Having spent almost a decade in the UK, I’d come to take for granted (none too happily, I might add) that rain and overcast skies were default features in life. So it’s a little off-putting that, living with Korea’s sweltering summer humidity and cut-glass winter freeze, I find myself a little wistful whenever the day is grey and light drizzle coats the streets. So here’s a couple of songs that start with the sound of rain hitting the ground which always puts me in a certain mood.
Jeju Boys are two boyhood friends from Jeju Island who formed a folk group when in middle school, and released their self-titled debut album in 2003, which contains this song. The album is a little treasure trove of sweet, lilting melodies – ‘Jogging’ is another highlight – and would in any other country have made them rich and famous (or a little bigger at least). Instead they won some plaudits and notices but were generally left unperturbed and went their way to becoming a cult band, inspiring devotion from select people but anonymous to the rest. They plugged ahead and released three more albums, even surviving national service hiatus, but eventually parted ways late 2010 after releasing their last album, ‘To Youth’. It’s an even slower, more evocative work than usual, informed with nostalgia for the years gone by rather than celebration of those to come, and the title track in particular is a tear-inducing, aching ode to our younger selves. If Korea had anything approaching a functional music industry, these two young musicians would have been allowed to grow old making music; instead, another one of the more creative, musically proactive bands is no more.
Otsuka Ai is one of those Japanese artists who, along with Yui who came later, seem to have found a popular niche between the usual idol scene and the more serious singer-songwritership, and with considerable flair to boot. When she debuted, Otsuka looked for all intents and purposes like another young, attractive bubble pop artists, but she wrote all her songs and played lead guitar and piano in them. Her songs were (over)bright and easy on the ear, but with idiosyncratic lyrics that betrayed the lack of management control, and they helped pave the way for instrument-propping female songwriters like Yui and Angela Aki to popularity. I will be the first to admit that Otsuka isn’t the greatest artist in the world – God knows how this stayed in the Oricon chart for so long – but every now and then she hits the nail on the head, and ‘Rain-coloured Parasol’ is one such instance – a perfectly formed piece of Jpop magic, it’s even a B-side!