Akdong Musician (also known as AKMU) finally made a comeback last September 25th with their third full album, ‘Sailing‘. Their previous release (second full album ‘Winter‘) was all the way back in January 2017. During their almost 3-year break, Chanhyuk has served in the Korean military, and Suhyun has entered her adulthood. This album shows how they themselves have matured along with their music – while their previous album’s theme was about their curiosity of the real world, ‘Sailing‘ conveys that they are no longer in the curious state. They have stepped into young adult life, and into the real world.

Their title track, ‘How Can I Love The Heartbreak, You’re The One I Love‘ is a solid masterpiece. It starts off with piano instrumentals, which made the beginning of the song sound like a beautiful piece of classical music. The harmonious vocals and the emotions that the duo pours out can undoubtedly move their audience. This song is 4 minutes and 55 seconds long, and therefore longer than typical songs – however it didn’t feel too long due to the powerful melody and instrumentals (a combination of piano, acoustic guitar, and drum sounds). This is the kind of ballad that is inspiring, and far from being plain and dull. The only downside is that the title of the song is too long, making it hard to recall at a later time.

For the B-sides, the songs that I consider outstanding are ‘Chantey‘, ‘Freedom‘, and ‘Endless Dream, Good Night’. Listening to ‘Chantey‘ made me feel like I’m on a boat with sailors, exploring the ocean. The distinctive elements of the song are Suhyun‘s angelic vocals and the cello instrumentals during the chorus. Her angelic, yet haunting voice still stays with you even when you are no longer listening to it. However, the song was less than 3 minutes long, so the experience sadly seemed a little short. On the other hand, ‘Freedom‘ and its vibrant guitar sounds give a more cheerful vibe than ‘Chantey’. The song speaks of the independence that the duo experienced upon entering the real world such as freedom to vote, dance, sing, donate, love themselves, and more. Essentially, the world is at their fingertips – and ‘Chantey‘ conveys a message of hope and consolation for those living in the real world and going through everyday struggles.

Endless Dream, Good Night‘ is my favorite B-side in the album. Listening to the song can make you feel like you’re listening to a lullaby and drifting off to sleep. The chorus is perfection. The sweet melody and vocals can strike a person. The sounds of an acoustic guitar throughout the song enhance its quality. If one found pre-chorus parts dull and boring, I’d recommend to listen to the whole song before evaluating it. ‘Endless Dream, Good Night” is a pleasant surprise as you may not expect the chorus to be this impressive while listening to the lackluster parts in the beginning. However, after listening to the whole track, I can confidently say that it truly delivers.

The B-sides that I find are decent are ‘Fish In The Water’ and ‘Whale.‘ The former is different from the other songs on the album in that its genre is country music. I like how their voices blend in well together in this song. The lyrics are quite sorrowful, as the “fish” seems to symbolise a child who was left behind when the mother had to leave him/her. Similar to ‘Fish In The Water’, ‘Whale‘ also has an “ocean” theme. In this song, they express envy towards the animal for its ability to move in the vast ocean with ease. ‘Whale‘ is easy to listen to and one can feel renewed after listening to it – you will also remember the song for the distinctive whistle sounds you can hear in the chorus.

The B-sides that I would skip in the future are ‘Moon‘, ‘Should’ve Loved You More’, ‘Farewell‘ and ‘Let’s Take Time.’ These are laid back, “coffee house songs” that were forgettable even after several listens. I find ballads to be the best when they have something unique such as hard-hitting vocals that express emotions. For the aforementioned B-sides, the duo is mostly singing in a calm manner without much variance in tone, which contributes to the songs’ blandness.

Overall, ‘Sailing‘ is a very solid album, and the duo expresses a lot of emotions and artistic creativity – which makes the 3-year wait definitely worth it. The lyrics are poetic and illustrate a deeper meaning of life from the perspective of the artists as they enter adulthood. Chanhyuk and Suhyun also explored a variety of genres through ‘Sailing‘. If you like ballad, classical, country, or soft rock songs, I would recommend this album – however, it is not for those who are looking for upbeat dance songs.

The title track, ‘How Can I Love The Heartbreak, You’re The One I Love‘ is arguably the best song on the album. The B-sides are also generally outstanding and complement this album well. If you are the type of person who finds ballads boring, I still recommend listening to this album as the majority of the songs have some uniqueness to them. AKMU delivers with their powerful and varied vocal tones, instrumentals, and harmonious melody. It is, however, inevitable that some B-sides sound monotone and lack strong flavor.

Artistic Creativity: 8.5/10 
Vocal Quality:7/10
Music: 9/10 for the title track and 7/10 for B-sides