Album of the Month: April 2021


Image courtesy of Genius

Adam Matos, Staff Writer

Let’s start this off by saying that Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine by BROCKHAMPTON is Album of the Month for April 2021. It wasn’t necessarily close either. To help me out on creating this edition of Album of the Month, I received some aid from Staff Writer Anthony Millan who wrote the review on Roadrunner featured in this article; the rest was written by me. Anthony and I have come to an executive decision that Roadrunner is quite easily the album of the year up to this point. Through four months, one-third of 2021 (time flies), some great albums have been released but nothing quite on par with this new BROCKHAMPTON record. So Anthony, take it away with your Roadrunner review. 

After the previously mellow and somber tone in their last record, Ginger, many could say Roadrunner was a complete return to form. Packed to the brim with synth-dominated instrumentals and abrasive energy, many saw this as a callback to their infamous Saturation-era. However, I wouldn’t call this a return to form. I see this as completely new grounds for Brockhampton. The instrumentals are the most polished that they’ve ever been, every verse is significantly more thought-out and well written than in many of their past efforts, and for the first time, Brockhampton employed a multitude of features (who they credited in the title too, which is a first). All in all, Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine, is the beginning of a new Brockhampton era (also the last era; their next album is slated to be their last) which is, in my opinion, much more exciting than past ones. 

Now onto the music. As mentioned in my “Buzzcut” review, I was extraordinarily excited because, as a fan, that single promised great things, and for the most part, it delivered! First off, we have to catch up with the group. Usually, the main vocalists in the group are Kevin Abstract, Joba, Merlyn, Matt Champion, Bearface, Dom Mclennan, and Ameer Vann (left in 2018 due to allegations). However, this time around, Jabari Manwa, one of their producers, is one of the main contributors. At first, I was worried, but he really wasn’t on the album as much as I thought he would be, only really doing what he needed to do, and it paid off really well, only affecting the album positively. As for who really delivered on this album, the MVPs were Joba and Kevin Abstract. Although I firmly believe that every single member gave some of their best performances to date, there was just no competition. On Joba’s end, he gave some of the most gut-wrenching verses that have ever landed on a Brockhampton record. These, of course, were his verses on both parts of “The Light”.  Speaking on themes like his father’s suicide, religion, and existentialism, Joba brought emotional depth to every single song he was on. The Light series are the clearest examples of this, because Joba goes into vivid detail regarding the death of his father, resulting in the songs being beautiful depictions of melancholy. Onto Kevin, I don’t even know where to start. I already talked about “BUZZCUT” and how much of a return to form it was for him as a rapper, and yet the rest of the album just kept impressing me. His writing is noticeably better than before, his flows and cadences are back to the energy they had in the Saturation-era, and his hair is dyed; I know that’s unrelated but I like it. Kevin gives career-high performances all throughout this album, notable cuts being The Light series, “BUZZCUT”, and “DON’T SHOOT UP THE PARTY”. I’ve been writing for too long, but I have to talk about “DON’T SHOOT UP THE PARTY”. I’ve been calling every song on Roadrunner a career-high, but this track is actually Brockhampton’s best song in a while. Kevin gives an incredible verse, reminiscent of how he began a Saturation II cut, “Junky”, followed up by an extremely energetic chorus, with a familiar synth that’ll take fans back. After the chorus comes in Matt Champion’s verse, packed with the infamous pretty boy swagger we’ve come to expect from him. Joba’s verse will not even be talked about, as it needs to be experienced, leading to (in my opinion) their best song. That’s it. I’m done. Good album. Back to Adam.

Any other albums dropped this month had an insurmountable mountain to climb to beat out Roadrunner. Taylor Swift’s “new” album, Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is a classic but it’s simply a re-recording of Taylor’s breakout album, Fearless. In an effort to control all of her masters, Swift is going about the journey of rerecording and rereleasing all the music she has made up to the point where she started owning her own masters. It honestly makes you think about how toxic the music industry can be. Taylor did justice to all of the songs recording especially personal favorites and radio hits in “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me.” Taylor also released a few extra tracks from the vault, most notably “Mr. Perfectly Fine” which is just as much a radio hit as any other hit Taylor has released up to this point. 

