it because it gives their otherwise animated pop sound a bit of an edge. I don't know if I like it more than "Rough" because those two songs are really hard to compare, but nonetheless it's a fantastic summer song and another hit for these six talented ladies.

The video is also a really pretty MV and although "Rough" may have been the end of their "schoolgirl trilogy" they're definitely continuing their path of making videos about friendship and youthfulness. In this video the girls of GFriend are part of a roller skating team and a lot of the plot is either them practicing or hanging out with each other. I love the retro take on the idea because as you can tell both by the shooting locations and the girls' clothes and roller skates that it's not inspired by recent times but rather gives a throwback feeling to the days where those activities were the most popular.

The color palette of the video also adds to the retro aspect and I'm impressed by both the camerawork and the filming technique which isn't one I've seen before in GFriend videos (might have something to do with the fact that they've changed the film director), and the fact that they've also added home-made film sequences that the members actually did shoot themselves adds even more to the nostalgic value.

I can't seem to wrap my head around if there's any kind of deeper meaning to the plot though, because a lot of the scenes don't really have much to do with each other and I'm confused as to if it's supposed to make sense or if the randomness is part of the plan. I do get that it's about their friendship and working towards their dreams (and succeeding judging by the many trophies that they seem to have received) and that's the main plot of the video, but then there are some details that leave me confused. Well, confused isn't the right word but more so it leaves me curious because I feel like there is another level to this story that we only see glimpses at but aren't fully explored or explained. Nonetheless it's an great MV with a song that's amazing and a new, fresh concept brought to life with pretty aesthetics and six beautiful girls.

MV: 4,2/5

"LOL" marks the first full-length album of GFriend and for this I was ridiculously excited. I've always been a huge fan of their music, as you know, and I actually don't think there is even one B-side that I don't sing along to whenever the moment arises. Their discography is solid as rock, and this album is absolutely no exception. Opening up with a sweet intro that mostly contains samples of their title track the first song is called "Fall In Love" and is in my opinion a great way to start the album off. It's a classic GFriend pop track with a beautiful instrumental and a flowing melody. They don't need to do more than this and it's still an instant earworm.

The following song is the title track "Navillera" which I've already talked about and you know I love, and continuing on is a song that's also titled "LOL". The instrumental hook in the beginning already speaks that this will be a catchy tune, and it certainly is. Like with "Fall In Love" these songs are just as GFriend as you can get in terms of matching their signature sound, and although none of them are particularly outstanding or groundbreaking they're still really good pop songs with great vocals and melodies that makes you want to listen to them more.

"Distance" however is a song that does stand out from their discography, and is definitely one of my favorite songs on this album and among GFriend's B-sides in general. I don't know quite how to describe it but this song is just so soothing, like the feeling of gently riding the waves of the ocean. Not nearly as high-energy as the previous three tracks, "Distance" is calmer and instead relies on a fantastic melody and chorus as well as an adorable instrumental made complete by the addition of harmonica. It's great that these kind of songs exist too so that GFriend can show that they can make other types of music and pull it off just as brilliantly.

Anime!GFriend is back with the album's 6th track "Water Flower", and this is not the first song in which it feels like it could've been taken straight from the opening sequence of an anime. Thus it's naturally quite an energetic song with a rockier vibe, and the chorus is strong and memorable with solid harmonies. I love how dynamic the song is too and everything fits in perfectly, from the melodic and mysterious verses to the guitars kicking in to take it to a higher level when the chorus hits. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has this as one of their favorites on the album.

We enter the ballad part of the album with "Mermaid", a song that's actually not that typical ballad-like. It's definitely more of a mid-tempo ballad but even that doesn't feel like a suitable way to describe it, because the verses are delicate and emotional and the chorus is so strong and powerful. The melody is absolutely beautiful and all the girls sound spectacular, and Umji in particular stands out with her unique voice although all of them prove how skilled they actually are. "Sunshine" is the softer song out of the two and does feel a bit brighter than the previous emotionally drained track, but even so it's surprisingly mature and seems to prove to me that this group knows how to make good ballads that suit their style and their vocal abilities.

Another album highlight comes in the form of "Compass", a song which many people have compared to f(x)'s pop anthem "Airplane". I do see the similarities between the two songs, mostly in terms of the dreamy instrumental and structure of the song, but melody-wise there's nothing connecting the two. What they do have in common though is that they're both fantastic pop tracks, and for GFriend it's a type of pop music they haven't done much before. It's dreamy, uplifting and has an EDM element that's new for them, but man does it work perfectly. More songs like this one please!

The second to last track is "Click" and is probably my least favorite song on the album, and mostly because of the sing-talk portion that's featured both in the beginning and at the end. I know that their image is on the girly, youthful side of the spectrum, but they literally sound like elementary school students and that kind of childishness doesn't fit in well with the rest of the album's vibe. There's nothing wrong with the rest of the track, in fact it's quite catchy, but that immaturity kind of haunts whatever good parts it may have, sadly. "Gone With The Wind", which is the actual last song, at least finishes "LOL" on a good note. It's a very interesting song because it has elements from so many genres and styles; from their guitar-heavy anime sound to their classic energetic violin-pop sound and a new influence of EDM and dub-step. It's the best of everything and although it might sound messy it's actually a really good song with great vocal work by everyone (Yuju doing the most as usual and doing it fantastically) and I think it's a great song to end the album on.

My expectations for "LOL" were of course sky-high because I've enjoyed all of their mini-albums, and to my relief they were not only met but exceeded. I definitely think this is GFriend's best album to date and due to it being a full album and not a mini there was room for GFriend to show that they're not only a one-trick pony but can pull off various genres and styles. Everything still has their trademark on it, of course, but there is a variation here that I've missed on previous releases. The songs are solid and the album is cohesive with a good track listing, and I honestly don't know what else to ask for.

Highlights: "Navillera", "Distance", "Mermaid", "Water Flower", "Compass"
Least Favorite: "Click"
Score: 4,5/5

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