Music Reviews

New Releases Roundup – Olivia Rodrigo, Waterparks, Lisa Heller, Jaws, Oscar Lang, easy life and Blondes

Gemma Cockrell and Kiah Tooke

In the week of the BRIT Awards, the music industry was graced with releases from some of the biggest names in indie and pop, as Gemma and Kiah review the latest releases from Olivia Rodrigo, Waterparks, Lisa Heller, Jaws, Oscar Lang, easy life and Blondes.

good 4 u – Olivia Rodrigo (Kiah):

The third single from Olivia Rodrigo’s debut studio album, ‘SOUR’, good 4 u sees the American star reach new heights in this upbeat and angst filled release. Contrasting previous singles drivers license and deja vu, Rodrigo’s latest single is driven by resentment and electric guitars.

Following the song’s release, Rodrigo debuted the single live on Saturday Night Live, proving the singer’s versatility to perform both sad ballads and now, pop punk-inspired anthems. Comparable to songs by American rock band Paramore, good 4 u is a turn away from the more downcast feelings, featuring anger fuelled lyrics and an energetic chorus.

The music video for good 4 u sees Rodrigo play the role of a cheerleader who gets her revenge by dramatically setting fire to her ex’s house. Fans have noticed the similarity between Rodrigo’s cheerleader outfit and Mandy Moore’s in The Princess Diaries, giving the music video a nostalgic 2000’s feel.

Rodrigo’s breakthrough single drivers license was released just earlier this year, since then she has proven her capabilities through her following two singles, confirming that her debut was not just a lucky coincidence. With her debut album ‘SOUR’ still to come this year, Rodrigo has built up a strong fanbase that’s eagerly anticipating her first studio album.

four stars

Just Kidding – Waterparks (Kiah):

Just Kidding is the fifth single to be taken from Waterparks’ upcoming album, ‘Greatest Hits’, due to be released later this month. The single includes personal lyrics from Awsten Knight that reflect upon mental health struggles and negative thoughts, discussing the darker thoughts he has but having to disguise it as a joke.

In an interview, Knight shared that the new single “plays so well into the dream thing because Just Kidding is probably the most blatantly dark part of the album”. Although some of ‘Greatest Hits’’ previous singles included darker themes, Just Kidding feels the most vulnerable through Knight’s confessional lyrics. Before the release of the song, Waterparks shared on an Instagram story that Just Kidding was written and recording in January 2020, whilst Knight was taking a break from social media.

Whilst the backing of the track has a vibrant drumbeat, this is contrasted with a softer bassline

Just Kidding features electronic pop influences, the vocals having a distinct produced sound. Whilst the backing of the track has a vibrant drumbeat, this is contrasted with a softer bassline which is brought to attention through the song’s music video, showing Knight performing the song in a distorted state.

Expected to be the last single of ‘Greatest Hits’ before its full release, Just Kidding reveals a more intimate side of the album. The full album is to span a whole 17 tracks, the longest studio album from Waterparks to date.

3 and a half stars

18 – Lisa Heller (Gemma):

LA-based American singer-songwriter Lisa Heller’s latest single 18 is an ode to teenage nostalgia, radiating retrospective youthful freedom and rebellion from a now matured perspective. The single is taken from her upcoming EP ‘Is Anyone Listening?’ which is set for release on 15th July.

The song is a soft and gentle ballad, with dreamy and wistful vocals. The heartfelt lyrics tackle feelings of realisation that you have grown up, and the fact that your mindset has changed from when you were a teenager. The chorus utilises exquisite story-telling, using fairground imagery to depict the mellowing of life as you mature: “Never thought we’d have to slow down on the merry-go-round”.

3 and a half stars

Untitled – Jaws (Gemma):

Indie-rockers JAWS have released a previously unheard track from the album sessions for their 2019 album ‘The Ceiling called Untitled’. The song begins with a hazy blend of guitars and synths, sound-tracking the dreamy and slightly muffled vocals. The lyrics are slightly difficult to interpret on the first listen of the song, but a stand-out line in the first verse is “Fall out of love and fall back in”.

The listener can now hear the subtle and faint sound of a wailing siren echoing in the background.

There is an interlude halfway through the song where the guitars are silenced, minus the strumming of one acoustic guitar. The listener can now hear the subtle and faint sound of a wailing siren echoing in the background. Despite failing to make the cut for JAWS’ 2019 album ‘The Ceiling’, the track is still a worthwhile listen from a band who have mastered their dream-pop, shoegaze-leaning brand of indie-rock. 

3 and a half stars

Are You Happy? – Oscar Lang (Gemma):

Oscar Lang has released a teaser track from his upcoming debut album ‘Chew The Scenery’, which will be released on 16th July via Dirty Hit. Titled with the ostensibly simple yet simultaneously complex question of Are You Happy?, the track is a dreamy and uplifting indie-pop tune, tackling the relevant and crucially important topic of checking up on other people’s mental health. It is an ode to friendship, with Lang promising endearingly that he will support his friend again and again through whatever troubles they face.

“I wrote this tune about a mate that was having a really hard time,” Lang explains, “and I wanted to let them know that I was there for them. I think it’s important to reach out to friends and family when they’re not doing great. It can be hard though, trying not to be too overbearing but I feel like this song is a great way of telling someone that you care about them.” The track cements Lang as an artist who is deserving of his title as the latest hotly-tipped indie prodigy, and one of the most promising rising acts in the indie genre right now.

four stars

have a great day – easy life (Gemma):

easy life have released another taste of their upcoming album ‘life’s a beach’, which will be released on 28th May. have a great day is a laidback and mellow tune, with a relaxed summer vibe, fitting the theme of both the album title and the rest of the teaser tracks which have previously been released in anticipation of the album. The track specifically channels seaside holidaying in the UK, with comedic lyrics such as “Don’t let the seagull steal your chips”, imagery which is used to represent the more general overarching message of not letting anything diminish your positive outlook on life.

The song fantasises over a romantic weekend getaway

The song, as frontman Murray Matravers explains, “stems from my need / desire to always see the positives in every possible situation. There is always a silver lining. The song fantasises over a romantic weekend getaway and concludes joyfully that I had a great time.” Have A Great Day is another slice of positivity from the Leicester five-piece, setting the scene for an album which is destined to be the sound-track of the summer.

four stars

Minimum Wage – Blondes (Gemma):

Nottingham-based Blondes’ latest single Minimum Wage follows the immense viral success of their 2020 track Coming of Age across the TikTok platform. Minimum Wage explores the feelings of loss of direction that can surface as you grow older, alongside a catchy indie-pop melody destined to be listened to during the summertime.

“There’s a moment, and it creeps up on you,” explains guitarist Alex Davison, “where you suddenly find yourself older, stuck in a job that you don’t really like. And you realise that this isn’t what you hoped for, and yet you can’t hold on to that because life rarely turns out as you expect. Things change, people change, and in ways that you can’t control. But you can control how you respond, and how you respond is key and will define your life.”

four stars

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 lisahellermusic oliviarodrigo blondesband and oscar.lang via No changes made to this images.

To listen to all of these tracks, check out the New Releases Roundup playlist on Spotify.

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