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The Guardian : SXSW 2017 -- Your Guide to the Best Music, Films and TV

Premieres from Terrence Malick and Edgar Wright will pull in the crowds, but there’s an impressive list of talks, TV showcases and music to investigate

This year, South by Southwest (SXSW) has had to weather a storm in the buildup to the annual week-long festival in Austin. Artist outrage and an open letter concerning a clause in contracts that seemed to suggest collusion between organizers and immigration officials has seen the festival promise to make a change for 2018. It has overshadowed a year that looks like one of the strongest yet, with the film element snagging premieres from the likes of Terrence Malick and Edgar Wright, and a list of featured speakers that offers looks into the topical issues of surveillance and virtual reality. The TV coverage continues to become an increasingly important part of the festival, with first looks at the highly anticipated Neil Gaiman adaptation American Gods and the film to TV transformation of Dear White People. Music is its usual sprawling mix of on-site showcases and offerings off the beaten path. Here’s our pick of the must-see moments this year.

This year’s music fest has an impressive selection of talks that should satisfy most musical tastes. There’s Nile Rodgers’ keynote (15 March, 11am, Austin Convention Center), where he’ll talk about his career and position as one of the most sampled songwriters ever; while the Beats1 main man, Zane Lowe (16 March, 11am, Austin Convention Center), will also talk shop at his keynote on Friday. Kesha’s discussion about how women can reclaim the internet should be interesting (14 March, 3.30pm, Austin Convention Center), and for those who don’t want to stop, Mick Fleetwood (15 March, 5pm, Austin Convention Center) will talk about his time in a little-known 70s rock act. The musical offerings this year throw up the usual mix of interesting official showcases and potentially more interesting unofficial goings on off-site. Of the officially sanctioned slots, you’d struggle to find a more fun-sounding evening than the K-Pop Night Out (17 March, 7pm, the Belmont), where Red Velvet, Hyolyn of SISTAR and the hip-hop stars Drunken Tiger all preach the gospel of Seoul.

Elsewhere, Spin’s annual shindig looks as tempting as ever with a Tuesday day party being headlined by the perma-jolly rapper Lil Yachty and a night soiree topped off by Real Estate and Sleigh Bells (14 March, 3pm, Empire Garage). Fader Fort is still the place to find some of the most cutting-edge acts from the worlds of hip-hop, R’n’B and indie. It has moved to a new smaller location this year (15-18 March, 1209 East 6th Street AKA Volcom Garden) and the performers we know about so far include Young MA, Downtown Boys and Lizzo, but there’s always the prospect of a huge secret headliner on the final night (last year Drake dropped in). If you’re into country and Americana, Willie Nelson’s annual SXSW offshoot Luck Reunion at his ranch will appeal. Most of the younger generation of acts who have breathed new life into the genres, including Conor Oberst, Margo Price, Brent Cobb, Parker Millsap and Aaron Lee Tasjan.

This year’s festival has become unexpectedly political after the callout over wording in the artist’s contract, which some took exception to. There’s a special showcase of acts hailing from countries impacted by Donald Trump’s travel ban, with Ninjatune man Ash Koosha headlining proceedings (17 March, 1.05am after several other acts, Palm Door on Sixth). One of the acts who sent an open letter to the festival about the contracts was PWR BTTM (15 March, 7.30pm, Stubb’s BBQ). They’ve had a busy 12 months and are playing multiple shows in Austin. Raucous, funny and painfully honest, they’re one of the must-see bands at the festival. More pink triangle action comes courtesy of Weezer, who are one of the bigger bands playing this year with two (announced) gigs – one on the Friday (17 March, midnight, Brazos Hall) and one at Rachael Ray’s 10th SXSW Feedback Party (18 March, 8pm, Stubb’s BBQ).

Reporters : Olivia Solon, Andrew Pulver, Benjamin Lee and Lanre Bakare
International Booking Agent : DFSB Kollective (Drunken Tiger)


The Korea Times : Galaxy Express to Represent K-Rock at South by Southwest

Members of the rock band Galaxy Express pose in this photograph. They are from left Park Jong-hyun, Lee Ju-hyun and Kim Hee-kwon. / Courtesy of LoverockEleven Korean music groups are heading to the U.S. this weekend for South by Southwest (SXSW), one of America's biggest music festivals set to begin this Friday. These acts include K-pop girl group Red Velvet and popular rappers Tiger JK and Yoonmirae, but also singer-songwriter Big Phony, punk band No Brain and garage rockers Galaxy Express.

