Album Review: Silly Silky – Silly but, Silky

[Merge; 2024]

Given the global K-pop boom, you’d really think artists of the indie pop variety in Korea would have received more of a boost as well. With a distinctive take on the genre, artists hailing from the world’s favorite peninsula tend to bring a more electronic, cooler, and icier sound to the table, rather than the more cute sounds the term “indie pop” may bring to mind. In short, the music fits right into the sentiments of the moment. Nearly a decade ago, talented figures such as Neon Bunny and Aseul seemed poised to launch into (relative) fame. While they no doubt found loyal, loving audiences, that never quite happened.

While both of the aforementioned artists have grown more quiet in the past few years, Silly Silky – previously primarily known as YESEO (drawn from her name, Park Yeseo)  – has remained determined to break through. First earning notice from attentive music nerds with her Million Things EP and the gorgeous, glacial sensuality of “Silhouette”, Park reached yet more ears via her SM Station collaboration, the brilliantly prickly “Privacy”, a relatable gem for anyone who’s sought solitude amidst the frenzy of a modern metropolis.

Shortly after, her first LP, Damn Rules, generally delivered on her promise, but didn’t quite find a larger audience, followed by a pair of underloved EPs. This seemingly led Park to recalculate and reemerge via a series of singles as Silly Silky.

Silly But, Silky presents her first full-length statement under her new moniker. Billed as a mixtape, the project is, at twenty tracks, nonetheless the lengthiest effort she has released to date. The distinction is a clear and important one, drawing parallels to FKA Twigs’ Caprisongs. Both artists have used the format to free themselves from the expectations of an album, using it as an outlet to explore more playful sides of their music, all while delivering an essential, idiosyncratic moment only they could have created.

Park remains a gifted, deft producer, and the creative instrumentals blended with her soft voice are what makes Silly But, Silky something special. Guided by a less assured hand, the project could easily have felt bloated, but Park dashes through styles with madcap energy, sharing her glee in plunging through sounds in a way that’s genuinely infectious. As always, she’s intent on playing with the very idea of pop itself, teasing the listener with songs that are undeniably catchy, yet retain a certain alien quality.

Furthermore, while her singing no doubt still sticks to the sweet spot she successfully discovered years ago, she’s pushed herself to discover new avenues as to how she uses it. “Drama Queen” finds her whistling and cooing with a smirk, while other songs, such as “BB New Attitude”, “Text Me Back”, and “Happy Accident” revolve from serenely pretty and conversational, even chatty, at the drop of a hat. These songs are also the closest Park has come to K-pop as the world knows it, with earworm inflections and vocal tics, yet they remain distinctly “her”. This isn’t the easiest tightrope to walk, but she manages it with a leisurely, mischievous stride.

Park’s lyrics often have a dashed out on a napkin immediacy to them, which suits the sound she’s aiming for perfectly. Songs can feel like whispered confessions or bitter asides only meant for oneself. She also uses the expanded nature of the mixtape to make Silly But, Silky decidedly her most “feel good” project to date, glowing with self-affirmation and hard-won joy. Park’s music has always been delightful, but it has never sounded so delighted. Naturally, she returns the sexiness of her best music, but her production is more layered than ever.

While Million Things succeeded more due to her restraint than anything else, her knowing just how little she needed to do, and precisely what not to do, Silly But, Silky soars for the opposite reasons. She’s pulling out every tool in her kit with abandon, and the music practically rushes through your ears with that energy. It’s a bit of a lengthy listen, but Silly Silky keeps you following her with every step. Listening can almost feel like sprinting to keep up with her as she dives into newfound sounds and ideas. Her exuberance is contagious, and it’s rewarding to finally witness her let it all shine through. Go ahead, settle in for the chase.