Børns
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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Blue Madonna | BØRNS



To come from an artist whose hazy daydream of a debut album was titled Dopamine and covered by a voyeuristic photograph of a woman's bare legs, Blue Madonna seems to be a depressive title that represents a bit of a digression in attitude for BØRNS. His humid ecstasy fizzled as the mystery woman walked away and his nomadic rocker dreams unfolded, leaving him to pool out into a velvety state of loneliness and turmoil as he yearns from afar for just about everything from a new beautiful woman to immortality.

Per its title’s implications, Blue Madonna dismantles the constant euphoria of Dopamine to make way for a somber outlook on life. The end product's idiosyncrasies – muffled filters, cosmic production, BØRNS' nasal-toned falsetto – dress up a sad guy in a psychedelic-lite outfit. He often resides in that fragile falsetto as the tracks swirl beneath him, and though it serves him well on tracks like “Sweet Dreams" and "Supernatural," it can also paint him as a melodically grounded, equally troubled Tame Impala runoff on the very same tracks.

A sitar line adds character to “We Don’t Care,” though it is chucked before a sorely underdeveloped chorus, and more than anything, his voice sounds painfully stretched while he wails into his uppermost register on lead single “Faded Heart.” But his more refined hooks warm to boil and wrap themselves around the listener, like when he and his label-mate and mirror-image Lana Del Rey plead together over “God Save Our Young Blood” or when “I Don’t Want U Back” shakes below BØRNS’ milky, Auto-Tuned flutters.

This record re-spools the androgynous allure of his first one into something more thematically ambitious – but perhaps too ambitious for his glamorous metaphors and glossy sweet nothings. Per his interviews and Genius lyric annotations, he clings to meta conversational cornerstones in search of answers to very large unknowns. And while this record is just as capable of being hypnotizing in musical composition, it's when listeners emerge from the spell that they realize that the tunes are beautiful distractions – not answers – to his problems.

Blue Madonna is out now under Interscope Records.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Dopamine | Børns



So I'm not sure if you lot got the memo yet or not, but apparently the new commonly accepted ideology in the music world is that pop or rock artists who don't make music that targets mainstream radio audiences are, for all intents and purposes, Lana Del Rey reincarnate. It's easy to draw comparisons to the original queen of longstanding viral popularity; she is one of the first artists of note to bypass one-hit Internet phenomena status ("Harlem Shake," "The Fox," "Gangnum Style," etc.) and build a reputable career without support of radio (until that remixed "Summertime Sadness" business kicked up some dust, of course).

And in regards to Yelich-O'Connor, Frangipane, Sivan, Martinez, and Co., I get it. The brooding electronic soundscapes and flowery lyrics are undoubtedly products of a post-Del Rey society. But Børns? Call me crazy, but I don't see it as much as other people do.

Sure, his career found its footing after Taylor Swift name-dropped "Electric Love" on social media and his indie pop-rock resonates strongest online and at music festivals. But other than that, the similarities between the career trajectories and sonic territories of gangster Nancy Sinatra and the artist at hand aren't strong enough to merit every review of his debut album to make mention of the former. In comparison to Del Rey's gentle waft through muddier sonic territory, Børns is a bit more crisp. Not to mention that his voice, especially when he drifts into sharp-edge wails as he so frequently does, is accompanied by a bittersweet aftertaste – much unlike the smokey serenity of a fast drive in the pale moonlight with my bad daddy by my heavenly side, yeah baby, dark blue, dark blue, dark blue.

Dopamine is a sunny SoCal affair that glows around the edges, spicing psychedelic rock influences with plenty of organic-posing 808s to create a pop-friendly experience; with this said, perhaps a much more fitting comparison could be drawn to Haim or Alabama Shakes – with a visual aesthetic that borrows from good friend Zella Day. Børns complements the light sonic surroundings with a voice that lives almost exclusively in his falsetto – an area that many men flirt with but never have stamina to make long-term residencies in. His carries a clear, piercing tone, adding a splash on androgyny to his tunes. It all makes for quite a relaxing record until his topics of conversation (a mess of love, drugs, and sexual frustration) come into consideration.

This album's tracks melt together like a pack of gummy bears kept in a car on a sweltering summer's day, thanks in part to their hypnotizing ways. With these tracks, much like warm chocolate chip cookies and much unlike Burger King's Mac n' Cheetos, just one is not enough: listening to "10,000 Emerald Pools" turns into also listening to "Dug My Heart," which then turns into listening to "Electric Love" and "American Money," which then leads to listening to the full album... twice over. There's something to be said about albums like this one – when the overall aesthetic voids the difference between the standout moments and lackluster ones, resulting in what feels like one undivided body of work rather than 11 separate tracks thrown onto the same disc. Distinction is lost between tracks, but long after one listen to the set in full, a warm, fuzzy afterglow remains.

Dopamine is available now through Interscope Records. Exclusive pressings can be found at Target department stores.

© Aural Fixation
Maira Gall