I ended up passing on an album review last Sunday as I was a little busy. So today’s album review was meant to be released on Sunday. And that album is ASTRO’s recent album release, Gateway. The featured track on this album Knock, which I rated quite highly at the time of its release. And even though it has been released 3 weeks ago, I can confirm that the high rating still stands. This album also serves as the return of Moonbin, who was noticeably absent from their previous comeback, Blue Flame. The group did release One & Only between the albums, which did feature Moonbin, but that was no album. Let’s see what album has to offer.
1. Knock (널 찾아가) (Title Track) – Click here to read the full review for Knock. (10/10)
2. When You Call My Name (내 이름을 부를 때) – When You Call My Name starts off with a playful tone and features a retro video game-like instrumental, which helps the song develop into a fun number. It reminds me of their earlier works before they adopted this mature sound that we have heard all of last year and through the title track, Knock. If you know me, I really liked textures in my songs. So, the choppy nature of the instrumental, particularly around the chorus was quite enjoyable. The brightness in this song gives it a nice fresh tone and quite upbeat. Their vocals were nice, with MJ’s voice being the most memorable of the group. They were used sparingly during the chorus, which was obviously to direct the attention to the instrumental as that was a centerpiece. But it did mean we didn’t much material from the group. So, I did want more out of the vocals, especially the rappers who were quite forgettable in this song. (8/10)
3. Somebody Like – In comparison to the preceding track, Someday Like is definitely very full. No major choppy instrumentals or sparingly used vocals in this track. Instead, the instrumental falls under the pop domain and feels quite suitable for a nice feel good day. I really like the guitar that is used throughout the song and the funky beat that the chorus features. It is quite energetic and refreshing in a pleasant way. And the group’s vocals bring a nice brightness to the song. I find Somebody Like to be quite catchy, as the hooks were quite memorable. Note how I said there was no ‘major’ choppy instruments at the start. At the very end of the bridge, we are treated to some choppiness in the song. It is quite minute in comparison to an entire song. But it managed to stand out in this song. Talking about the bridge, I thought JinJin’s rapping sequence layered over a trap sequence was another good stand out moment. In comparison to the other songs on the album, it doesn’t feel like the best and hence why the rating is a little less than the higher ranking songs on the album. (8.5/10)
4. We Still – Kicking We Still off is nice piano. This piano piece remains throughout the song, despite synths becoming much more dominant during the chorus. This is something that ASTRO has done before, so unfortunately it isn’t unique in any way. But what I liked about We Still is that it continues that very upbeat and bright feel that the album has been channeling throughout the song thus far. And this allows the song to come off as quite fresh. I find that both the vocals and rapping, despite that latter definitely being a lot more intense then the former, manages to bind the song together quite nice. I was very impressed with both elements and these made the song’s hook quite powerful and memorable. Apart from the title track, I reckon We Still is a strongest effort, even though it took the path of something that the group has done before. (9/10)
5. 12 Hours (12시간) – ASTRO tones it down a fair bit with 12 Hours. It is another pleasant pop R&B track, fitting in with the rest of the album, without the energetic buzz or exciting synths that drive the song forward. Instead, the song features a mellow and soft piano instrumental, accented with various guitars to give the song some small details. Their vocals are quite nice and soothing in this track. The rapping was a bit of a miss for me. I wanted to hear something a little more aligned with the song, but JinJin ended putting too much edge in his section. If Rocky and JinJin made their sections a little more mellow sounding, I think this would be a perfect combination. (7.5/10)
6. Lights On (빛이 돼줄게) – I liked how Lights On started off with. Very soft with the vocals and the ‘Tik Tac Toc’ being a nice accent to that section. JinJin then kicks up the song by bringing in his powerful delivery and rough tone to the song. Unlike in the previous song, it felt appropriate given what was brewing in the background (i.e. the synths that allowed the song to build to the chorus). The chorus of Lights On has the similar aesthetics as the title tracks on their special mini-album releases. If anything, this song’s instrumental is less intense. And the hooks were a lot more typical and boring (aside from that ‘Tik Tac Toc’ detail, which I was glad to hear in the second verse). But still feels the same, in a way. I do note that I feel like I have been a little more critical with the rapping on this album. But I think both Rocky and JinJin shined in Lights On. (7.5/10)
Overall Album Rating – 8.4/10