As a Korean-American artist who easily blends genres and influences, Yaeji has been creating some of the most exciting music in recent years. On April 7, XL Recodings released Yaeji's debut album, With a Hammer.

The 13-track opus is immediately identifiable as a refreshing ode to self-exploration composed over two years in various cities and continents, including New York, Seoul, and London. It is a diaristic journey through the artist's relationship with anger, a theme explored in English and Korean. The album represents a slight departure from Yaeji's previous work, like her deep house phenomenon Raingurl or 2020's height-of-pandemic What We Drew mixtape, blending trip-hop, drum & bass elements, footwork, and rock with her signature leftfield house style. 

At its core, With a Hammer reflects the transformation that can occur when we confront our emotions with bravery. Yaeji interjects introspective lyrics with infectious beats and sultry vocals to do so. Immediately, listeners notice the album's flawless production, with each track flowing into the next to create a cohesive listening experience across language, genre, and cultural experience.

The album opens with Submerge FM, a track immediately sets the tone with its mellow, introspective vibe. Its soundscape is both immersive and hypnotic. The pulsating beat and airy vocals create a sense of submersion, being lost in thought and fully immersed in the music. For Granted, the album's lead single is a standout track that slowly builds into an energetic dance number. Its lyrics cover the complexities of relationships and how we can sometimes take the people we love for granted ("Am I saying thank you, Am I enjoying it too, Am I, Taking it for granted"). On the track, Yaeji's delivery is understated yet poignant, with a touch of vulnerability. Fever showcases Yaeji's stunning vocals and features a hypnotic bassline that will leave you craving more. A standout track drawing an ever-delicate Fever Ray vibe is a prime example of Yaeji's prowess as a producer and vocalist, building to a crescendo with a driving beat that's impossible not to possess you.

Passed Me By is another standout track that prominently blends Korean and English lyrics (as is found across virtually all tracks). Its haunting melody and sparse breakbeat instrumentation allow Yaeji's dreamy and ethereal vocals to reminisce on the fleeting nature of time and how moments can slip away from us ("Do you know that that person is still/ Inside of you waiting for you to notice?"). In contrast, the title track is a hauntingly beautiful meditation on anger and self-discovery ("I was so pissed off, I thought I couldn't hold it together"). It is another masterclass in Yaeji's ability to merge disparate genres and create something new with propulsive beats, frenetic synths, and balanced vocals. I'll Remember For Me, I'll Remember For You is a brief, but cool jazzy interlude, providing some respite before the album's more dancefloor-orientated second half.  

This second half starts with its pop-leaning single Done (Let's Get It) before a range of artist collaborations feature. These collaborations include K Wata on Ready or Not, Enayet on Michin, Hyperdub's Loraine James on 1 Thing To Smash, and Nourished by Time on Happy. Of these, the merging of Japanese and English on Ready or Not, and the glitchy, experimental production of 1 Thing To Smash stand out. With a Hammer, then closes with Be Alone In This. It is a reminder that even with all the danceable beats and catchy hooks, With a Hammer is ultimately a personal and vulnerable project.

With a Hammer is a stunning debut album that showcases Yaeji's musical prowess and emotional depth. For electronic, Korean indie rock, and 90s and 00s pop fans, its features a bit of everything while continuing Yaeji's trajectory as one of the most genre-blending artists in modern memory. With this album, however, she allows the space between the beats to breathe, privileging the emotional concept of anger's many shades and the scars it leaves behind.