For Galaxy Express, it is their fourth time traveling to Austin, Texas, performing unrelenting psychedelic rock ‘n' roll music in front of American audiences.

The group features three members ― Lee Ju-hyun playing bass, Kim Hee-kwon on drums and Park Jong-hyun on guitar. The rockers are all in their late 30s, but they are confident to say they are the most energetic Korean musicians out there.

"We play music like three veteran soldiers," said Park Jong-hyun during an interview with The Korea Times at the CKL Stage building in Jongno, Seoul, last week. "We pursue hard music like Nirvana… something like animal barking and howling. We start and finish hardcore and we are soaked in sweat when we come down from the stage."

"I heard there are many angry people in America, because Donald Trump was elected president," Lee Ju-hyun said. "Our show is good for angry audiences. We will blow off steam with you, America."

Galaxy Express neither enjoys huge popularity nor plays mainstream music here, but they believe K-pop is not all about idol bands and their rock music has an audience too.

The band has been appearing at SXSW since 2011. In 2013 they took part in the first "K-pop Night Out" showcase organized by Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA). They made a splash early on, earning shout-outs from popular music magazine SPIN, The New York Times and MTV Iggy.

The band, which formed in 2006, has energized fans in France, Taiwan, Japan, England, Russia and Hong Kong with their energetic performances on the stage.

Q. Please introduce your band.

A. Jong-hyun: We are Galaxy Express and we are a rock ‘n' roll band. We formed our team ten years ago and have released four studio albums so far.

Q. How do you feel about joining SXSW?

A. Jong-hyun: It is our fourth time participating in SXSW and it has been four years since the last time we performed there. We first played on an American stage in 2011. We are excited and we look forward to it. We expect some changes have been made in four years and we are talking about relaxing and enjoying the show there this time.

Q. How do you describe Galaxy Express's music?

A. Ju-hyun: Our songs are energetic and psychedelic. The music drowns you into a dreamlike feeling. We will make American audiences deaf!

Q. What impression do you have representing Korean rock at SXSW?

A. Jong-hyun: If we show our good music on a good stage, the audience will like it. We want to let people know there are musicians like us in Korea, not just K-pop idols.

Ju-hyun: K-pop is leading the mainstream and there is no need to show that we are different. We just have to play our music naturally and people will feel something original. There are no races or borders in music.

Q. Why do you only have three members?

A. Hee-kwon: Because we can divide our income in three, the less people the better. If we miss one, we cannot play ― every member is imperative. Plus, if we have members in even numbers, the group can get divided into twos. In terms of our music, three members are good when expressing simple and light music. We think we can play all the music we want with three of us. Our two vocalists have distinct voices too, so there is no need for extra members,

Q. Why do you think fans like Galaxy Express?

A. Ju-hyun: Our music is straightforward and very raw. It has a rough feeling and we focus our music on the very basic. If we were to compare our music to sports, it would be extreme sports. We run and fly all over. It's like a music that draws off your sweat and explodes adrenaline inside you.

Q. What was your most memorable moment at SXSW?

A. Jong-hyun: I forgot if it was our first or second visit. We played for four weeks and at the end of our final performance, all the people we met during the four weeks came to see us again. It was really touching.

In another show in Houston, I remember it was not SXSW and we were playing our songs there for the first time. We had two people in the audience and they were musicians participating at the festival who visited us while resting. SXSW is the same in a way that not all shows fill the room. There are many shows without audiences but we like it more that way. It feels more comfortable and we feel like we're playing an ensemble piece.

Q. What kind of band do you want to be remembered as?

A. Ju-hyun: People who know their style. We don't want to chase after trends. We want to show our outlook on the world and play music that our fans can enjoy for a long time. A music that people want to wait for, even when they get old. I like the words "crazy" and "insane." It describes us well and I don't think those are bad expressions.

