What a difference a summer can make. Just over five months ago, IU was returning from a hiatus with a lot to prove in Palette, her fourth full LP. While almost indisputably considered heir apparent to the K-pop singer-songwriter crown for years now, she was fending off assorted nonsense and doubters, all of which you can find fully explained in our review of that release. Palette, however, has turned out to be a gamble that more than paid off. By refusing the all apologies route, and simply expressing her contentment to live the life set before her, the singer seems to be more popular than ever in her native country.

So, then, she returns for a second time in 2017, with something of a victory lap in the expressive, exploratory EP 꽃갈피 둘, or, A Flower Bookmark 2. For those unfamiliar, these are not her songs; a sequel to her 2014 EP of the same name, which finds the singer delving into the songs of her youth, these playful entries into her catalog seem to be in the making as a series.

By no means does this mean the young singer is on autopilot. If anything, she clearly relishes the freedom of the burden of expectations that come with a major release of her own material. She isn't content to just mimic her childhood favorites, these are classic Korean songs completely re-imagined and recreated to into something undeniably “IU.”

Beyond this, the ever curious listener that is IU again uses the excursion as an outlet to try on different styles and delve into more of her influences than a proper album might allow. Whereas the first installment in the Flower Bookmark series saw her first real venture away from her folk-pop roots into electronic waters, this continuation finds her even more adventurous. Opener ‘가을 아침’ (‘Autumn Morning’) begins acapella, gradually seeming to truly glide into the class of folk that would make Vashti Bunyan blush, complete with flutes. ‘어젯밤 이야기’ (‘Last Night Story’), on the other hand, even resembles something like a Real Estate groove written for a K-pop jam. What's more, it works.

Overall, while this may be, by design, a somewhat minor release in her discography at large, it's no small affair, sure to stay in your playlist as the fall arrives. Smartly curated for the season, it's a gentle farewell to perhaps the best summer of IU's career so far, and a warm thank you to fans (it's released, by no coincidence, near the 9th anniversary of her debut). A great joy in listening to the Korean star's music, is that one can always hear her learning, grasping at new ideas and testing new paths with no fear of failure. If she remains this restlessly creative, this tirelessly curious, and so damn ambitious, we surely have many more years of tuning in to come.