BRKN Love’s self-titled 11-track debut album packs a punch that is compellingly dramatic and fun at the same time.
Justin Benlolo, lead vocalist and guitarist from Toronto, wrote the songs for BRKN Love before he had a band and the album reflects the creative cohesion of a single musical mind. During the spring of 2019, he signed with Spinefarm Records and worked with Joel Hamilton, who produced the album. Originally scheduled to be released on November 22, 2019, BRKN Love instead dropped on Valentine’s Day, 2020.
The album is showcasing a fresh sound, ranging from loud distorted rock to pop-punk. It followed the release of a few singles in 2019, including the very successful “Shot Down,” which made the top 25 on Billboard in the US and top 5 in Canada. A successful single drives expectations high and the public starts to identify the band with it. However, the album offers a collection of songs that a diverse audience can connect with.
The first four songs fall into the modern rock genre, with raunchy, dense riffs, and soaring vocals. The lyrics cover topics like losing touch with your identity in “I Can’t Lie” (“Can’t you see there’s a ghost at your door, You ain’t you, anymore”), or the price of chasing success in “Flies in the Honey” (“All these different colored pills, Drop them only for the thrill, Fill us up till we can’t feel”). While the wall of sound in some of the songs is exhilarating (chorus of “I See Red,” intro to “I Can’t Lie,” “Shot Down”), Benlolo’s creative talent and the genius in the production come across through the more spacious arrangements such as the verse sections of “I See Red” and “Flies in the Honey.”
“Shot Down” is an amazingly strong track. It starts with a Sabbath-like distorted guitar riff, layered with Benlolo’s metal-rock scream: “Shot down in the bottom of a valley.” His vocal abilities, clarity, and storytelling nuances are impressive. The tempo is upbeat, the instrumentation solid, moving the song forward with unstoppable momentum. The song fits well into the album, without any of the other tracks building on it, or copying the sound.
The following six songs pick up a fast punk tempo and bring in themes of broken love in “Papercuts” (“I got these papercuts on my heart, Try to stitch ’em up but it’s not enough”), facing crossroads in life in “My Toxic Twin” (“How the hell did this begin?”), and self-doubt in “It’s complicated” (“I hate myself for everything I’ve done”).
“Don’t Panic” is a really fun song with a full and distorted punk sound and a catchy melody perfect for jumping at shows (or for driving). “Oxygen” shows off the remarkable lyrical facets of Benlolo’s voice during the slower verse. The vocals are flowing between his normal and his head voice, retaining a raspy, grounding, quality as he brings up the tempo and volume during the chorus.
Overall, BRKN Love is a hell of an introduction to the “bunch of hooligans,” as Justin Benlolo has once described his band. It makes you want to keep blasting “Shot Down” or “Don’t Panic” on the car stereo, as well as check out the band live.
BRKN Love is available on all media, including vinyl and the band is currently on tour with Royal Tusk.