Version Up should not exist by any stretch of the imagination. Barely half a year ago, Loona had been tangled in a legal dispute with their record label, Blockberry Creative. What should have been another story about K-pop’s slave contracts, blacklisted idols, and smear campaigns shockingly ended up with all the Loona girls free from their contracts by June. That by itself is already something that has been unheard of in K-pop but the lore doesn’t stop there. Back in 2017, Loona’s debuted three separate subunits for their members. Though they were all successful in their own right, it was ODD EYE CIRCLE (Kim Lip, JinSoul, and Choerry) that would become an integral part of pushing the entire genre into the blogosphere.

To say that ODD EYE CIRCLE’s debut album Max & Match was merely influential would be a severe understatement. While K-pop had broken into Western mainstream consciousness, the critical reception at the time was lukewarm at best. The genre had a problem of oversaturated concepts with strong singles and weak albums. Enter Max & Match: an album of pop perfection that experimented with sounds unheard of before in the genre by pulling from dream pop, future bass, and alt-dance. Even the most elitist indie reviewers had to concede that they couldn’t write off K-pop entirely and the album quickly became a foundational landmark of the entire genre.

With Loona clearing up the disputes, they immediately signed with different labels and hit the studio. Kim Lip, JinSoul, and Choerry all ended up with Modhaus and before long, Version Up brought the return of ODD EYE CIRCLE over half a decade later. Opening with the title track “Did You Wait?”, a static-filled radio brings the nostalgia alive with a glitchy medley of their 2017 songs. It might be too much to expect ODD EYE CIRCLE to ever reach the mythical heights of Max & Match but at the very least, this EP sets up their path to a comeback. “Air Force One” puts their own spin on K-pop’s newest obsession with Jersey and Baltimore club. Featuring an incredibly catchy “DA-DA-DA” hook with cascading synths against pounding breakbeats, it’s a clear return to form for the trio. The EP transitions into “Je Ne Sais Quoi”, which features the dreamy melodies that ODD EYE CIRCLE is known for as they croon over a deep house beat. “Lucid” slows things down with lightweight production as the girls sing of dreams and the excitement of fresh love. As the tempo returns in “Love Me Like”, the song quickly transforms into a disco beat as the reverbed vocals glide alongside the chiptune effects. Version Up closes with “My Secret Playlist”, an energetic tune with a surprising bossa-nova passage to close off the EP.

It’s impossible to compare Version Up to arguably the best album that K-pop has ever produced but given that ODD EYE CIRCLE has only released these two projects, it’s also inevitable. Version Up plays it a little safe by going the familiar route: future bass synths, dreamy production, and pristine hooks. While they seem up to date with the genre’s trends as they take on the East Coast club sounds, they don’t break any new ground in the Loona/ODD EYE CIRCLE canon. Some of the songs are a little on the short side and the ideas don’t fully develop. But to be honest, none of that truly matters in the long run. Version Up’s existence is a miracle in itself and a clear triumph in their legal struggles over the past year. With that behind them, it hopefully marks the true return of ODD EYE CIRCLE as they get the time they need to ease back into their groove. Even if they never release another album of the same calibre as Max & Match, their legacy is already indisputable. Everything else is just a bonus.

Must Listens: Air Force One, Je Ne Sais Quoi, My Secret Playlist


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I turned my incoherent ramblings on music, anime, and video games into an entire blog.

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