Reporter : Kim Jae-heun
International Distribution : DFSB Kollective


Asian Junkie : Top 100 Korean Songs of 2016

2016 is not over until the world floods the internet with their best-of lists, and of course I’m here to add to the fun.

This year I’m keeping things simple. No crazy rules, no strict guidelines. The only rule I followed in compiling this list is that each song had to have been released between December 1, 2015 and December 1, 2016. That’s pretty much it. Another thing to keep in mind is that some artists appear once on this list while others appear multiple times. It’s a diverse list, yet also very clearly my personal taste (if IATFB worked on this he’d find a way to have all 100 be Crayon Pop songs). From K-pop to folk, R&B to punk, I listened to a ton of music over the course of 2016 and I did my best to make sure this list reflected that.

Also, I ranked these for the sake of ranking them, but don’t take it too seriously. The point is that all of these songs are great, and no matter where they landed on the final list they all left an impression on me and I’m sure a ton of you, too. So please enjoy my list of what I think are the best Korean songs of the year!

16. Big Phony 'Hanging On a Thread'

Release Date : 09/30/2016
Genre : Folk

“Hanging On A Thread” is a breath of fresh air upon first listen. It’s one of Big Phony‘s most melodic releases, with strung out melodies dancing against a shimmery instrumental and a touch of vulnerability embedded in the singer’s voice that holds this delightful song together.

25. Heo 'Pyre'

Release Date : 11/28/2016
Genre : Electronic

Haunting and riddled with layers of peculiar synth work, Heo‘s “Pyre” is a sweet example of what electronic music sounds like when it isn’t afraid to go a little dark and experimental.

30. Billy Carter 'The Dog'

Release Date : 11/23/2016
Genre : Rock

Billy Carter‘s immense and ferocious “The Dog” is a slick and hyper rock’n’roll anthem that throws all caution to the wind. While the majority of it is rooted in rock, the underlying percussion elements add a lot of extra flavor to the mix.

43. 3rd Line Butterfly '나를 깨우네 Awaken'

Release Date : 10/19/2016
Genre : Rock

For a song over 11 minutes long, there’s a point one reaches while listening to “Awaken” that the passage of time ceases to be of concern and every glimmering detail of its expansive composition is effective in liberating the mind.

70. Jay Park 'Aquaman'

Release Date : 10/20/2016
Genre : R&B/Soul

Jay Park has learned through trial and error the formula to produce great R&B music, and he succeeds in waves with “Aquaman.” Just disregard the lyrical cringiness about cunnilingus to appreciate its finer details.

88. Love X Stereo 'Dead Beat Generation'

Release Date : 04/29/2016
Genre : Electronic

Annie Ko sounds absolutely mesmerizing on Love X Stereo‘s eerie “Dead Beat Generation.” In a year when R&B and hip-hop rose to full mainstream status, it was refreshing to hear sparks of electro-pop done right from this promising duo.

92. Silica Gel '9'

Release Date : 10/12/2016
Genre : Rock

The fuzziness of Silica Gel‘s “9” (and of the rest of the self-titled album they released this year) adds a degree of warmth to the band’s psychedelic sound that both captivates and transports as the song unfolds.


Korean Indie : Best Albums of 2016

It’s near the end of 2016 and the time where Korean Indie pulls together our favorite releases of 2016. As always, this list consists of music I was able to listen to this year. It feels like there were a lot more releases this year. Like previous years, my list isn’t in any particular order, but more of going through albums that I heard chronologically.

Love X Stereo : We Love We Leave Part 2

I’ve been waiting for Love X Stereo to move forward. They’ve got a great set of songs which I’ve heard on the numerous times seeing them live. But I was always waiting for the next step. When they released We Love We Leave Part 2, it showed the band has changed. They’re more confident, more deliberate, and working to make their music get heard by as many people as possible.

Big Phony : Big Phony

Anyone who reads the site regularly knows that I’m a big fan of Big Phony. With his latest album, backed on Kickstarter, he finally made the album he’s wanted to make for years. It’s finally captures the talent and perspective in songs that are more complex. This is one of those albums that is a classic from the day it released.

