Review: Syd’s ‘Broken Hearts Club’ lacks its usual unique identity

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While Syd cultivates a constantly chill atmosphere on her second album, she lacks the substance of her previous album.

by John Renda | 04/14/22 02:05

Since the days of her association with the now revered hip-hop supergroup Odd Future, Sydney Bennett, otherwise known as Syd, has distinguished herself as a leading voice in the alternative R&B genre. His work with The Internet – a band that also includes respected vocalist and guitarist Steve Lacy – produced two critically acclaimed albums: 2015’s ‘Ego Death’ and 2018’s ‘Hive Mind’. In 2017, Syd expanded that success to his solo work by releasing his first album “Fin”. “Broken Hearts Club,” Syd’s latest album, was announced in March after nearly five years of virtual solo silence.

When I first heard “Fin” a few years ago, I was immediately mesmerized by its musical power. The endlessly relaxed harmonies of Syd’s band recordings persisted on the project; cool guitar riffs, smooth drums and Syd’s smooth vocals made it the perfect soundtrack for a smooth Sunday car ride. Still, the element of “Fin” that really blew me away was how Syd – in the vein of neo-soul greats like Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill before her – paired that relaxing vibe with musical commentary. very personal and sentimental, in which Syd shared her thoughts on friendship, love and sexuality. The maturity of his debut album was a big part of why I was so excited to listen to “Broken Hearts Club.”

Without a doubt, “Broken Hearts Club” retains many of the musical qualities that I admired on “Fin”. Just like on its predecessor, the songs on this album sound like they’re ready for relaxation. With her second effort, however, I feel like Syd lacks the punch she so effectively displayed in her debut.

The eighties-tinged guitar riffs and slow drumming of “CYBAH” – the album’s opener – sound like the musical embodiment of flowing water, and the quiet vocals of Syd and guest Lucky Daye conveys an impressive vocal range without ever disturbing the track’s nonchalance. . The rest of the album retains that groovy, lo-fi vibe. “Fast Car,” another personal highlight of the project, impressively manages to feel both calm and upbeat simultaneously. Jagged guitar riffs and fast drumming – sounding like they’ve been ripped from a synthpop anthem – are masterfully offset by a contemplative piano melody as Syd sings about the joys of being in love.

“BMHWDY” – an acronym for “Break My Heart Why Don’t You” – comes as another repackaging of the album’s consistently relaxed vibe. The track’s guitars are slower and softer – and pairing them with the track’s drums reminded me of a lo-fi hip-hop beat. Yet Syd’s soft voice perfectly complements the instrument to keep the listener at peace, once again. In many ways, “Broken Hearts Club” seems to show Syd following in the footsteps of pop contemporaries like The Weeknd and Charli XCX in adding a slightly more retro, synth-heavy aesthetic to the existing foundations of his sound.

Even in this regard, however, Syd sometimes fails. While the tracks I’ve highlighted strike that balance between catchy and chill that keeps listeners engaged, other songs on the album fall into a generic profile of lo-fi R&B sound that makes them underwhelming. The tracks “Control” and “Getting Late” are totally forgettable, Syd’s voice drowning in the stereotypical instrumentals instead of being inspired by them. Unfortunately, this also extends to the final track “Missing Out”, which features perhaps the most annoying instrumentation on the album: a redundant drum and synth pattern that tires after the first 30 seconds. On this track, Syd’s passionate voice feels like it’s trying to save him from his instrumental weakness.

Beyond that, however, I think the ultimate pitfall of “Broken Hearts Club” is that it lacks depth.

which allowed Syd’s “Fin” to emerge as a truly powerful project. The strongest — and perhaps most surprising — example of this is found in “Right Track,” featuring St. Louis rapper Smino, who made a name for himself in hip-hop thanks to his thoughtful and creative lyrics. In my opinion, the real disappointment of “Right Track” is that it has all the components it needs to be a hit song. The effusive rhythm of the Spanish guitar caught my eye instantly, but neither Syd nor Smino feel like they have anything substantial to say about this track – its two and a half minute length skips instead. without a single word of note being adopted. On “Heartfelt Freestyle,” whose title seems to hint at thematic depth, Syd once again disappoints in this regard. His words remain at the surface level, coming across as a fragmented and largely incoherent expression of his attraction to his partner.

There’s no doubt in my mind that these tracks are fun to listen to, just like most of the album. Unfortunately, however, they represent what I consider to be the chronic flaw of the “Broken Hearts Club”. While the songs on “Fin” were often both fun and deeply beautiful, “Broken Hearts Club” lacks that final dimension. The album leaves us with a decent amount to feel, but relatively little to think about once we’re done. For me, the unfortunate effect of this is that it prevents “Broken Hearts Club” from having the unique identity that I recognized on its first album. With his next release, I’m left with hope that Syd can start grabbing more again.

Evaluation:★★★☆☆

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