Album review: Eric Nam’s ‘There And Back Again’ presents beginning of his new musical era

The Lantern
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K-pop artist Eric Nam released his second English album, “There And Back Again” just in time for his world tour this year. Credit: Gabe Haferman | Assistant Photo Editor

K-pop artist Eric Nam released his second English album, “There And Back Again,” just in time for his world tour this year.

Nam, an Atlanta native, released his second album, “There And Back Again,” on all streaming platforms Friday after teasing fans with song clips and a YouTube documentary days leading up to its release. Produced entirely during the pandemic, the new album comes just over a year and a half after the release of Nam’s last EP, “The Other Side,” in July 2020.

Though this album may be different from what fans are used to from the artist, “There And Back Again” delivers an air of comfort and coziness with soft instrumentals and uniquely layered vocals on each track, while showcasing a new side of Nam’s songwriting. Squeezing a year’s worth of emotional highs, lows and uncertainty into just seven tracks, “There And Back Again” presents a raw, reflective and bittersweet artistic sound that will leave listeners with nothing but anticipation for the independent singer-songwriter’s upcoming world tour — which includes a Feb. 13 show at the Newport Music Hall.

Starting off the album, “Lost On Me” is a gentle introduction to the musical culmination of Nam’s last year during the pandemic and his first step into a sonically more mature and organic sound. Lyrically, this track is reflective, describing the ability to find silver linings in a past relationship and hold on to the bittersweet memories rather than the pain. While “Lost On Me” features upbeat instrumentals, it relies heavily on Nam’s vocals to carry the chorus.

The first single on the album, “I Don’t Know You Anymore,” is more upbeat and similar to the sound of Nam’s previous music. Initially released Oct. 15, 2021, the catchy, guitar-heavy song showcases Nam’s pop-songwriting ability. Lyrically, though, this track is more gritty and contemplative, describing a relationship that has gone sour.

“Any Other Way,” the second single on the album, begins with a melodic acoustic guitar and echoing whistle hook. This track — one of the few songs on the album that is truly upbeat — describes the feeling of coming alive with new love again, featuring a cool guitar melody and dreamy vocal harmonies. Each verse captures the exhilarating rush that accompanies newfound happiness after a period of loneliness, supported by a solid beat and warm bassline.

Returning to the theme of heartbreak, “Wildfire” showcases Nam’s incredible vocal range and ability to carry a song with almost nothing but his own voice. Lamenting on a love that burned out too quickly, this track’s slower pace allows for a lyrical reflection as he comes to terms with feelings left behind after a painful loss. Although the chorus seems to contradict the verses, featuring heavier instrumentals and warmer vocal layers, “Wildfire” is a well-rounded, cathartic track.

“What If” is a lovely, dance-worthy pop ballad about post-breakup guilt. With an unbelievably catchy hook and chorus, this song changes direction following “Wildfire,” now focusing on areas Nam might have gone wrong in a relationship or in life, exploring the unanswered questions that plague the mind after a breakup.

“Admit” comes in with a softer, more reflective approach to unspoken feelings and hidden truths. Sticking to the theme on the rest of the album, starkly honest lyrics and warm vocals accompanied by a simple but comforting guitar give “Admit” room for a more mature sound from Nam. The track as a whole dives deeper into coming to terms with feelings of loss and emptiness, change and moving forward.

The final track on the album, “One Way Lover,” seems to gently circle back to some of the difficult feelings and unanswered questions briefly touched on in other songs on the project. With a light, airy chorus and bleeding-heart lyrics, “One Way Lover” feels like a resolution of sorts — a door closed, or perhaps opened, on a chapter of Nam’s life.

“There And Back Again” is a carefully written, sincere and catchy pop album that encapsulates the emotional roller coaster of the last year. While some fans might have been anticipating more upbeat, dance-worthy songs to sing along to on tour, Nam seems to have instead taken the last year for introspection, turning the page into a new era of music with seven beautifully crafted, if occasionally sad, pop ballads, and that’s OK, too.

Rating: 4.5/5

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