Following the conclusion of his first record cycle, the relentless promotion, the draining tour and the inevitable comedown, BØRNS
faced the dilemma that seems to plague almost every musician after they've let their baby out into the world - what the hell do I do now?
This existential query serves to inform the content of Blue Madonna
, which sees BØRNS veering slightly away from the more conventionally poppy tone of his debut album Dopamine
. Whilst retaining much of the indie-pop essence that characterized his first LP, BØRNS takes a more restrained approach toward Blue Madonna
. A little less upbeat, a little more enigmatic, full of mystique.
Once referring to himself as as a sort of "futuristic Beach Boy", it's apparent that this influence from Brian Wilson and co. remains at the forefront of the songwriting process for BØRNS. His style of contemporary indie-pop, laden with psychedelic 60s influence, is comparable to that of fellow Wilson descendant Kevin Parker, particularly on Tame Impala's 2015 album Currents
. The impact of this adoration results in an album full of high-pitched vocal delivery and layered soundscapes, befitting the wistful search for meaning that BØRNS encountered in the gestation period before he recorded the album. His fondness for sci-fi is audible in the inclusion of the endlessly eerie theremin on some tracks, another example of BØRNS wearing his influences on his sleeve.
Just as before, BØRNS' vocals are the main draw throughout, his airy falsetto serving as a lush invitation to give yourself over to the poppy dreamscape within. "I Don't Want U Back" is an album high-point, and a glimmering example of BØRNS' vocal ability - alluring and crystal clear. "We Don't Care" rejects worry, evoking optimism in the face of the listless melancholy that BØRNS felt following his lengthy tour. "Second Night Of Summer", a fuzzy pop jam, could be found on Dopamine
. The inclusion of Lana Del Rey on a couple of tracks could be viewed as a cynical promotional tool in some quarters (the two share a record label), but Del Rey's performances are understated and tonally consistent with the aesthetic of BØRNS' music. She explores the lower end of her vocal register on the album's title track, offering a nice counterpoint to the trademark falsetto of her labelmate.
BØRNS is intriguing, effortlessly cool, and dripping in androgynous sex appeal, but it's a stretch to say that his music is inventive enough to establish its own space beyond the sphere of his influences. In interviews discussing the creative process behind Blue Madonna,
BØRNS referenced his interest in Taoism, particularly the idea of immortality. If he can manage to marry that beautiful voice to a deeper exploration of his own creativity in the coming years, then album number three could offer a glimpse of that elusive immortality, at least in a musical sense. For now, we'll have to content ourselves with a dreamy slice of psychedelia-infused indie-pop.