Editor's note: A previous version of this article stated "with tracks like “DEARLY DEPARTED,” sampling phaser sounds from Kevin Parker." BROCKHAMPTON did not sample Kevin Parker. The article has been corrected.
BROCKHAMPTON released their fifth studio album, “Ginger” on Aug. 23. The 12 tracks trudge through the boy band’s recent emotional turmoil and Shia Labeouf’s studio meditation sessions, following the removal of founding member Ameer Vann.
Contrary to comments made by Kevin Abstract, a founding member of the band, declaring Ginger to be a summer “feel good” record, the album is heartbroken, bitter and flustered.
Notable songs on the album are “BOY BYE,” “ST. PERCY,” “DEARLY DEPARTED” and “VICTOR ROBERTS.”
“Ginger” reinforces the change in direction that the album “Iridescence” marked for the otherwise banger-oriented boy band of the past four years. This is somewhat justifiable, considering where they’ve found themselves.
After signing onto a $15 million contract with the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) for six albums over the next three years — and forcing out Amir Vann for sexual misconduct — BROCKHAMPTON had fatigue in the headlights and “Ginger” documents it.
With more than half of the band contributing to most of their record’s productions, BROCKHAMPTON has always had a diverse, albeit, cohesive style. In a gripping way, this goes a bit too far on “Ginger”.
With tracks like “DEARLY DEPARTED,” featuring a Kevin Parker sounding phaser effects, and “BOY BYE,” cycling a Latin pizzicato (a string instrument pluck) riff over a samba beat, the album never really ever sounds like an album.
There’s clear evidence that there was an effort to avoid this, such as the same snare drum and hi-hat cymbal being used on “IF YOU PRAY RIGHT” and “I BEEN BORN AGAIN.”The tracks “NO HALO” and “SUGAR” share the same mildly modulated acoustic guitar effect on both tracks, but it doesn’t show up again in the record.
These kinds of elements make for a great glue to connect a huge cast of artists over the album, and they’re severely underutilized.
The band's previous albums, “SATURATION,” made a group this big work by spreading 48 tracks over the course of a trilogy, creating a space that allows a listener to categorize influence. There seems to be direction and organization throughout the three album trilogy, even if the amount of producers is verging on a flight crew.
“Iridescence” foreshadowed BROCKHAMPTON’s “too many cooks in the kitchen” dilemma, and “Ginger” is an extension of it.
Forgiving the constricting 12 tracks for a group of their size, the album is harrowing. Beginning-to-end, it holds the listener's attention with a combination of rich composition, stylized sound design and the same expansive character list BROCKHAMPTON has used to climb the arduous rungs of the music industry.
The chemistry of the band is not as present as it has been in past records, and that’s OK, considering the context of “Ginger.” In fact, it contributes to what the album chronicles‚— a group of friends in mourning, trying to figure out where to go next with $15 million.
The album’s relevance today stems from what it represents in a discography. It’s more than a product on its own merit. While it’s arguably cheap to excuse the disarray across the LP, disarray is what the album was born out of. The album is profoundly personal, and that’s a feat on its own with ten musicians in the room.
The band has openly said it’s one of their favorite albums to date, even if audiences haven’t responded to it quite like they’d hoped they would. Romil Hemnani, the band’s producer, described “Ginger”’s intentions, and the way it comes across best, in a Rolling Stone interview:
“It was kind of like one giant group therapy session almost, in a weird way... a purge, [you] have to hit a reset button.”
Luke Standley is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @dailylobo.