Review: 뜨거운 감자 [시소]

A soundtrack for an imaginary film that may exist somewhere sometime.

Instead of watching a film and remembering the music that coloured our favourite scenes, 김C Kim C and 고범준 Ko Bum Joon of Hot Potato created a soundtrack for us to imagine the scenes. What story do you hear?

A collection of five instrumentals and five songs, this 2010 album is a beautifully executed storytelling. 김C’s soft honest vocal narrates diary entries while piano keys and string instruments share the protagonist’s true emotions – those too fragile and delicate for words to do enough justice.

When I listen to [시소], I imagine the beautifully mundane indie films of Hong Sang Soo. Complicated love stories of two ordinary people who were once strangers but slowly falls in love. And all they really want from this life is to enjoy a happy normal love which the world can’t seem to let them have. I imagine the protagonists of Hot Potato’s songs to be the protagonists of Hong Sang Soo’s films (ref: “Nobody’s Daughter Haewon“). This album is a diary of a romanticist poet.

The instrumentals of “시소 Main Theme” sets the ground as I imagine dancing in the urban night sky through sorrow and pain; the mischief of cello strings ringing against the repetitive hollow sound; a loud bump on a drum coming heavy as a tuba adds a clownish humour of uncertainties.

Title of the album/film, [시소 Seesaw] is the imbalance in a human relationship where one side is often tilted, leaning against or away from the other.

진취적인 그녀 Forward-Looking Her

“너를 보았고 너를 만났고 너를 만지고 싶어했고  I saw you, I met you, I want to touch you
너의 냄새와 너의 발걸음 너를 느끼고 싶어했고  Your smell, Your footsteps, I want to feel you
네가 있거나 네가 없거나 난 아무런 상관이 없을 것 만 같은데
Whether you’re here or not, I don’t think any of this matters to me

비가 내리면 마냥 웃지요 뭐가 그리 행복한가요  When it rains, I cannot but smile. Why am I so happy
입안 한 가득 달콤한 향기 나도 하나 먹고 싶네요  A mouth full of sweet scent. I want to try one too
네가 있거나 네가 없거나 난 아무런 상관이 없을 것 만 같은데
Whether you’re here or not, I don’t think any of this matters to me”

This is a love story. A story of someone who loves another so much. “바람에 흔들 사랑에 흔들 하얀 코스모스 같아요. Swaying by the wind. Swaying by love. It’s like those white cosmos flowers.” I imagine a longing swaying in a field of cosmos, also known as “autumn sakura.”

I love the experimentation of Hot Potato’s approach to music. The sudden electronica glitch at 1:37 mark for a good 10 seconds switches your film scene into an amalgamation, a collage, a glitch effect.

고백 Confession

“이게 아닌데 내 마음은 이게 아닌데
That’s not it. My heart’s not that.
널 위해 준비한 오백가지 멋진 말이 남았는데
I still have five hundred wonderful words to say to you
사랑한다는 그 흔한 말이 아니야
They’re not like the common “I love you” that people throw around
그 보단 더욱더 로맨틱하고 달콤한 말을 준비했단 말이야
I prepared words more romantic and sweeter than that

나를 봐줘요 내 말을 들어봐 줘요
Please look at me. Please listen to me.
아무리 생각을 하고 또 해도 믿어지지 않을 만큼 사랑해
However more I think and think more, I love you so much that I can’t even believe it”

고백. Confession. All the anxieties and butterflies you feel when you finally gather up the courage to confess to someone you really like them. The metaphors of fluttering hearts and hesitations in the lyrics and the instruments are endearing and sweet like the warm spring sunshine.

I love the wordplay embedded throughout this album. An example from this song: “숨이 차고 밤 공기도 차고” where “차고” means “filling up” like “filled with air” or being “out of breath,” as well as “cold” like the chilliness of the night air.

Although they released their first album in 2000, this title song ten years later is their most renowned song – also the song that I discovered the band.

시소 Seesaw

“넌 원했고 난 변했고 그 끝을 알 수는 없었고
You wanted it. I had changed. We couldn’t figure out the end.
미안했고 또 미안해 내 생각의 끝은 항상
I was sorry. And I’m still sorry. The ending of your thought is always.
생각이 생각대로 따라준다면 내가 너무 이기적인 생각인건가
If my thought follows my thought. Is that a very selfish thought.
너를 떠올리는 것은 내겐 너무나 시리도록 추운 날을 생각나게 해
When I recall memories of you. I can only think of chilly winter days.
난 어디로 넌 어디로 서로 다른 각자의 길을 가고 있다는 걸 이제는 알 수 있어
Where am I going. Where are you going. I now know that we are going our separate ways.”

This song is a letter to the love you can never truly have.

This song hurts my heart.

W Theme

“누가 더 좋아하는지  Who likes the other more
누가 더 많이 사랑하느냐지  Who loves the other more
감정의 평행선 따윈 없다…  They are no parallels for emotions”

My favourite part in this album is the moment when 김C enters along the piano melody near the last thirty seconds of this instrumental.

We get a peek into the story plot with the female character (played by 배두나 Bae Doona)’s script, who is the lover as much as the male character is the lover. You can watch the album’s accompanying short film if you want to interrupt your imaginary film.

Clock Quartet

“난 서울에서 제일 못 된 여자  I’m the most terrible woman in Seoul
아저씬 서울에서 제일 못 된 남자  You’re the most terrible man in Seoul
근데도 같이 있으면 너무 좋고  But still when we’re together, I’m so happy
가슴이 막 답답하고  My chest becomes stuffy
눈물이 멈추질 않고 막 겁나요  My tears won’t stop and I’m afraid

As popular as the title song [고백] may be, the album itself remains enjoyed beyond mainstream audience. YouTube or publicly accessible clips don’t exist, but for Spotify users, you can listen to the entire album here. Seek a quiet place. Close your eyes. And dedicate your 30 minutes to this album. It’s quite beautiful.