Note: This post has been updated to include the new tracks added in the repackage.

After Signal sat so well with us, we were really curious to see where TWICE would take their sound with the next major release.  When it was announced that said release would come less than five months after such a good EP had us fearing that they would backslide into familiar sound and leave everything we liked about their new sound behind.

Are we glad they stuck with the good things they learned last time around and applied some new things as well.

Not that we like everything in this set; we haven’t gotten to the point where we love everything on a TWICE full LP yet.  One thing we can say is that, listening to this, there is nothing that we listened to begrudgingly.  Even songs we didn’t care for had elements we liked, whether it be the general tone of the vocals or the arrangement of the production.  There was nothing that we outright disliked and picking the skippables was harder this time around.

Can we talk about the rapping?  We were really surprised with the verses that we got here.  While more of them are incredibly short, running less than 16 bars, we liked the flow of both resident rappers and, while they aren’t utilized fully, we were happy almost every time they came in.  We would love to see them used more in the future.

Probably the biggest knock we can make against this album are the vocals in terms of group dynamics.  With groups this size or larger, one of the things that seems to be common is that there are distinctive lines that are meant to do one thing and TWICE is a group with a core group of go to singers that do the heavy lifting in terms of vocals (and rapping) with the performance line doing their thing primarily during visuals moments.  It’s not necessarily a problem, but we would caution anyone coming here looking for rich harmonies to wait for Red Velvet’s comeback next month because it is never going to sound like all nine of them are singing at once.  The closest we come to a full harmony (four-plus members at once) is on the final track, Jaljayo Good Night, and it shows the potential they have yet to tap.

The production is mostly solid, although there a few hiccups in term of distinction.  While we could easily tell most of the songs apart when listening closely, that ease fell when we tuned out to do something else.  There is a similarity in undertone that is consistent across most of the tracks in this set and, to a certain degree, their entire discography.  It gives the group their unique sound, but it also makes certain aspects sound alike.  Luckily, later tracks of the album do leave that undertone behind and those tracks are really where the group shines the most, displaying the maturity and evolution that we were so happy with before.

If you are fans of TWICE, you are going to love this.  If you aren’t it might be best to skip around a little and find something that strikes your fancy.  As for us, this won’t replace Signal but it keeps us looking ahead to what else they are going to do.

Our favorite tracks are Turtle, Love Line, You In My Heart, and Look At Me.  The most skippable tracks are Wow and FFW.

Update: This doesn’t really feel like a repackage.  There are only two new songs here, a drop in the bucket against the original 13-track length, and they are shoved in rather awkwardly at the beginning.  They probably would have been better served by making them a holiday single than re-framing the album’s theme for one song.

That being said, the songs aren’t bad.  They are both a little cutesy for our taste, but the overall vibe to them are good and the ladies sound engaged and oddly powerful at times.  The Christmas track and title track, Merry & Happy, has all the trapping of the season…even though it reminded us a lot Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas with the production style and instrumentation being so close to that track (not a copy, but an homage).  We were more into Heart Shaker with its solid production and how well it fits in with the rest of the project.

Neither gets added to our favorites list, but TWICE fans will be happy with the additions.