It’s All Smiles brings dreamy shoegaze R&B, sizzling hyperpop and alt-rock influences
No Rome, whose real name is Guendoline Rome Gomez, has come far since his beginnings in Manila’s bedroom beats wave back in the early 2010s. All eyes were on Gomez when he left for London to carry on his monumental journey with Dirty Hit Records. This London-based label carries powerhouses like Beabadoobee, Wolf Alice and Rina Sawayama. Since then, the world has witnessed his musical growth through his two EPs, RIP Indo Hisashi and Crying in the Prettiest Places and his multiple collaborations with bearface, The 1975 and Charli XCX.
And after a few hopeful years of waiting, he released his debut album last December 3rd, 2021.
In the track-by-track breakdown on Apple Music, No Rome shares that he never planned to create It’s All Smiles in Manila. But as our world froze in March of 2020, the musician, who was only home for a music festival appearance, found himself stranded. So, armed with only a handful of his gear (as the rest of his studio equipment were in London), he created his “most different” body of work despite restrictions.
It’s All Smiles offers ten tracks that clock in 27 minutes of dreamy shoegaze R&B, sizzling hyperpop and alt-rock influences. Co-producers BJ Burton (Bon Iver, The Japanese House and Kacey Musgraves) and George Daniel (The 1975) helped him present carefully crafted distortions, smooth synths and warm instrumentals. Lonely, hopeful and aggressive lyrics match the songs, making It’s All Smiles feel like belonging somewhere despite a turbulent state of mind or a difficult reality.
Tracks like I Want U and Space-Cowboy retain his easy sound and shoegaze R&B style, almost reminiscent of his earlier works. But as the tracks transition into gravelly repetitions, fuzzy effects and mixes, these songs become out-of-this-world—a telling sign that It’s All Smiles would defy expectations. And it’s heard in the heavily guitar-led tracks When She Comes Around, How Are You Feeling and Secret Beach, and the hazy lullabies of ITS *NOT* LOV33 (Winter In London) and Issues (After Dark).
But aside from experimenting with contrasting sounds, the album addresses different topics through his tracks. No Rome laments the sweet hums of love in the soft ballad of A Place Where Nobody Knows. “See, I know you don't like the way that it's always cold / We'll find a home (and I'll be with you),” he croons in the ballad. Meanwhile, the R&B instrumental of Remember November / Bitcruch*Yr*Life gets cut in the middle by a fast rave-like beat before tapering back down. It’s a jarring reflection of the overwork we try to hide and grit our teeth through. The album closes with Everything, a perfect culmination of all his explorations throughout the record—dazed with its synths and R&B beats that lead up to crackling distortions and static sounds.
It’s All Smiles takes note of all his influences and growth, both musical and emotional, through the years. Call it a collision of genres ready to send you floating in space before pulling you down back to reality. “It was basically just kind of smiling through everything,” he shares in an interview with FreebieMNL. With the “the only way out is through” kind of mentality, No Rome encourages us to champion the process of vulnerability as we move forward and smile again.
Art Macky Arquilla