GFriend have faithfully stuck to a singular musical personality since their debut in 2015. The girl group’s second full-length, Time for Us, is another GFriend release that dresses up their established style just enough to present some change. The album’s lead single, “Sunrise,” follows the strategy set by last year’s “Time for the Moon Night” but outdoes the latter’s orchestra-led drama by pushing even stronger vocals out of the members. The rest of Time for Us, however, explores a wider range of directions, offering more than vocal flexing from GFriend’s members in order to best highlight the group’s growth since their last full-length.
GFriend’s debut single “Glass Bead” introduced the group’s eternally youthful sound, built with a recurring series of throwback pop tropes: shiny keyboard synths, chunky New Jack Swing drums, and that sentimental synth whine nicked from G-funk. Their singles thereafter have applied different filters, like the sepia fade of “Love Whisper” or the ’80s garishness of “Fingertip,” to present their nostalgic package with a fresh look.
The GFriend sound endures on Time for Us. “Love Oh Love” revisits the same corner of pop nostalgia as the one referenced in “Me Gustas Tu” and “Rough,” but the brazen production sheds the images of pure innocence attached to the earlier singles. “L.U.V.” sticks to the script but indulges more playfully with Sowon ad-libbing raps to complement the more serious vocal performances. The changes to the formula in these tracks are admittedly minor; most likely too minor to satisfy anyone who’s not already convinced by the group’s style.
Plenty of other tracks take GFriend outside their comfort zone, though. Breezy house pianos and the ebullient bass line of “Show Up” are welcome new additions to the group’s toolkit. “Only 1” gets stuffed with more and more shiny electronics in a way familiar to this decade’s maximalist pop: the collage of sampled voices during the post-chorus is just the icing atop this 2010s pop cake. Compared to GFriend’s past experimentation—like “Sweety,” their dive into drum ’n’ bass from Sunny Summer—the production in Time for Us strikes a better sense of balance between the group’s core essence and musical idioms outside of it.
GFriend’s new ideas are refreshing to hear on their own, but tracing the echoes of their younger self within the new production highlights their growth even better. The squeaky synth hook that opens “Our Secret” bears a good resemblance to the G-funk whistle heard in a number of earlier singles. The track updates the interior of their music with house-pop pianos and a thick synth-bass, yet that hook squeaking throughout grounds the song with a definitive GFriend feel. Many others hit with an air of familiarity, like the retro feel of “GLOW” or the tender chords of “It’s You,” while it adapts current-day production tics and textures to present a more matured GFriend.
The mini-albums released since 2016’s LOL, GFriend’s debut full-length, each tucked in a few efforts that tried to expand their borders. Time for Us brings those ambitions to the forefront without completely losing sight of what makes the group sound like themselves. Though it’s still easy to identify recurring tropes, Time for Us demonstrates that GFriend’s well-defined music still has a lot of room to incorporate a variety of different outside styles. The youthful GFriend sound continues to evolve without aging in the slightest.