HEO : Actress

Actress went past the brilliance of Structure and set a new standard for HEO. It’s quickly become a daily listen that will flow into 2017.

Editor : Chris Park


The Korea Herald : Will Apple Music Rock Korea?

Apple Inc. surprised the local music and mobile service industry Friday by abruptly launching its streaming music service Apple Music in South Korea. The tech giant simultaneously launched Apple Music in 110 countries in July of last year, but had left it unserviced in the South Korean market for more than a year.

Its sudden decision to start up the service drew mixed reactions, raising questions on its impact on the music service industry here, which has so far been dominated by local firms.

Korean online music streaming service providers -- the three big players being LOEN Entertainment, KT and Bugs -- appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach to the tech giant’s new music service, which failed to secure many Korean songs.

“Although we are keeping an eye on the new service, we don’t think Apple Music will be a game changer because they have fewer K-pop songs,” an official from LOEN Entertainment’s told The Korea Herald.

LOEN’s Melon is the top online music streaming service provider in the local music industry, with a 57 percent market share, followed by KT Music with 21 percent and Bugs with 10 percent.

No. 2 streaming service KT said, “Apple’s service may make the competition fiercer, but we still have an edge in Korean songs, which most local users enjoy."

Although Apple has 30 million songs -- triple Melon’s 10 million songs -- it has fewer K-pop songs because it failed to negotiate with local music firms aside from the big three of S.M. Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP. This is because Apple’s policy, which gives 70 percent of sale prices, or discounted prices, to the creators of songs, did not appeal to many music creators.

In Korea, by law, music providers such as LOEN are obliged to give 60 percent of the fixed price -- regardless of how much it allows in discounts to users -- to music creators. Since discounts are very common on music platforms, this means that Apple could be offering cheaper services to clients while giving less in royalties to creators, according to some industry watchers.

But the issue of whether artists will recieve more or less is a controversial point.

Apple Korea’s spokesperson could not be reached for comment, but other  industry insiders said the service, rather than paying less, would bring about fairer wages and level out competition in South Korea.

“For Korean artists, the launch of Apple Music in Korea finally brings a global service with global standards, and most importantly, global rates to the local market,” said Bernie Cho, head of DFSB Kollective, to The Korea Herald.

The DFSB Kollective is an agency that specializes in the global distribution of Korean music that became one of the first Korean music content aggregators for Apple iTunes in 2008 and is one of the first official Korean music playlist curators for Apple Music.

“Apple Music in Korea is not only a win for local consumers as the subscription prices are on par with leading local services, but also a win for local artists as the royalty rates are far bigger and far better than those offered by any of the local services,” Cho says.

“In addition to an overall K-Pop chart, Apple Music also allows Korean acts -- indie, idol, icons -- to fairly compete and achieve accurate chart rankings in their respective individual genres,” he added.

According to one music industry insider, Apple’s royalties to the local artists are expected to be much higher compared to that of its local streaming rivalries.

“While most companies are using the government standard for royalties as its maximum rate, Apple is using it as its minimum, which means our artists will be paid much, much more for their music than by the other Korean companies,” said the industry insider.

The local music industry has certainly been no stranger to public disputes, with countless artists and unions speaking out against unfair music chart calculations as well as unjust wages for their creative content and services.

Earlier this year, the Korean indie music scene and the Artists Union were in an uproar when a handful of artists who contributed to the soundtrack for popular TV drama “Cheese in the Trap” took to social media to vent their outrage against mega media conglomerate CJ E&M for not paying for their work.

The union also claimed that many artists were being “coerced into signing unjust contracts” and not being “properly compensated” for their music.

The introduction of Apple Music is not only expected to offer better pay for Korean artists, but also possibly a fairer outlet for local consumers as well.

The Apple streaming service comes following recent drawn-out legal battles involving some of the peninsula’s top streaming sites Mnet and Soribada, after the Fair Trade Commission filed a lawsuit when it was revealed the conglomerates were hiking subscription prices without clearly informing consumers, who were automatically charged the higher rates.

The courts ruled in favor of the Fair Trade Commission late last year.

Reporters : Julie Jackson (juliejackson@heraldcorp.com) / Shin Ji-hye(shinjh@heraldcorp.com)