brakence
hypochondriac


4.5
superb

Review

by davidwave4 USER (55 Reviews)
December 9th, 2022 | 33 replies


Release Date: 2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A small masterpiece, "hypochondriac" takes the sonic template of Midwest emo and expands it to tell compelling tales of mental illness and queer love.

One of the virtues of Midwest emo is that it brings scale to small, quotidian emotions. Break-ups becomes world-ending fissures, growing up becomes a funereal march towards death. These Big Emotions are played out on a sonic palette conveying comfort and anxiety – metric changes evoke constant uncertainty; the guitar tones a warmth and familiarity. This interplay, while having produced some of the most raw and emotionally potent tunes in rock has largely been ignored by both mainstream rockers and by the synthesists seeking to bring rock’s elements into other genres.

Enter Randy “brakence” Findell. More an acolyte of Clarence Clarity and Mike Kinsella than Lil Peep or Playboi Carti, Findell came to prominence in 2020 amidst the “hyperpop” boomlet following a profile-raising string of releases through 2019. While a string of collaborations with artists like ericdoa and glaive may have made this association look right on paper, Findell’s music was always more literary and insular than his alleged contemporaries.

His breakthrough record, punk2, was led by a couple singles that, if you squint, could been seen as pop concessions: “dropout” and “fwb” were fun, lithe songs centered around novel, zoomer premises. They were also red herrings – title track “rosier/punk2” is a folky ballad lamenting the end of a relationship; “ginger tea” is a pop-punk treatise on trauma. Three years and a major-label record deal later, it was an open question what Findell would return with. The pressures of major-label viability could theoretically have forced an album full of “dropouts,” the need for a big single forcing unnecessary collaborations and TikTok desperation.

Fortunately, this isn’t what happened. The resulting record, “hypochondriac,” is a small masterpiece that embraces all of the disparate, outré influences that were only hinted at on “punk2.”

In some sense, “hypochondriac” is a concept album exploring the conflicts that anchored songs like “rosier” and “boydontcry.” These conflicts play out in vignettes – the alt-country “introvert” explores a queer romance doomed by social expectation; rocky single “cbd” and lead single “argyle” position artistry as a middle-finger to past lovers and fake friends. Both “stung” and “deepfake” explore the numbness and dissociation inherent in a life lived mostly online; the drill-adjacent “5g” likens online obsession with ecological collapse.

The writing on these songs finds Findell at his most reflexive and referential – the title track’s second verse (“a hypochondriac, I think of you blood pressure spikes…”) comes up multiple times across the album, acting as a thesis statement linking the disparate narrative themes of chemical dependency, anxiety, and lost romance. Mental illness is a prevailing theme across the record (makes sense for a record called “hypochondriac”) and, true to form for an emo record, life events and emotions are scaled for maximum Emotion. Past slights becomes unforgivable betrayals, Twitter likes induce panic attacks. Across these 13 tracks, Findell takes an axe to his ego, mining his insecurities and indiscretions for meaning.

Cultural references loom large too: “introvert” namechecks a classic Beatles song, “5g” obliquely references Clarence Clarity’s “Cancer in the Water” (a reference Findell has made before), and “caffeine” is a slurry of callbacks to everything from The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap to an obscure Bruce Lee documentary. This style of writing calls attention to brakence as a creature of the internet, someone whose life is “captured” by the net, who self-soothes by “buying acid off the deep web,” and who, through “staring at a screen” professes to know “everything.”

The production solidifies this image of brakence as the anxious syncretist, fusing disparate music trends and traditions he discovered online. The record is structured like a DJ set, with the tracks shifting time signatures and tempos alongside the emotional material. Genres bend and blend together – angular rap exercise “bugging!” shifts into the EDM freakout “caffeine,” which melts into the pop-rock “venus fly trap.” As the album progresses, the genre attempts get wilder – “teeth” is, in form and function, a dubstep track; intellectual greed is the pop-punk track promised by “fwb”’s outro; “stung” tosses reggaeton’s tresillo groove into the mix for good measure.

“5g” and “introvert” stand as perhaps the most surprising stylistic digressions. “5g” marries a killer math-rock riff with a drill beat and an infectious chorus. It’s no wonder that this is the track getting the most playlisting – it’s a triumph. So too is “introvert,” an alt-country track that, across its six-minute runtime, descends into a kaleidoscopic wall of sound. It serves as the album’s capstone and is, perhaps, the best song Findell has ever made.

Anchoring these wild stylistic swings are the nostalgic sounds of Midwest emo and math rock. The riffs here, ponderous and angular, evoke bands like Chon, Tangled Hair, and Covet. Like the best emo records, “hypochondriac” takes these sounds as a baseline for exploring the small catastrophes that make up a human life. As a catalogue of queer love, of the beautiful and horrible potentials of the internet, and of the violence of fame, “hypochondriac” is unimpeachable, the sound of an artist at the height of their creative powers.



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user ratings (44)
3.4
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Kompys2000
Emeritus
December 10th 2022


9417 Comments


never thought I'd say it but I just don't think I'm online enough for this

Pikazilla
December 10th 2022


29724 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

as jester has pointed out on discord, the depressed furry vibes are too strong in this one

treos777
December 10th 2022


593 Comments


i would dig this if not for the fucking annoying sped up 'breaks' in so many of the songs

treos777
December 11th 2022


593 Comments


The wanting to die song is my favourite thing on here lol

Mort.
December 13th 2022


25062 Comments


this sounds dreadful

GhandhiLion
December 13th 2022


17641 Comments


HYPOCHONDRIAC by BRAKENCE is a future masterpiece!



Mort.
December 13th 2022


25062 Comments


im listening to it now and all i can say is i hate young people and their complete lack of self awareness

Mort.
December 13th 2022


25062 Comments


this is just hypebeast zoomer music, dreadful, i am zak in this space

GhandhiLion
December 13th 2022


17641 Comments


I couldn't go past a few seconds with those vocals.

kevbogz
December 13th 2022


6086 Comments


recommended by reviewer
American Football American Football

GhandhiLion
December 13th 2022


17641 Comments


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJ6WCBmyosk

GhandhiLion
December 13th 2022


17641 Comments


Carsick Cars are pretty cool


MarsKid
Emeritus
December 13th 2022


21030 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

I like this review, but yeah this did nothing for me.



It doesn't help that this style of music feels just so entirely unrelatable. Any emotional payoff is sunk by autotune abuse and tacky vocal inflections. It's a miss.

MoM
December 14th 2022


5994 Comments


Wow, I haven’t disliked something this much in a while

Mort.
December 14th 2022


25062 Comments


'compelling tales of mental illness and queer love.'

i imagine its a very superficial treatment of these themes

MoM
December 14th 2022


5994 Comments


^ Looking at the lyrics, it is very superficial and feels like there’s a focus on making shitty rhymes that end up undermining the themes

MarsKid
Emeritus
December 14th 2022


21030 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Album is transparently pandering, it knows what it's doing.



Lyrics are very dire at times and seeing people annotate it like some Holy Grail lurks underneath is pretty amusing

Mort.
December 14th 2022


25062 Comments


'judge how candid these lyrics are/aren't (and therefore how superficial it is)'

candid no, because how could we know, but superficial or trite (or at least 'not compelling'), yes

MoM
December 14th 2022


5994 Comments


“ Don't think it's anyone place to judge how candid these lyrics are/aren't (and therefore how superficial it is)”

That’s a good point. I think he sucks at writing (gotta start somewhere) and I feel like I’m using that to label it superficial unfairly.

MarsKid
Emeritus
December 14th 2022


21030 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Yeah there are a LOT of clunkers here



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