“Come and take me in your arms.”

“Scared of the Dark” by Steps | I’ve told this story before, but it warrants repeating. When I was in high school – second year, I think – I once publicly professed that Steps was one of my favorite musical acts. Looking back, I really didn’t know why. I just liked their songs, I guess, however hokey “5, 6, 7, 8” turned out to be with time. Must be the idea of harmonies. I told you, I don’t know. I know my classmates literally laughed out loud at that pronouncement, like what I like is something to be ashamed of. I tell this story again because, surprisingly, Steps are back together. It’s the comeback not even I, a guy used to see all these acts reunite, expected. Like, they have been away for so, so long – why now? Well, why not? “Scared of the Dark” is a decent pop track, at least – and I don’t think it will age terribly. [NB]

“…but it’s building up inside, and you don’t even know.”

“Never Start” by Middle Kids | I should catch up with the usual western suspects again. I realize this while preparing Jeany’s next column. It comes out this Monday – our anniversary week! – but was in the works for months, and is a bit of a homage to the fact that we became friends because of our common love for British indie. That, of course, branched out to many things, which explains why I now feel left behind when it comes to the usual western suspects. Take Middle Kids, for example. Aussie band, suddenly (relatively) everywhere in the United States. (The situation’s similar to when I first came across Sunflower Bean – they were already almost everywhere.) I heard their KCRW session and liked what I heard – and then heard their interview and remembered just how oddly comforting an Aussie accent is, especially on a musician who usually, somehow, sheds that accent when performing. Reminds me of the days when I listened to nothing but Triple J and picked up Courtney Barnett in the process. Oh, those were the days. Now, I listen to a lot of K-pop, because I like the playlist, nothing more. [NB]

“쉽게 열리지는 않을 거야.”

“Knock Knock” by Twice | Twice is the K-pop group you begrudgingly accept. No matter how mediocre their songs are – I’m still of the opinion that “Like Ooh-Ahh” is their best – you have to accept that they will dominate the charts, stay on the top for weeks, defying usual chart behavior, where songs gently (or suddenly) go down after hitting their peak position for a week or two. At least “Knock Knock” isn’t as annoying as “TT”, but you just know you’ve heard better, even from the group themselves. And yet their success is so undeniable that other girl groups have decided to transition their images to Twice’s bright, preppy one. gugudan’s “A Girl Like Me” has similar imagery, but more noteworthy is Lovelyz’s “WoW!” – they have done relatively powerful yet mostly innocent songs to this point, but now they’ve sort of haphazardly put Twice’s clubbiness over their landmark song “Destiny”. Shalla’s gone so far as describing it as their “Marionette” moment. It’s awkward to see them attempt to turn their bodies into props like Twice do so well, but at least they have much better vocalists. But, perhaps, the one act Twice has banished into limbo is Red Velvet. Don’t get me started… [NB]

“The rest will follow if you allow it.”

“Consent to This” by Paola Mauricio | Full disclosure: I have been waiting for this for a while, in part because of my efforts to make up for lost time with local musicians. And, well, also because a few times Paola and I have been tweeting about K-pop. This was supposed to be out in January but things happen, and now it’s out a few weeks later than planned. I was planning to feature it on the Local Outsider, but instead I’m giving it its own space, because, well, I really like this song. I like how it jumps around and gets jittery, certain and then uncertain, all while sustaining a groove that hits the right spot at the right time. Now, for me to catch up with the rest. [NB]

“你終於 給我走開 。 I will be fine.”

“I Will Be Fine” by Waa Wei | Shalla’s way of figuring out which tune she should give a try: look at the album art. Last week, while browsing at the Eslite store in Dunhua, I made a bit of a variation: I took a photo of this album, with the note of writing about it. Now, after having listened to the whole album (it happens to be on Deezer), I think I regret the decision. Waa Wei is a singer-songwriter, former frontwoman for the Taiwanese band Natural Q, and also a DJ at the radio station I listened to in the days leading up to the trip. (I think I listened to her show, unknowingly.) “I Will Be Fine” is from her latest album Run! Frantic Flowers!, which was released just last November; a jazzy-ish delight along the lines of Sheena Ringo’s latest, a contrast with the other track I listened to, “Only You”, which showcases that coo of hers. In hindsight I should have picked up that album on a whim. It’s not something I do, but, well, trust the album art metric sometimes. [NB]