f(x) Doesn't Miss a Beat on '4 Walls': Album Review

<p>Last summer, <a href="http://www.billboard.com/artist/1493296/fx/chart">f(x)</a>&nbsp;hit a wall when original member <strong>Sulli</strong>&nbsp;took a&nbsp;hiatus from the act&nbsp;leaving many speculating&nbsp;discord inside&nbsp;the underrated-yet-extremely-consistent quintet. She&nbsp;officially left the group&nbsp;in August this year just as f(x) was announced to be preparing for their comeback as a foursome.</p><p>The girl group's labelmates <a href="http://www.billboard.com/artist/302887/girls-generation/chart">Girls' Generation</a> and <a href="http://www.billboard.com/artist/5882389/exo/chart">EXO</a> all lost members this past year too&nbsp;but with nine and 10 members, respectively, their losses, while still certainly important,&nbsp;could arguably&nbsp;be&nbsp;patched up more easily&nbsp;than a team&nbsp;with half those&nbsp;numbers.</p><p>But&nbsp;shrewd&nbsp;damage control is the crowning achievement of&nbsp;f(x)'s new album,&nbsp;<em>4 Walls</em>. Throughout the 10-track set, the&nbsp;ladies&nbsp;step&nbsp;up more than ever: for example,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.billboard.com/artist/6473858/amber">Amber</a>'s raps are way tighter, <strong>Luna</strong>'s vocals feel extra powerful and&nbsp;<strong>Krystal</strong>'s unique timbre blends with the others for their undeviating signature color.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/k-town/6524288/amber-english-video-interview-shake-that-brass-beautiful"><strong>Amber on 'Shake That Brass' &amp; How You Can Feel 'Beautiful': Video interview</strong></a></p><p>Plus, the emphasis on house and trendy dance music lets the production do an equal amount of talking. For example, take the slinky&nbsp;lead single that feels like a perfect fit to&nbsp;the girls' alluring aura -- much more so than the&nbsp;sonically similar <a href="http://www.billboard.com/articles/review/6568905/shinee-odd-album-review-track-by-track">"View,"</a> the latest single by f(x) labelmates <a href="http://www.billboard.com/artist/279125/shinee/chart">SHINee</a>&nbsp;who is better&nbsp;known for big pop productions. The deep house sound is perfect for f(x) and creates a superior sister to "View," complete with moments of belting, rapping and even an awesome&nbsp;synthy&nbsp;breakdown at the bridge.<br><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4j7Umwfx60Q" width="510"></iframe><br>The quartet also rock&nbsp;the house&nbsp;genre&nbsp;on&nbsp;<em>4 Walls</em>&nbsp;standout&nbsp;"Rude Love" with its repetitive-yet-addictively-lush chorus, but it isn't the only dance sound they get creative with.</p><p>"Deja&nbsp;Vu"&nbsp;mixes industrial beats with&nbsp;glitch-pop sounds while throwing&nbsp;in&nbsp;cowboy yelps to juxtapose the girls' icy coos on the hook. Meanwhile, "X" has a '90s&nbsp;feel to it with the touches of disco and R&amp;B, as the gorgeous&nbsp;"When I'm Alone" -- which is written by <a href="http://www.billboard.com/artist/298709/carly-rae-jepsen/chart">Carly Rae Jepsen</a> and <a href="http://www.asianjunkie.com/2015/10/22/fx-may-have-a-carly-rae-jepsen-song-about-masturbation-on-album/">is&nbsp;likely about masturbation</a> -- is a synth-pop gem and beautiful closer to the LP.<br><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/qr9OW_pzNL0" width="510"></iframe><br>There are moments where the group&nbsp;ungracefully falters, arguably&nbsp;worse than the worst tracks&nbsp;on their&nbsp;two recent LPs <i>Pink Tape</i>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>Red Light&nbsp;</em>-- both two of the year's best K-pop albums from 2013 and 2014, respectively.&nbsp;"Papi" struggles to find an identity with an odd&nbsp;mix of vaguely Latin samples over bouncy synthesizers&nbsp;and sexy comehithers,&nbsp;while the psychotic EDM banger&nbsp;"Cash Me Out" pales&nbsp;in comparison to the elegance of the other electronic explorations here.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/k-town/6479984/amber-beautiful-solo-debut-world-heatseekers-album"><strong>Amber's 'Beautiful' Solo Debut Swoops Into Billboard&nbsp;Charts&nbsp;</strong></a></p><p>But&nbsp;<em>4 Walls</em>&nbsp;proves that f(x) is still wholly capable of creating yet <em>another</em> great full-length album&nbsp;-- a rarity in K-pop to do once&nbsp;-- by finding the right sonicscapes and having each member step up her artistic game -- which is really the only way any artist can continue to remain great.</p><p>You can stream&nbsp;<em>4 Walls&nbsp;</em><a href="https://play.spotify.com/album/3eq8OpzVB5qDET5TBoqTPN" target="_blank">on Spotify now</a>.</p>