Springing into new sounds: March music in review

By Nicole Herzog, Editor-In-Chief

The month of March was a busy one in the music industry. Spotify playlists and Apple Music accounts teemed with new albums from a multitude of genres and unique sounds. New artists enchanted listeners with the release of their debut albums, while other established performers engaged their fanbase with additional work. Whether you enjoy invigorating pop beats, poetic lyrical masterpieces or bumping hip hop music, there’s something in store for all to connect with.

‘Good at Falling’ – The Japanese House

Genre: Alternative

Dirty Hit Records

At first glance, The Japanese House may seem like the name of a typical boy-next-door indie band. However, 23-year-old solo artist Amber Bain is the mastermind behind her music’s unique sound. Similar to the stylings of fellow British alt-pop group The 1975, Bain’s debut album was carefully crafted in the light of her personal experiences. In addition, she received mentorship from The 1975’s frontmen Matty Healy and George Daniel, whom she became close with after performing as their opening act in 2016. Weaved with cutting anecdotes and dreamy lo-fi beats, “Good at Falling” is the auditory representation of the tumultuous transition from one’s teenage years into young adulthood.

Upon listening to the 13-track album, I noted that Bain has artfully mastered the archetype of a profound message veiled behind an upbeat tune. While some songs on the album discuss heavy topics, such as Bain’s ongoing struggle to cope with eating disorders on “Maybe You’re The Reason” or the painful mourning period that occurs after a friend has passed away on “You Seemed So Happy,” the melody which accompanies the songs often masks the serious tone of her words.

Bain first captured my attention and willingness to listen to the songs with her melodic rhythms, which then allowed me to discover the powerful lyrics. Another favorite of mine is “Follow My Girl,” a calm yet melodic song contrived with a catchy rhythm, which captures the essence of new love and initial feelings upon meeting a potential love interest.

The calm, relaxed tone of the majority of the songs feels almost ethereal. Overall, whether one prefers diving into the artist’s mindset with powerful Iyrics or absently listening to a chill tune, “Good At Falling” offers a unique and enjoyable listening experience for all.

‘Nothing Happens’ – Wallows

Genre: Alternative

Atlantic Records

Known for their 80s style aesthetic, LA native trio Wallows rapidly captured the hearts of millions of teenagers after the band’s singer/guitarist Dylan Minnette rose to stardom on Netflix’s hit show “13 Reasons Why.” Though they became more widely recognized as a product of Minette’s fame, the band was initially formed during their childhood after becoming inspired by a school music program.

Since then, the band has performed together for several years under a multitude of different names. In 2017, they formally adopted the name Wallows under Atlantic Records. Having released four singles that year as well as two additional singles and an EP entitled “Spring” in 2018, Wallows has finally released their much-anticipated debut album, “Nothing Happens.”

I’ll admit — I, too, fell in love with Dylan Minnette after watching his character on “13 Reasons Why.” When I finished the show, I immediately scoured his social media accounts, eager to learn more about him. I absolutely adored their music upon my first listen, and I even went to meet the band and watch them perform at Lollapalooza last summer. That being said, I had been counting down the days for this album to be released, and it did not disappoint. The pre-released singles off “Nothing Happens,” “Are You Bored Yet?” (feat. Clairo) – “Scrawny” and “Sidelines” – offered a glimpse into Wallows’ intimate world, one that is filled with teenage angst yet quirky personality. Each song features perfectly measured retro alt-pop melodies with punchy lyrics that make me want to sing out loud. While this album delves into more of a rock style in comparison to the band’s previous music, I feel that it was done tastefully. Many of the songs, such as “What You Like” and “I’m Full,” play on the vintage rock style through zestful guitar riffs and exciting drum rhythms. My favorite song is “Ice Cold Pool,” a nostalgic-feeling song that reminds me of summer. This album is almost more of an experience rather than a tracklist. It feels like the soundtrack to a teenage movie, or one that would be played while on a long, wistful drive. I truly enjoy an album that can make me feel like I’m part of the music, as opposed to just absently listening. This album does just that.

