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K-Pop Double Take: The Incredible Expanding Sound Of Nell's 'Star Shell' [VIDEO]

By Jeff Tobias | November 04, 2015 03:15 PM EST


K-Pop Double Take is a weekly review column highlighting recent releases that have yet to receive the attention we feel they deserve.

When rock music was in its nascent years, it had little legitimacy within the mainstream establishment. It was youth music, with roots in the lower classes and it was necessarily humble in its simplicity.

A lot has changed since then. Now, rock music is every bit as entrenched in our culture as the symphonic works that dominated the previous decades and often as grandiose, as well.

On their recent single, "Star Shell," released digitally on Sept. 17, South Korean rock band Nell contribute to this relatively recent development of what you might call Widescreen rock.

On "Star Shell," Nell prove that its possible to convey big emotions with modest instrumentation.

There's precedent for Nell's sort of sweeping hugeness, of course. U2 are perhaps the earliest example of a band willing to attack their instruments with this sort of earnest ambition. They are a sort of proto-emo, if you will.

On "Star Shell," Nell sit somewhere in between modern emo's resurgent histrionics and Arcade Fire's insistence on instilling their music with an inspirational fervor.

The religiosity of "Star Shell" is often bolstered by Nell's secret weapon, drummer Jung Jae Won. The choruses are not performed with a backbeat, but rather with a driving drumroll that contributes a feeling of a sort of musical missile launch.

A song's chorus is typically where tensions are released, but Nell instead urge the song onward and upward with the hook, turning this section into a seemingly unending climax.

Of course, this isn't a mere guitar-bass-drums configuration.

The song is aided in its epic goals by a synthesizer that creates a facsimile of orchestral strings. However, that's a small and compact way to make a big impact on the song's overall efficacy.

Vocalist Kim Jong Wan deserves his fair share of credit for making "Star Shell" work. His vocals flirt with the edge of melodrama, but remain plaintive enough to stay on the safe side. Rather than sounding a parody of himself, he sells the song's determined feeling with aplomb.

With "Star Shell," Nell have created the kind of work that continues to broaden the emotional scape of their genre.

Nell have been enjoying critical applause as well as mainstream success since 1999. "Star Shell" is the band's first release since 2014's full-length "Newton's Apple." But they're back and their sound is bigger than ever.

Watch the music video for Nell's latest single "Star Shell" RIGHT HERE


Jeff Tobias is a composer, writer and musician currently living in Brooklyn, New York. As of late, he has been tinkering with his breakfast burrito recipe and working on his chess game.

Tagged :  nell, Star Shell, U2, The Arcade Fire, K-Pop Double-Take, review, Reviews, K-Pop, korean rock, kpop


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