By Sheroog Kubur, November 9 2022—
BRKN Love is a band that can only be described with one word — attitude. With the release of their sophomore album, Black Box, this attitude is put to the test through extravagant instrumentation and grandiose storytelling.
“Most of the album is already out, so it doesn’t feel like we’re putting out a new record because we’ve dropped these two EPs, so I’m almost treating it as a third EP,” said primary architect behind BRKN Love, Justin Benolo.
Black Box consists of songs that have been heard before, bringing together the band’s previous EPs Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 with a couple of tracks that haven’t been heard yet. While splitting it up was a business decision, having the album released in waves built excitement. The release of the album is the missing puzzle piece the band needed to round out the story that has been told so far.
“I like to think it’s everything you would expect from us before but now it’s turned up to an 11. It’s bigger than it was before, it’s a little bit cleaner,” said Benolo.
The album was born, just like most releases this year, during the COVID-19 pandemic. While some artists used that opportunity to hone their music down to a point, BRKN Love expanded their horizons. Benolo took a look at the self-titled debut album and asked themselves how they could make it louder, bigger and better.
“We embraced the technology this time around when we were recording it — there wasn’t any limitations that we set beforehand,” explained Benolo about the creative process behind the album. “This new record, we just did layers upon layers of stuff because we said ‘screw it, let’s just make the album sound as good as we can and we’ll worry about playing it later.’”
They achieved that goal ten-fold. The guitars retain the garage rock aesthetic by sounding grungy and underground, but it’s noticeably cleaner than the previous album. Benolo’s vocals are still rough and passionate, but this time around there’s an air of conviction — like he’s found his voice. Each song builds to a satisfying conclusion, eliciting an air-drums or air-guitar solo with each finale. It sounds like something out of a movie where the kid is learning about what real rock music is by listening to their dad’s music collection, without all the silver-haired frontmen.
The lyrics of this record standout the most — Benolo sounds more confident and almost arrogant on the record, speaking to figurative villains and putting on different cloaks. Certain songs abandon Benolo’s persona completely and he instead adopts other characters — “Under the Knife” and “Like A Drug” are sung from the perspective of a man in a toxic situation and “One in the Same” is Benolo’s take on a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde scenario, expressing frustration for relying on the villainous Mr. Hyde to survive.
“There is a lot of songs that weren’t written from my perspective — I went around and asked my friends to give me stories,” Benolo explained regarding the lyric writing process. “This record was written during lockdown and there wasn’t a lot of life that was being lived. I didn’t know what I could say that I didn’t say before.”
There was an endearing quality to the jagged edges of the self-titled record, but Black Box carves its own path rather than trying to clean up its predecessor. It’s crisp and tailored but in a way that still retains the band’s vivacious energy. Normally sophomore albums try to live up to the debut, but in this case Black Box confidently declares its departure from the homegrown aesthetic the debut. It’s a necessary step in the right direction, an only the beginning of this new attitude.
The album, Black Box, is available on all streaming platforms. BRKN Love will additionally be playing a show in Calgary at the Commonwealth Bar and Stage on Nov. 22 with the Blue Stones, although these shows aren’t for the faint of heart. The band translates their intensity and energy to the stage seamlessly, meaning mini pep talk may be in order before stepping through those doors.
Sheroog’s Recommendation: “Like A Drug” for an electric opening and “Forever’s Enough” for a grounded finish.