While I decided I was going to review Briston Maroney’s debut album “Sunflower” back when he announced it in February, the sudden release of Brockhampton’s sixth studio album “Road Runner: New Light, New Machine” left me fighting an internal battle. In the end, it was too difficult for me to choose so — in the famous words of that little girl from the Old El Paso commercial — “Why not both?”
Rather than break down the albums track-by-track, I’ll point out some of my favorite songs from each one and give my overall reactions. While both albums sound spectacular in their entirety, some specific tracks might easily stay my favorites of 2021.
While “Sunflower” is Briston Maroney’s debut album, this isn’t the indie-rock artist’s first time in the spotlight. The 23-year-old gained viral attention with his 2018 release “Freakin’ Out on the Interstate,” which became one of my favorite songs after I found it during quarantine.
With two beautiful EPs already released, the announcement of his debut album back in February had me excited for more of his guitar-driven production, contemplative lyricism and crooning vocals. As expected, Maroney did not disappoint.
Songs like “Bottle Rocket” and “Rollercoaster” showcase Maroney’s killer vocals and heart-pounding energy, while “Cinnamon” and “Say My Name” take deep dives into his tender, melancholic soul. Overall, the 10-track album feels both nostalgic and prophetic, longing for the past while embracing what’s to come.
Brockhampton apparently took advantage of quarantine and produced what I believe is the best project they’ve released so far. That leaves me wondering what they have in store later this year since founding member Kevin Abstract announced the group’s next album would be their last.
Since taking on the name Brockhampton in 2014, the group has cranked out album after album — including all three “Saturation” albums in a single year. With “Road Runner,” the group tackles serious issues like racism, police brutality, homophobia and suicide.
Songs like “Chain On” and “Don’t Shoot Up the Party” focus on the current climate surrounding racism and gun violence in America. “The Light,” “Dear Lord” and “The Light Pt. II” offer group member Joba an outlet to grieve after his father’s suicide.
“Dear Lord” is a gospel-inspired hymn dedicated to Joba, asking for God to light his way through the darkness. Various members of the group join together, primarily led by vocalist Bearface. The emotional weight and beautiful production of this song easily make it my favorite on the album.
In addition to Joda using “The Light” and “The Light Pt. II” to grieve for his father, Kevin Abstract opens up about his experiences with homophobia and the strained relationship he has with his family in the songs, commenting on the difficulty he has even telling his mother about who he loves.
Brockhampton’s whole album seems like a group therapy session for the unconventional boy band, allowing everyone to get things off their chest after a year of distress. With features from artists like Danny Brown and JPEGMAFIA, “Road Runner,” is packed with insane talent and important messages.