Saturday, February 2, 2019

Review: Don't Feed the Pop Monster • Broods

In an era that has broken nearly every barrier of entry to the music industry, being dropped from a major label’s repertoire isn’t the worst thing that could happen to an artist. In fact, some wear it as a badge of honor or flaunt it as a sign of integrity. Artists of every caliber, from Mariah Carey to Azealia Banks, have been dropped by a label and managed to steer their career in the right direction. But surely, there has to be a hit to the confidence when the ax comes down – so it would be of no surprise for pop duo Broods to come back from a second label drop to release an album under a jaded title like Don’t Feed the Pop Monster.

Whereas their eponymous extended play and debut full-length saw them kneeboarding from behind Lorde’s speedboat, the duo’s last record, Conscious, unleashed their first clean-cut, digestible pop moment – and by the sounds of it, their last one, as well. After giving big, prefabricated pop a solid try, they seem to be fine with retreating into the shadows of the mainstream – or least with being the opening bill to more prominent pop artists, including Taylor Swift and Ellie Goulding. And it seems that Georgia and Caleb Nott are in a pretty comfortable position now, producing more uninhibited pop music while capitalizing on the fringes of the industry that chewed them up and spit them out – twice.

Don’t Feed the Pop Monster takes a turn against the machine, not against the genre. It introduces us to an invigorated reincarnate of the band, without a strong relationship to either of their previous records. While feelings of distress and angst carry over, they are now accented with a touch of escapism and some glitzy updos. Tracks like "Peach," a goofy pitch-shifted cut, and "Old Dog,"  a clear homage to turn-of-the-millennium hip-pop with some bratty "nah-nah-nah" refrains, are the album’s sarcastic spasms – tributes to the industry without caving to its mentality, if you will. Sun-drenched career highlight "Dust" and the jittery "Hospitalized," meanwhile, nearly defunct their previous material, making it seem a bit drowsier in retrospect.

Broods' attempts at wholehearted laments without oversaturated moodiness come in the form of hypnotic digitized vocal lines and light electronics. "Falling Apart," inspired by America's disastrous state of sociopolitical affairs, and "Why Do You Believe Me?" allow vocoded harmonies to unravel beneath Georgia's soft vocal runs. Even when urgency builds with drumbeats and digital sputters on "Everytime You Go," the melody remains smooth and steady. However, when Caleb makes his lead vocal debut and shoots somewhere between The Chainsmokers' Drew Taggart and sing-rapper Logic on "Too Proud," the duo jolts into a full-on radio anthem. While the song's sentiments have good intentions, it is not the most stunning light for the band.

Don't Feed the Pop Monster has something that Broods' previous records weren't allowed to contain: A free-spirited philosophy, without intentions to capitalize on a singular sonic vision. Whatever intensity the band extracts from their tangled framework of mixed emotions, the music matches in either ironic uptempo beats or bare, soothing production tactics without a finishing cohesive pop glaze. The record was written and recorded independently within the lag between record contracts, allowing the Nott siblings to figure out where Broods truly belongs in the pop music landscape. And despite how comfortably they fit in the slipcovers of their past musical lives at the time, it turns out that they thrive in uncontrolled eccentricity.

Don't Feed the Pop Monster is available now under Atlantic Records and Neon Gold Records.

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