Less than a year after they debuted, our fave pack &TEAM have released their first full album, First Howling : NOW. The record sums up &TEAM as artists and serves as a great round-up of their careers so far!
Featuring some already beloved &TEAM tracks, as well as plenty of brand new songs for us to sink our teeth into, First Howling : NOW is the ultimate example of how to present your first full length album. They’re building on their success (both First Howling : WE and First Howling : ME reached number one on the Oricon Charts!) as well as showing their growth and new dynamic sides of them as artists!
First Howling : NOW’s title track and opener is the absolute anthem that is ‘War Cry.’ We love it when a song does exactly what it sets out to do, which is what happens here. The track is so dynamic and kicks off explosively with intense electric guitar and the kind of energy that makes us want to break out into a sprint.
The track itself isn’t the only thing keeping us on our toes either – the members deliver here. They chop and change between gritted-teeth rap and belting vocals. We have to shout out EJ’s rap, as he completely smashed it! An absolute king! “Ra ta ta” isn’t gonna leave our minds any time soon.
&TEAM, as they always have, come out of the gate running with the start of this album, declaring exactly who they are and what they came to do.
‘War Cry’ isn’t the only track that &TEAM will be promoting this era – they have a coupling song too! We don’t know what we expected when we found out the song would be called ‘Dropkick,’ but we certainly weren’t anticipating the super cute pop bop we ended up with. Lyrics like “Won’t leave you standing by yourself” definitely weren’t what we were expecting, but then &TEAM do love to keep us surprised!
‘チンチャおかしい‘ (Really Crazy)
We’ll be listening to this b-side “every day, every night.” If you love ‘FIREWORK’ as much as we do, we have a feeling you’ll love this one; it’s a super fun, retro, disco-inspired bop! Isn’t it crazy to think just two songs ago, we were in a rock-soundtracked battle, and now we’re here? And somehow the album is a smooth listen!
‘規格外‘ or ‘ALIEN’
Now &TEAM are giving us a little R&B soft moment in First Howling : NOW! This acoustic pop ballad is definitely one of the more lighthearted moments in the album sonically. However, in terms of the lyricism, it’s just as compelling as any other &TEAM track. Discussions of feeling so liberated in your love for someone that you could “fly through the infinite universe” have our hearts soaring, too.
The Full Album
In addition to the gorgeous new tracks we’ve fallen for, &TEAM brought back some of our faves from their previous two mini albums for First Howling : Now!
The middle section of the tracklist is filled out by ‘FIREWORK,’ ‘Road Not Taken,’ ‘月が綺麗ですね’ (The moon is beautiful), ‘Blind Love,’ ‘Under the skin,’ ‘Scent of you,’ and ‘BUZZ LOVE.’ To be perfectly honest, this chunk of songs would be more than enough to prove &TEAM’s star power (or should we say moon power?), so the fact we now have even more songs to fawn over is a dream come true.
In addition to these, we also have the previously release Korean versions of ‘FIREWORK’ and ‘Scent of you,’ and brand new Korean versions of ‘War Cry’ and fan favorite ‘Road Not Taken.’ Not only do these versions give us the perfect opportunity to stream the songs again, but it also might give us a hint as to how extensive &TEAM’s promo will be across both Japan and Korea… We’re keeping our eyes peeled.
We all know and love the &TEAM version of ‘The Final Countdown.’ But as if that wasn’t enough, the group has revisited two more tracks from their time on &AUDITION, ‘Melody’ and ‘Running with the pack,’ and given us ot9 &TEAM versions!
First Howling : NOW Physical Albums
The physical versions of First Howling : NOW will be released in the U.S. on January 5th, 2024, and we can hardly wait. With two different versions – WILD and STARTLINE – the photocard-collecting LUNÉ among us better get ready.
One of the things that really stood out to us about this album is how it showcases &TEAM’s growth in such a small time period. Despite having only debuted last December, the group has already transformed in so many ways. Even just looking at their title tracks, the switch from ‘Scent of you’ to ‘FIREWORK’ to ‘War Cry’ is so impressive.
Beyond that, we’ve also loved seeing the growth and expansion of &TEAM’s team. Of course, they’re still working closely with BIGHIT/HYBE icons like Pdogg, as well as industry titan Hitman Bang, but they’re switching it up a bit too. Introducing producers like Ryan Tedder and David Stewart, who between them have worked on tracks like TXT’s ‘Back For More‘ (Tedder) and BTS’ ‘Dynamite‘ (Stewart) has expanded the musical world in which &TEAM can explore.
Sometimes it can be hard to remember that &TEAM, despite their talents which rival any industry standard, are so fresh on the scene. We know the clue is in the name, but they really feel like a true unit. For the nine members to release an album this polished yet explorative so early on in their journey is so impressive, and we can’t wait to see what their sophomore year as a group brings us!