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Migrants by Joe Kye – Review

Korean solo artist Joe Kye throws all concept of traditional genre out the window. His self-produced 2018 album Migrants is virtually impossible to classify, with its weeping violins, bouncy rhythms, sometimes ambient sounds, and the occasional featured rap verse. There is a small space somewhere between indie, classical, jazz, and world folk that only Joe Kye occupies. This aptly named record, released on January 8, 2018, clearly draws on Kye’s past experiences as a migrant, having moved from his birthplace of Korea to Seattle, Washington, then moving east to study at Yale University, and finally settling at his current location of Portland, Oregon. His background as a violinist has led him to prominently feature violin looping on each track, which results in the melding of musical styles Kye is so loved for.

The album opens with “Bambam’s Lullaby,” a jazz-influenced song with violin melodies providing the emotional arc that matches the repeated lyrics “where are you, where are you, why did you go?” Another notable track, “Fall In,” completely changes the mood, with synth and plucked strings providing the background for rapper Jason Chu, only to lead into a sweet-sounding chorus with romantic lyrics. One final favorite track of mine is “Happy Song,” in which Kye combines the folkier plucking of his violin with a hard beat, more of his signature sprawling violin melodies, verses performed by rapper Rasar, and an easy-flowing chorus filled with sweet nothings.

Though describing Joe Kye’s music is not the easiest of tasks, listening to it certainly is. Migrants can be found on Spotify now.