The movement of the tracks paints a clear “from dusk to dawn” chronology. “HOUSE OF TRICKY : HOW TO PLAY” opens with “Skater,” a complexly layered pop song showcasing xikers’ diverse vocal capacities. It is the perfect introduction by producers EDEN and Hongjoong (of ATEEZ), their signature heavy bass lines, completed by methodical drops, serving as the backbone of the arrangement. Listening to “Skater” evokes feelings of the epic, cinematic invincibility perhaps solely felt in one’s late teens.
“HOMEBOY,” a lighter, danceable track follows. The smooth synth progression peppered with spacey effects creates a uniquely untethered background to the members’ impressive ranges.
The listener’s rendezvous with xikers takes a mischievous turn with “DO or DIE,” a punk rock anthem disguised as K-pop, reminiscent of My Chemical Romance’s “Danger Days.” The song is exhilarating, like riding in the passenger seat of your best friend’s new car as they floor the gas pedal. A certified headbanger, “DO or DIE” is easily the most memorable track on the entire ‘mini album’ and the only occasion where Lee Yechan’s piercing rapping seems suitable. (If the reader is inclined to listen to anything off of “HOUSE OF TRICKY : HOW TO PLAY,” please make it “DO or DIE;” It promises to destroy any potential preconceptions of K-pop as a genre.)
xikers’ success can be partially attributed to their connection to KQ Entertainment’s producer and ATEEZ’s front man, Kim Hongjoong. ATEEZ’s “The World Ep. 2 : Outlaw” was released a couple months prior to “HOUSE OF TRICKY : HOW TO PLAY.” “Koong” – an onomatopoeia designating a thunderous sound – is a track that undoubtedly sounds as if it was originally intended for “Outlaw.”
Regardless, within the course of the album, “Koong” is somewhat overshadowed as it follows heavy hitting “DO or DIE.” While albums remain meticulously and methodically organized artworks, in the age of streaming, individual tracks seem to transcend the cohesive vision of an album’s overarching themes; “Koong” has the most plays of all songs on some streaming services. Its popularity may be due to its aggressive, seething nature, featuring a mixture of rap stylings over trap beats.
Things wind down with “Run” and “Sunny Side,” notably lighter songs much more familiar to the clichéd K-pop boy band sound. An undercurrent of darkness is retained by the ever-present driving bass, but falsetto vocals provide a refreshing cool down after cruising through the heatwave of the preceding tracks. Ending on a funky, romantic vibe, hinting at the sizzle of 90’s R&B/pop, xikers point out that “the sun is coming up,” ending our whirlwind summer road trip.