Album Of The Week: Broods - 'Conscious'

Written By Zanda Wilson on 06/27/2016

AOTW_Broods

NZ duo BROODS have dropped their long awaited follow up to their 11 track debut album Evergreen, an outwardly more mature sounding effort titled Conscious – and they’ve not only met the expectation that this sophomore effort would eclipse their debut, but also exceeded the need for a new, bolder sound that we so desired from the band.

Lead track Free has been widely acclaimed since its release – and from that point it was always going to be hard for BROODS to match such a raw and powerful composition. But Georgia Nott and older brother Caleb have gone way beyond the standard set by their past efforts – and although the influence of Joel Little can once again be heard, this album as a whole focuses more on driving choruses and creating warm, thick melodic textures through layering of Georgia’s frequently mind-blowing and often anthemic vocals.

Predictably, some of the tracks on the album sound pretty similar to one another. Generally, bands that find that a certain sound works well for them early on struggle to stray from a familiar formula, and though BROODS are somewhat guilty of this, that isn’t why there are some songs on Conscious that are difficult to tell apart from one another. Almost the entire of the album is driven by a foreseeable pulse and a slew of melodic, synth-heavy tracks – and even though this is clearly new territory for the band, as an album it becomes a little predictable.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t a whole heap of amazing sounding tunes on this record. If anything, the fact that four or five of the tracks have similar sounding elements helps to showcase some of the other tracks for how they differ and stand out from the rest. Ironically, some of the softer – more laid back tracks prove to be the standouts on the album.

BROODS have collaborated with Swedish singer-songwriter Tove Lo on what is one of the unquestionable highlights of the album, Freak Of Nature. This track contains powerfully emotive lyrics about mental illness and how it can be seen as weakness in a person. Freak Of Nature also tells its story in a hugely captivating way through a ballad-like structure, kicking off with just a piano and two voices in harmony – before growing and building, adding layers until it becomes a fully-blown, masterfully EQ’d epic. It also features some amazing vocal interplay between Georgia Nott and Tove Lo, before it dies away once again at its conclusion.

Another more chilled effort is Bedroom Door – with Georgia Nott’s vocals layered once again in way that makes her own harmonies an absolute centrepiece of what BROODS are all about. Softly clicking percussion keeps this slow-burner moving – and the accompanying production is almost invisible in how well it fits underneath the vocals.

Working with Joel Little was inevitably going to lead to a BROODS/Lorde collab, and although Lorde doesn’t lend her vocals to Heartlines (WHY NOT!?!?), it’s still one of the peaks of the album. Apart from Free, Heartlines best captures the overall feeling of Conscious as a whole – and Lorde’s influence can be hear in the way that Nott articulates a lot of the back halves of phrases, with arpeggio-like phrasing employed liberally. Although this track doesn’t outwardly sound like a test of Georgia’s vocal ability, as other tracks certainly push her to plow through with more emotion – the intricacies of the vocal lines in Heartlines are just as challenging as any other vocal line on the LP.

Are You Home is another of the high points of Conscious and for me, the best track on the record – encapsulating the pulsating energy of Free but with a greater diversity between a full-bodied and powerful chorus and a softly spoken verse. It’s driven by its melodic aspects, with bass almost an afterthought – and the vocals and twinkling synth countermelodies are dominant throughout. All Of Your Glory contrasts as the softest track on the record – allowing listeners to take stock of what they’ve heard so far and relax before BROODS get back into their driving, more anthemic stuff, that characterises the Conscious as a whole.