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Album Review: Stellar Celebrate The Eclecticism Of K-Pop On Their Exciting New EP 'Sting' [AUDIO]

By Jesse Lent | January 27, 2016 08:38 PM EST

When K-pop saw an international burst of popularity a few years back, beyond Psy's comical gyrations for billions of YouTube viewers, it was the ability of groups like Girls' Generation, 2NE1 and Big Bang to meld styles both musically and visually that drove legions of newly-acquired fans into a frenzy.

Rooted firmly within this tradition of throwing everything, both local and located on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, into the brew, is "Sting," the inventive new six-song extended play album released on Jan. 18 by the South Korean girl group Stellar.

Mixing '70s disco, '80 new wave and '90s R&B with modern pop, indie and even country music the songwriting on "Sting" is a big tent as political pundits say, highly inclusive. But the production is always spot-on, in terms of offering the right amount of studio gloss force without ever blunting the impact.

The four members of Stellar, for their part, are as good as anyone in the K-pop game vocally, delivering heartfelt performances that forego bombastic high notes or melodic runs in favor of honest and nuanced emotion. Even tracks like the Spice Girls-influenced "Love Spell" that would normally be throwaway mainstream moments are elevated to another level by a group totally committed to breaking new ground amidst this pastiche of past innovators.

No matter what particular blend of idioms Stellar and their production team is getting into on "Sting," bubbling beneath the overall mix is always a layer of uniquely dialed-in keyboard playing.

Whether it's the gloriously ambient minute-long album opener, "Do You Hear Me," the cinematic and so-far tragically overlooked "Insomnia" or "Nervous," which the group released a music video for last summer, it is when the synthesizer takes center stage that are the best moments on the EP.

When Stellar switched up their image in favor of a more risqué look on their first EP, 2014's "Marionette," a release band member Junyool told the publication No Cut News in July that she was sure "was going to be our retirement album," the group caught hell for abandoning their more wholesome attire.

If there is anyone still upset or on the fence about the band's new direction, "Sting" offers undeniable evidence that Stellar has a lot more to offer the world than sexy outfits.

As a body of work, this unpredictable EP is the most coherent work the K-pop scene has seen so far this year.

Listen to the complete "Sting" EP, released last week by South Korean pop quartet Stellar, RIGHT HERE

Tagged :  stellar, K-Pop, kpop, Album Release, album review, review, Reviews

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