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Mike Park – North Hangook Falling

Mike Park has always worn his Korean heritage on his sleeve. From the very early days of singing songs that included “Asian Man” and “Ice Cube, Korea Wants A Word With You,” to his founding of Asian Man Records and the band The Chinkees, Park has used his music to be both tongue-in-cheek and dead serious when it comes to diversity.

Now two albums into his solo career, he takes perhaps his longest and most in-depth look at his background.


At times, the constant references to Korea in Park’s latest disc, North Hangook Falling, detract from its overall flow, leaving the listener to wonder why he appears to be flogging a dead horse. But to fully appreciate this new work is to understand why Park came to this place, and why he felt he needed to bring an album such as this to the public.

Quite simply, he sees North Hangook Falling as an illustration of his hope for a unified Korea.

Fans already appreciate the direction, as they see this new offering as the perfect marriage between Park’s Korean pride and his ongoing work with his Plea For Peace foundation. But the sad truth is the history and magnitude of the ongoing rift in Korea is lost on most in the U.S. (Park admits that he himself is still quite ignorant to the situation). All of which leaves the mercy of Park’s new album in the hands of a primarily apathetic and uniformed American public.

That’s not to say that North Hangook Falling is a concept project with a take-it-or-leave-it stipulation. Quite the contrary, it’s a musically superior descendent of Park’s 2003 solo debut that evokes a broader set of emotions. Continuing his acoustic-based pursuit of R.E.M. poses, Park offers up reflective melodies and lyrics, not to mention harmonies in all the right places.

Where his first album, For The Love Of Music, was more of a lighthearted love affair with the stripped-down ‘guy and his guitar’ singer-songwriter model, North Hangook Falling takes this clean approach and fills it out with enough girth to give the songs some kick and breadth. This bigger sound yields a successful formula that takes the pressure of Park’s vocals, which can, at times, drag his songs down as a result of his occasional monotone stylings.

Despite a rather uneventful opening cut, North Hangook Falling kicks into high gear with “Keeping the Seat Warm” and stays steady straight through to the title track, nine songs later. Clearly more at ease with the solo process, Park is much closer to finding his comfort zone. And although he has tackled a heavier topic than some will stomach, there’s no harm in putting the subject on the table to, in the very least, incite some conversation.


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