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Culture Shock

BROCKHAMPTON - iridescence

Released September 21, 2018


Definition of iridescent: showing luminous colors that seem to change when seen from different angles

No other word truly captures the new full-length album from the “Best Boyband since One Direction,” Brockhampton. iridescence is filled with many different colors and textures, making it the most experimental album they’ve put out, which brings in a mix of feelings towards the album. In a tweet, Brockhampton leader, Kevin Abstract, stated that this album was inspired a lot by Radiohead’s Kid A and it’s easy to see this influence. The album focuses a lot more on different sounds and sonic layers to put it all together.

Over the summer, Brockhampton went through a lot. Former bandmate Ameer Van was accused of sexual and verbal abuse by many former exes, leading Brockhampton to kick him out of the band. Alongside this, they also signed a deal with RCA to produce their new albums and they experienced fame like never before. These feelings come together on iridescence in a mixed bag of songs that go from highs to lows, to everything in between.

On iridescence, it feels like Brockhampton goes from making songs with grimy, dirty basses and driving kicks, to songs that are more introspective with a simple piano or string accompaniment. Sometimes both of these styles come through in the same song, like in “DISTRICT,” “WEIGHT,” and “BERLIN.” In “BERLIN,” we have two hooks and a verse that features a car revving its engine as the main beat of the song, making it feel really intense and industrial. This leads into a light, buzzy synth that takes over for a majority of the song afterwards.

This type of fleetingness of the beat works for the band in some ways, but not in others. Sometimes this can all feel like a bit too much, like in “HONEY.” The beginning of the song feels concentrated in the deep bassline but then transitions about halfway through to some angelic vocals and guitars. It would have been better if these styles had been separated into two different songs as the first part gets lost and the song loses its identity. Both parts are fantastic in their own way, but to have them both in one song feels unnecessarily convoluted. Because of the unpredictability of what the song is going to be like the whole way through, it also takes away from the catchy, punchy, stuck-in-your-head hooks Brockhampton has been known for in the past. This is the main gripe I have with the album. The only songs that I remember that have hooks I keep coming back to are “WHERE THE CASH AT” and “FABRIC,” the closing track of the album. That being said, the production and beats are top quality which can make up for a lack of a hook because many songs are head bumpers.

Dom and Joba are definitely the two standouts on this project. Dom is just so consistently good that it would only be worth mentioning him if he fell off, but he just comes as hard as ever. As far as improvement, Joba shows the most.

I thought I knew better, wish I knew better,

Should have known better, wish that I was better.

- from "J'OUVERT"

He shows a wide array of flows and topics, from something as simple as his verse on “WEIGHT,” but then he’ll come back with the verse on “J’OUVERT” which next to Kevin’s on “WEIGHT,” is my favorite on the album. The line is spat through the mic in such honesty and angst that you can’t help but get riled up. It’s a wonderful display of emotion from Joba.

The last three tracks of “SAN MARCOS,” “TONYA,” and “FABRIC” feel like the most cohesive and beautiful songs on the album. “SAN MARCOS” has a smooth, summer feeling. The main beat is a bright guitar being picked slowly and I feel like I should be listening to it driving down the California coastline at dusk. The outro of the song with the London Community Gospel Choir belting, “I want more out of life than this,” is an uplifting and euphoric ending to the song.

It almost feels like the album should end here, but the band continues with “TONYA,” a self-reflective track for everyone in Brockhampton to a beautiful piano accompaniment and a feature from serpentwithfeet. The song reflects on their life of stardom and their relationship with Ameer and their fans. The song has a somber, beautiful piano start with some wonderful vocals from Bearface that then transitions into a conflicting synth that Kevin brilliantly raps over. The piano comes back to bookend the song until that synth comes back right at the end. Merlyn stands out with a great and emotional verse here as well.

Finally, “FABRIC” serves as a great closing track. Kevin gives a great hook with his vocals pitched up a bit as he sings, “You don’t understand why I can’t get up and shout.” Those words stick like honey. The song changes one last time and the outro leaves a somewhat haunting prophecy of “it’s the best years of our lives, motherfucker.” I can’t tell if this is meant to be sarcastic or uplifting. For the boys’ sake, I hope it’s optimistic.

iridescence brought back a lot of the same feelings I had when I first listened to Saturation. The songs were all different and there was a similar flavor amongst them, but they had an array of different sounds. I’m mentioning this because the first Saturation was my least favorite in the trilogy. That’s not to say it’s bad, but it just didn’t have the same focus as Saturation II and III. That being said, we have a pretty good indication this is the first in a trilogy and this album is much better than Saturation which excites me for the future. This really will be the best years of our lives.

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