Death Race for Love’ – Juice Wrld

Interscope Records

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Hailing from Chicago, rapper Juice Wrld (born Jarad Higgins) rose to viral fame in 2018 with the release of his hit single, “Lucid Dreams.” Many attribute Juice Wrld’s widespread success to the music sharing platform SoundCloud, which originally enabled people to listen to his music for free online before he was signed to a record label. Juice Wrld is one of many budding artists that have been categorized into a new genre of hip hop subculture, dubbed “SoundCloud rap.”

SoundCloud rappers often demonstrate a multitude of similar characteristics: A brightly colored hairstyle, excessive references to drugs, alcohol and money as well as an outrageous amount of facial tattoos. Above all, though, they HATE being referred to as SoundCloud rappers.

Juice Wrld, however, defies such stereotypes. He doesn’t object to the title, but is adamant about defeating the connotation that SoundCloud rappers must do drugs, specifically Xanax. Instead, he often raps about heartache and raw emotions. His sophomore album, “Death Race for Love,” follows this trend through poetic verses and dramatized songs which delve into the principle that love is the ultimate driving force for his will to live.

While I was a fan of the catchy “Lucid Dreams” (as almost every teenager seemed to be during the summer of 2018), I hadn’t really heard much of Juice Wrld’s music prior to listening to this album. I’ll be honest — I had much higher expectations for the album. I liked some songs, such as the swaggering “Maze,” which describes the struggles Juice Wrld faces in coping with his erratic mental state, as well as “Fast,” a melodic flow about the rapid pace of life.

However, I noticed that he constantly raps about doing drugs— despite publicly speaking out against them in interviews. I enjoyed the rhythm on most of the songs, but they aren’t anything special or different from what every other generic rapper is currently producing. Most of the songs seemed repetitive and lackluster in general.

One song I have a major issue with is “Robbery.” Plagued with derogatory terms and unnecessary swearing in every sentence, the track exemplifies the artist’s extreme scorn and hurt towards a woman who broke his heart. I appreciate a man that can express his feelings, but this just goes too far. It comes off as whiny and distasteful, especially for any female audience members. Thus, I felt that this album was just OK — truly mediocre at best.

GIRL’ – Maren Morris

Sony Music Entertainment

Genre: Country

In 2007, singer-songwriter Maren Morris emerged onto the music scene at only 14 years old with the release of her debut album, “Walk On.” Fifteen years later, Morris exemplifies the classic narrative that achieving one’s goals is a feat that may be difficult, but is possible through hard work and dedication.

Now a five-time Grammy winner, Morris has earned a respectable spot in the music industry — from writing songs for Tim McGraw and Kelly Clarkson to opening for Sam Hunt on his 2017 tour. Though she is technically considered a country artist, Morris has become known for her distinct blend of country, pop and hip hop music styles. Her newest album, “GIRL,” is a prime indication of Morris’s sheer talent for mixing genres in a way that feels seamless yet electrifying.

I’d like to preface this review with the notion that I am not typically a fan of country music. Nevertheless, I have fallen in love with this album and I will hold it dear to my heart as I obnoxiously play my favorite songs on a continuous loop. Unlike most feminist albums, Morris’s album presents a beautiful message about empowering women and embracing one’s womanhood in her music rather than the overdone and sometimes cliché call-to-action fight songs that have become prevalent in recent years. What’s more, the album portrays this message in a way that isn’t sappy or overly sentimental, but happy-go-lucky and upbeat.

The album begins with the self-titled anthem, “GIRL,” a love letter to all women and herself, above all. In a sense, Morris’s raspy vocals resemble a millennial-style Dolly Parton, yet are offset with a calm-sounding pop beat to anchor her uplifting words. My favorite song on the album is either “The Feels,” an upbeat track that embodies the giddiness of having a crush, or “All My Favorite People,” an ode to friendship, fun memories and all the little quirks which make each person different. It promotes the ideal of ignoring criticism and stereotypes does so with a lively melody while also staying true to Morris’s Southern roots with the accompaniment of country music duo Brothers Osborne. Even if you don’t like country music, I highly recommend listening to this album if you want to feel excited, empowered or simply uplifted.