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K-pop may be taking the world by storm, but K-indie deserves just as much love. K-indie tracks are in the soundtracks of your favorite K-dramas and could easily become part of the soundtrack of your life. Whether you are studying, jamming out, or nodding off to sleep, K-indie has something to offer.
The genre itself is relatively new, having developed along with Korea’s underground music scene during the ’90s. Independent musicians gained popularity while freely expressing their own identities, drawing contrast against the more commercialized image of K-pop artists. Since “Indie” genres both in Korea and abroad describe artists’ business models rather than a specific sound, K-indie music ranges from mellow tunes to upbeat pop to dramatic ballads.
This selection of songs is only a small sample of what the genre has to offer, but nevertheless, this playlist provides a calm respite from the world that will inspire curious listeners to sink into the fascinating world of K-indie.
“Nevertheless” by RIO
RIO is an up-and-coming presence in the K-indie scene, incorporating elements of R&B and soul into her songs. Her soothing vocals accompanied by soft piano playing in this drama’s titular song perfectly captures its essence: that bittersweetness of falling in love with someone you should not.
“Kiss me Kiss me” by Isaac Hong
Isaac Hong has produced songs for 13 K-dramas over the course of the past four years, including this song for “Lovestruck in the City.” In the drama, scenes of the main protagonists’ spontaneous and passionate connection are paired with this upbeat, catchy love song.
“Can You See My Heart” by Heize
Although Heize is signed under the major record label P Nation, her music is commonly associated with the underground K-indie genre, and she frequently collaborates with indie artists. “Hotel Del Luna”’s OST includes Heize's ballad-like song on unrequited love.
“August” by The Orchard, CHOSNG (2021)
This collaboration between two indie-artists under the indie label Studio MOS results in a warm, whimsical song about the coming of autumn and spending the season with loved ones.
“Shade” by Hyun Su Seo (feat. HEN) (2020)
Hyun Su Seo’s rich bass combined with HEN’s lilting falsetto and the lone sound of a piano make for a spellbinding duet on a love that is as comforting as sitting peacefully in the shade.
“Lullaby” by Rocoberry, Onew (2017)
Rocoberry consists of the singer-songwriter couple Roco and Conan. On “Lullaby,” the duo partners with Onew, a member of the K-pop group SHINee to create this soothing song. Just as its name suggests, “Lullaby” provides a calm melody and acoustic accompaniment, making it the perfect song to fall asleep to.
“EVERYTHING” by The Black Skirts (2017)
The Black Skirts — an indie rock musician by the name of Jo Hyu-il — creates a nostalgic comfort song with the slow beat and warm acoustics of “EVERYTHING.” The song touches on appreciating the small joys in life and love.
“love.” by Wave to Earth (2023)
Korean indie rock band Wave to Earth’s three members, Kim Daniel, John Cha, and Dong Q, formed the group in 2019, and have been impressing fans with their rich vocals ever since. “love.” is a mellow rock ballad and a strong addition to their 2023 album titled “0.1 flaws and all.”
“Good Night Good Dream” by Nerd Connection (2020)
Nerd Connection consists of three graduates from Yonsei College of Engineering — Choi Seungwon, Seo YounGjoo, Park Jaehyun — and a Taekwondo instructor turned musician — Shin Yeontae — on the drums. Despite the powerful singing and acoustics in this song, the members still manage to avoid a harsh or overbearing tone in their expression of unrequited love.
“Rest” by Yerin Baek (2019)
Yerin Baek has been in the music industry since she was 10 years old, charming audiences with her clear tone and laid back R&B style. Much of Baek’s solo work is in English, such as this song about finding rest and relaxation after getting off from work.
“Swan” by dosii, I love you Orchestra Swing Style (2021)
dosii, a Korean R&B duo, is known for their silky smooth vocals and relaxed pop beats. “Swan” is an airy, light song with jazzy instrumentals that make it suitable for a chill night in.
“in the bed” by Sunwoo Junga (2021)
Singer-songwriter Sunwoo Junga has written and produced music for herself and numerous other artists, often mixing elements of R&B, jazz, and soul. “in the bed” is a heartwarming song that paints a picture of a love that lasts through the years.
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