Brakence perfects his sound on Hypochondriac

Brakence

Hypochondriac

Columbia Records · December 2, 2022

Brakence has been teasing his new album Hypochondriac for over a year now, and fans have been frothing at the mouth with anticipation. Ever since the first single “Argyle” released in October 2021, Brakence has been dropping little hints and teasers as to what the album would be, how his sound has changed since punk2, and the themes the album would deal with. Finally, though, after fourteen months, the album is out, and it’s extremely pleasing to say that it delivers on all fronts.

To be very blunt, there is not a single bad track on this album. So much care is put into each song, and they’re all so varied in the emotions they conjure up while staying consistent in terms of style and quality. Brakence takes the same glitch pop aesthetic that made songs like “fuckboy” and “fwb” such hits right after punk2 released and expands upon them tenfold, building five-or-more-minute ballads and opuses that remain intriguing throughout with their well-developed sound. Each instrumental has so many layers and changes throughout each track’s runtime, making the entire album extremely engaging. This maximalist philosophy also allows for some incredibly complex and thought-provoking emotions to be painted through the music, such as the extremely hype, almost manic “caffeine”; the more stripped back, folk-esque “introvert”; and the pure momentum that is built up on “intellectual greed.” It should also be noted that there is some incredible guitar skill on this album, with tracks like “5g” and “argyle” displaying infectious, detailed riffs that always complement the glitchy production surprisingly well.

If only the sound was incredible, though, this album wouldn’t be nearly as effective as it was – Brakence’s songwriting has improved significantly since punk2 even though the general style has remained relatively consistent. The star of the show on Hypochondriac, without a shadow of a doubt, is Brakence’s incredible lyrics and vocal performances. Brakence has a breathtaking voice that can go from deep, sexy, and contemplative to high, boyish, and expressive within mere seconds, and that allows him to develop very unorthodox vocal melodies. “Stung” has a pretty standout performance where he pulls off incredible vocal work while simultaneously intertwining a more difficult rap-esque delivery. “Hypochondriac” is another song that lets Brakence’s vocal chops shine – it’s just him and a piano on this one, and he performs the full version of a musical motif that appears on the record a few times before. It’s an emotionally effective track that serves as a perfect way to finish the album. 

That seems to be, in turn, one of the main themes of this album – emotion, and how to portray it in art with honesty and integrity. This is illustrated beautifully by the lyrics: they delve into thoughts and experiences that affected Brakence immensely, as evidenced by the poetic and thought-provoking ways he chose to articulate them with. He strikes a perfect balance of various literary elements to present his feelings in a compelling manner while keeping them understandable and relatable to the audience. This is no more evident than on the crown jewel of this record, “deepfake,” which encapsulates the pain of having lost a relationship with someone you love while simultaneously questioning your own self and how genuine you are and were in that said relationship. There are tons of memorable lines even in just the first verse of this track, such as “I don’t know how much more I can take / ‘cause I’m gonna need more than sunlight and getting and shape / weed makes me panic and lexapro drives me insane” and “but despite all the lies and projections I hope you’re okay / I’m not I don’t want to escape.” Another particularly great track lyrically is “venus fly trap,” which nails the emotions of being in love with someone who you know is controlling and bad for you, but feeling trapped nevertheless. It all strikes a chord, to say the least – you can understand clearly how Brakence felt in every situation he describes.Hypochondriac is not just an incredible evolution for Brakence as an artist. Of course, he develops musically by every metric, and it’s very cool to hear as a fan. But more than that, you can literally hear him mature as a person – he is not the same person he was before, and it shows by the way this album differs from his previous work. It’s sort of like a coming of age story in that sense, and it’s an ostensibly honest and insightful one. Hypochondriac is undoubtedly Brakence’s best work yet, and definitively one of the best records of the year.

Brakence comes to Boston Dec. 18 at the Royale.

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