In most cases, debut songs are very straightforward. Most have an obvious chorus, a memorable (and often catchy) hook, and production that’s safe and familiar. First impressions are everything.
Maybe that’s why we were so surprised when we first listened to Vancouver-based seungjin’s debut single “RollerCoaster”, a song that breaks all of those rules from the second you press play. Sent to us from the artist himself with little more than a brief introduction (his full name is Luke Seung-Jin Kim and he’s 23 years old), his inspirations (“i’ve been inspired by feist”), and aspirations (“when i was young i wanted to be a kpop star”), “RollerCoaster” is, as the name suggests, a wild ride from start to finish.
“RollerCoaster” greets us with a peculiar blend of rhythms layered together. Pairing a cacophony of guitar chords and a dizzying bubbly sample (which sounds a lot like Timmy Thomas’s “Why Can’t We Live Together”, which was in turn popularized by Drake’s “Hotline Bling”), the first few seconds of the song are an overwhelming whirl of sonic emotion. Odd “ahhs”, and synths are added to the mix, pushing the effect further and drawing you deeper into the brooding storm of Kim’s world. Samples of muddled conversations are introduced, and the sound of a car speeding away can barely be made out among all of the ruckus–an effect that, when paired with the continuous strumming of the lead guitar, can be likened to the folk-tinged, sample-heavy style of The Books.
And then, just like that, the storm clears. A discernible beat kicks in, and Kim begins singing, masterfully hitting high notes with his controlled falsetto–starkly contrasting to the cacophony of sounds that were so overbearing just seconds ago. But it’s only there for a fleeting moment–just as soon as Kim begins singing, the end of the song closely follows.
That’s the thing about “RollerCoaster”. Kim plays his cards right, slowly building up his song up from dissonance and rewarding his listener with his sweet vocals at the very end. There’s also a demo-reel quality to it: “RollerCoaster” is proof enough that Kim has the creativity to make that mysterious introduction engaging and inviting, while also having the vocal chops to make others take him seriously as a singer.
And now that we know what he’s capable of, one thing is for certain: we want more.
Artist links: Spotify
Li-Wei Chu is a recent graduate from UC Davis who majored in Cinema and Digital Media who also briefly studied film at Queen Mary, University of London. Li-Wei is obsessed with horror films (especially the ones that give him nightmares), films from East Asia, and really, any film that makes you stop and think.
He loves talking about film and indie music with others. He’s also a record collector and cross-stitches when he has free time. In the future, he hopes to be able to write about film and wants to find a job in the film industry that can support his record buying habits. Maybe one day he’ll also be able to play the guitar.