Music Reviews

New Releases Roundup – Japanese Breakfast, No Rome, Maroon 5, girl in red and Oliver Francis

Gemma Cockrell and Kiah Tooke

After a busy week in music, Gemma and Kiah review the latest releases from Japanese Breakfast, No Rome, Maroon 5 and more.

Be Sweet – Japanese Breakfast (Kiah):

Japanese Breakfast has announced her upcoming third album, ‘Jubilee’, alongside the release of the album’s debut single, Be Sweet. Michelle Zauner, the artist behind the solo musical project, has described the new album as being about joy, which contrasts to the themes of her previous releases.

Her debut album, ‘Psychopomp’, was largely influenced by her mother’s death – her second album, ‘Soft Sounds From Another Planet’, followed similarly, echoing the feelings of grief and fear Zauner has been through. ‘Jubilee’ is set to be released via the Dead Oceans record label in June 2021, a ten-track album featuring two songs which Zauner has previously debuted live.

Be Sweet is a breakaway from more negative feelings, encompassing an energetic and vibrant sound created by using elements of synth-pop that produce a feel-good atmosphere. Be Sweet is Zauner’s first official release since her 2019 cover of Tear for Fears’ classic, Head Over Heels, showcasing the time for development and revival that Zauner has taken before the release of Be Sweet.

When speaking about her new album, Zauner shared how “For me, a third record should feel bombastic and so I wanted to pull out all the stops for this one,” which she has demonstrated in her simplified lyrics and care-free feeling.

Alongside her new album, Zauner is set to release a book, ‘Crying in H Mart’, which is a memoir for her mother that celebrates her mixed-race identity and Korean culture.

Spinning – No Rome ft. Charli XCX & The 1975 (Kiah):

For his first release of 2021, No Rome is joined by Charli XCX and The 1975 on his new song Spinning. Having previously collaborated with The 1975 (who are also signed to Dirty Hit) on his 2018 track Narcissist, Charli XCX is now added to the mix and contributes parts of her distinct hyper-pop sound.

The song’s formation dates back to at least August 2019, when Charli released a snippet of the song whilst recording in the studio. Fans speculated that it was material for her next album and were surprised when the song ended up being a collaboration almost two years later. In a few of his now deleted tweets, Matty Healy teased the idea of a collaboration between The 1975 and Charli in 2019, building upon the suspense of a potential collaboration.

The unique blend of different types of pop and vocals gives Spinning a diverse sound

The song’s high energy and catchy chorus makes it a quintessential pop anthem that is also infused with elements of experimental hyper-pop, courtesy of Charli. After the song’s release Charli tweeted about her friendship with the No Rome and The 1975, saying “i feel like we all speak the same musical language in some way, and that language is stunning/exquisite/tasteful and chic.” The unique blend of their different types of pop and vocals gives Spinning a diverse sound that would be perfect if performed live.

Despite the excitement behind a collaboration between No Rome, The 1975 and Charli XCX, many fans felt disappointed that both No Rome and Healy have very brief vocals throughout the song. However, they both helped to produce the song alongside George Daniel, suggesting that they contributed more towards creating the song’s backing rather than the vocal content.

Beautiful Mistakes – Maroon 5 ft. Megan Thee Stallion (Gemma):

Beautiful Mistakes may initially seem to be an unlikely collaboration. But when you look back to Maroon 5’s 2017 track Girls Like You with American rapper Cardi B, which made chart history, breaking multiple records, including seven weeks at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, it is hardly surprising that the band chose to collaborate once again with a female rapper.

The track is a subtle pop-rock song, which perhaps leans more towards pop than rock, with atmospheric synths and a soft guitar-driven beat. Frontman of the band Adam Levine reflects and reminisces on memories of lost love, in a chorus which results in lyrics which are somewhat cringey and cliché, but undeniably catchy.

However, Megan is the artist who really shines on the song. Contrasting to Levine, she provides an alternative perspective, as she seems determined to move on from an ex-lover. As well as contributing a rap verse, she also sings on the bridge of the track, a style which we have not before heard from her. It is a welcome experimentation, and a tribute to her versatility as an artist, proving that despite her immensely successful career, she still has more to offer. When Levine said that Megan took the song “to a whole new level”, he wasn’t wrong.

Serotonin – girl in red (Gemma):

Prior to this single, I had always associated Marie Ulven, aka girl in red, with soft bedroom-pop ballads. Turns out, she has much more to offer. Alongside the announcement of her debut album ‘If I Could Make It Go Quiet’ which is to be released on April 30th, Ulven dropped the single Serotonin.

Lyrically, the track paints a detailed and dark picture of the inside of Ulven’s mind. It is perhaps the most honest and raw song that she has ever released. “I’m shedding light on the darkest parts of my mind and I’m letting everyone in,” she says of ‘If I Could Make It Go Quiet’, suggesting that the lead single is representative of what the album has to offer.

A novel, darker pop sound to Ulven’s work

FINNEAS, brother and producer of Billie Eilish, co-produced the track, bringing a novel, darker pop sound to Ulven’s work, similar to the sound of some of Eilish’s work. He called the track “one of the coolest songs he’s ever heard”, stating that he was “thrilled to be a part of it.”

Serotonin is the boldest we have ever heard girl in red, and it is one of the first times I have been truly captivated by her music. People who fell in love with her lo-fi, bedroom-pop aesthetic may not be fully on board with this new sound, but Serotonin is more ambitious than anything she has ever released before. It sees her truly outgrow the label of bedroom-pop, transforming into something much more.

Toxic Paradise – Oliver Francis (Gemma):

Oliver Francis has announced a partnership with music label Hopeless Records, who will launch his new imprint, Wild Halo, under their umbrella. As someone who has been a long-term fan of Francis since his first releases in 2017, I am excited to see him take this step forward in his career.

Francis describes his first single on the label, Toxic Paradise, as a “blend of 80’s synth mixed with trap and pop music.” Much like the girl in red track I previously spoke about, the song feels like a huge step forward for Francis. It feels like he is finally realising his full potential, truly bringing his artistic vision to life through the bold new series of cinematic videos that he is directing, set in a retro-futuristic, post-apocalyptic world.

The song is more ambitious than his previous releases – the instrumental is more developed and layered, and the lyrics are more complex, co-written by Aaron Gillespie of Underoath. Prior to this, Francis was releasing his music independently, but with the backing of a record label, he has evidently been able to truly realise his full potential as both a musician and a visual artist.

Gemma Cockrell and Kiah Tooke

Featured image courtesy of Nina via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes made to this image.

In-article images courtesy of @jbrekkie and @maroon5 and @oliverxfrancis via No changes made to these images.

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