KARA – ‘Move Again’ review: K-pop stalwarts return with a warm, nostalgic hug

On their first new album in seven years, KARA dip back into familiar sounds to look back on their past

Seven years ago, when Gyuri, Seungyeon and Hara left KARA, they did so with the promise that the group wasn’t disbanding. But as their lives changed – and the K-pop world bid a tearful farewell to member Goo Hara in 2019 – a sense of finality settled over all of us. Despite the members insisting they intended to reunite someday, the group’s run from 2007 to 2016, glorious as it was, felt like it was becoming a time capsule.

Indeed, ‘Move Again,’ KARA’s 15th anniversary special album, doesn’t feel like the start of a new chapter. Tinged with joy, nostalgia and sadness, this four-track EP feels more like a group of friends finally reuniting for the road-trip they always promised each other. They might not have crossed paths in years, nor do they know where they will go, but in this moment, they choose to celebrate their special bonds.

This loving reverence manifests on ‘Move Again’ as songs that evoke the youthfulness and joy of KARA’s wider discography. While not extraordinarily boundary-pushing nor genre-bending – the music stays in the characteristic KARA pop zone – the lyricism does deserve credit for its emphasis on the group’s emotional maturity. “A moment that felt like an instant, I won’t let go of the small memories, we’ll never say goodbye, see you next time, always in my heart,” the group sing on album opener ‘Happy Hour’. The mid-tempo pop-track is the perfect reintroduction to the group: nostalgia hits as they harmonise effortlessly over an easy-going tune.

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This cheerful reunion feels more important in light of the acknowledgement of their struggles and losses on the slow, sparse ‘Oxygen’. Supported only by poignant guitar, the group allay their insecurities about walking down unknown paths by focusing on the memories that drive them forward. “In a time that was like a dream, shining countless times, full of stories that don’t know the end, I can feel it even if you don’t tell me” – the group’s subdued singing paints a profound picture of their time together.

KARA balance this intimate look into their past with a jovial celebration of the present. ‘Shout It Out’ dials up the exhilaration with bouncy dance-pop – an easy listen that isn’t particularly memorable. The pièce de résistance of ‘Move Again’, however, is the title track ‘When I Move’. Groovy guitar and synth-bass accentuates a nu-disco and dance-pop-inspired arrangement. The group complements it with seamless, buttery vocals: low-key, restrained notes explode into a medley of harmonies on the chorus.

The most refreshing aspect, of ‘When I Move’, however, is how it confidently embodies their maturity. KARA’s material was laced with wide-eyed naivete as recently as their last title track (‘Cupid’ from the 2015 EP ‘In Love’). ‘When I Move,’ on the other hand, is infused with the kind of self-assurance that only comes with age; KARA are doing things on their terms without worrying about the consequences.

The title already clued us in, but ‘Move Again’ is an album about second chances. It’s an album for KARA and KARA alone – a metaphorical safe space for its members. Through familiar sounds, they reflect on their journey and personal growth, as if taking out an old shoebox full of memories after a long time and finding that your perspective has changed for the better. Poetically, it feels like another promise: no matter where they go, they will always have KARA to return to.

Details

KARA - 'Move Again'

  • Release date: November 29
  • Record label: RBW Entertainment

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