Aside from Fearless (Taylor’s Version), which had no chance of getting Album of the Month seeing as it’s just a recapitulation of a previous album, only one other album I listened to had a possibility to win the award. If Roadrunner didn’t exist, this month’s Album of the Month would go to Nurture by Porter Robinson. I am going to be brutally honest here, most people won’t like this album. It is a harsh electropop and is basically ear cancer for anybody who doesn’t like loud noises. Electropop, as the name suggests, is the fusion of electronic music with pop leading to some… interesting outcomes. This album, albeit weird, is weirdly personal. The lyrics paired with blaring instrumentals lead to anything but a boring experience. The vocals on this album are drowning in autotune but it just adds to the context of what the album is all about. “Musician” by Porter Robinson has been on repeat for me for the past three weeks now. If you want to give this album a try, that track is your best bet as the most catchy (It’s still in my head as I’m writing this).

A handful of singles also released this month with most of them being the lead singles off of albums coming next month or this summer. Twenty One Pilots is attempting to make a resurrection with two singles releasing this album from their upcoming album Scaled and Icy. This project is set to release May 21st, 2021, and I’ve gotta say I’m excited. Twenty One Pilots was one of my favorite artists when I was in middle school and the nostalgia factor makes me root for them even more. I hope they can revitalize their career with a solid project but the two singles, “Shy Away” and “Choker” were not anything incredibly special. Along with that, Cordae, formerly YBN Cordae, released a four-pack EP called Just Until….. With features from Q-Tip and Young Thug, this EP is, in my opinion, the most exciting thing the hip-hop landscape has to offer from this month. Baby Keem teamed up with Travis Scott on a ‘meh’ song titled “durag activity.” I believe it’s easily Keem’s worst single, even though Travis’s feature is very good. Keem just seems out of it; his lyrics and delivery are boring throughout the whole track. Quite frankly, the chorus is bad. It’s very unfortunate that this track wasn’t that good but I am still eagerly waiting for a new project from Baby Keem after his rather successful first project. 

In addition to this, three great mainstream tracks released this month. “Save Your Tears (Remix)” by the Weeknd featuring the wonderful Ariana Grande. The original is still much better, but Ariana didn’t disappoint on this new remix. I enjoy the chorus where Ariana sings and she has a really good verse; anytime The Weeknd and Ariana are on a track together, they make magic happen. That’s just what you get when you put two of the best singers in the pop landscape on a song together. Along with “Save Your Tears (Remix)”, Doja Cat and SZA also got together to create an interesting dance-pop type song. For Doja Cat, this is a great win. Leading up to a potential new album coming this summer, Doja Cat and SZA both lay down melodic verses on a basic poppy beat. This track is basic but it’s great. Doja Cat has definitely found her sound within the pop universe. I would not be surprised if I heard this on the radio on my way to school tomorrow. “Your Power” by Billie Eilish is one of my favorite singles from this month but it without a doubt is not a radio hit. Billie tries out a much quieter approach to a ballad than anything off of her previous albums. She uses a very quiet acoustic beat with no other instruments besides a quiet synth. Her previous album had many acoustic instruments on songs like “xanny” and “wish you were gay”  but both those tracks had dominating synths. “Your Power” remains moderately quiet the whole way through. I was surprised Billie chose to go in this direction after the much more upbeat “Therefore I Am” was released back last November. “Your Power” is a great track though, Billie Eilish always excites with her new music. Her album Happier Than Ever, with 16 tracks in 56 minutes, is set to release July 30th, 2021. If it follows in the footsteps of her three lead-singles, it has the potential to be a consistently replayable project full of summer anthems.

To round out the month, “deja vu”, a single by Olivia Rodrigo, was ironically released April 1st, 2021, just after the cut-off to be featured in last month’s installment of Album of the Month. “deja vu” is what I assume to be the last single for Rodrigo’s upcoming album SOUR. SOUR is slated to release on May 21st, 2021, and “deja vu” has only built the hype after the uber-successful “drivers license.” Olivia Rodrigo’s lyricism on her two tracks so far has been phenomenal. I was completely floored when I heard “drivers license” and “deja vu” only heightened that feeling. “deja vu” features vivid storytelling from Rodrigo over an interesting instrumental that sounds nothing like “driver’s license.” People sometimes criticize pop artists like Rodrigo for making the same song over and over, but she has not fallen into this category. Olivia Rodrigo is the first artist in history to debut her first two singles in the top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and that is not a fluke. Records were broken with these two amazing tracks and I am extremely excited for this album; Rodrigo undoubtedly has lots of potential. If this album is as amazing as its singles, it could easily be one of the best albums of this year. We’ll likely find ourselves right back in this same spot next month where I am telling you why SOUR is May’s Album of the Month. I don’t want to jinx it, so knock on wood. We’ll just have to see what this next month has to offer.