[Review] GFRIEND improve on excellent 2018 with bright “Sunrise” to start 2019

I’m aware that I’m late, but also this weekend was the first time I’ve slept over five hours in 2019, so … it is what it is.

Anyway, GFRIEND are coming off an excellent 2018 in terms of music, tying for the second-most songs on my year-end list (and peaking at #3) and having quality even beyond that. Thankfully, they start off 20199 early with a January comeback in “Sunrise“, which sees them not only continue the momentum from last year, but continue to push their sound further.

The ups-and-downs of GFRIEND’s gradual transition from the ‘powerful innocence’ concept has been fascinating to follow, and they started to get everything right in 2018. Now they’ve definitely come into their own to start this year with a sound that’s a bit more dainty and nuanced around the edges than the consistent energy and aggression of the past. For me that would normally be a negative change, but they actually have managed to make it work for them.

What makes it effective is the terrific underlying instrumental that keep things engaging even with a depressed pacing, thanks primarily to a start that includes a piano with a bouncy beat, and symphonic backing then entering. That reserved nature gets crushed as “Sunrise” rockets into a build and then bursts out with a chorus that pays off everything that comes before it. It’s highly impactful and well-developed, and it should grow on the listener due to the different ways “Sunrise” spins it throughout, but it also caught my attention immediately thanks to the memorable “jeogi haeya haeya” refrains that kick things off. GFRIEND seems to have perfected the melody used in the chorus on “Memoria“, and they simply went back to the well here with a refrain that seemingly swells endlessly, keeping the listener on their toes until it abruptly drops off and leaves you wanting more.

“Sunrise” contrasts internally between the graceful and classic stylings of the underlying instrumental with the swelling and dramatic explosion at the peaks, managing to balance that well to create a gem of a song. GFRIEND’s brilliant original Japanese song “Memoria” is the easy comp here, and while only time will tell if it maintains those heights by the end of the year, it definitely indicates how much I’m into this newish dramatic GFRIEND sound.

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