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BROCKHAMPTON’s latest album shows matured sound as the band’s career nears its close

Arguably their strongest album to date, BROCKHAMPTON has found their best form just in time

<p>“ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE” was released on April 9.</p>

“ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE” was released on April 9.

America’s favorite boy band is back — but not for long. BROCKHAMPTON kicks off their farewell from music with their sixth studio album, “ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE.” This is to be their penultimate album, according to BROCKHAMPTON frontman Kevin Abstract who tweeted, “2 brockhampton albums in 2021 — these will be our last.” The boy band has made similar claims in the past — “SATURATION III” was announced to be “the last studio album by BROCKHAMPTON,” but then they proceeded to release two more before their most recent. 

Regardless of whether or not this is actually their penultimate album, BROCKHAMPTON has just put out some of their best work. “GINGER,” their prior studio album, seemed to be their most mature showing until now. “ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE” combines the refreshing maturity of “GINGER” with the eccentricity of their earlier albums for a sonically captivating listening experience.

Track one, “BUZZCUT,” is a statement track. Likely challenging for some, it is a cacophony of potent bass, sirens and yelling that has genuine direction. Danny Brown is the feature here, and he delivers a stunning verse with his distinctive voice. Notably, the beat switch at 2:04 ushers in a spacey version of dissonance that anyone can enjoy.  

BROCKHAMPTON also demonstrates they are well-equipped to make an emotional introspective track on “ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE.” Known for his eccentric vocal delivery, Joba poignantly asserts himself on this album — particularly in “WHEN I BALL” when he sings, “All grown up like go and look at me / You'll always be a part of me.” Joba stands out in this album, as he sings of his dad’s passing by suicide. 

Joba and Matt Champion tag-team on “WHAT’S THE OCCASION,” which reflects the heavier tone of this album. Referencing his depression and his father’s suicide, Joba quietly sings, “Good on my own but I been feelin' alone.” 

Wildly different from the opening track of the album, “THE LIGHT PT. II'' is a cathartic closer in which Joba is given time to fully lament the loss of his father. In the final lines of the album, Joba whispers, “The light is worth the wait, I promise / Wait, screamin' ‘Please don't do it.’”   

Though BROCKHAMPTON can clearly dole out emotionally stirring tracks, “ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE” is also rife with songs to bounce your head to. With a beat reminiscent of the ‘90s, BROCKHAMPTON members, Kevin Abstract and Dom McLemmon team up with JPEGMAFIA for the vintage, bar-heavy second track, “CHAIN ON.'' On this track McLemmon raps, “Word from Marvin, couldn't soothe me from ‘What's Goin' On,’” leaving the audience with a thought-provoking allusion to Marvin Gaye’s hit, “What’s Goin' on.” Over a slow-moving beat with forceful bass on “BANKROLL,” Champion brags “Lump up in my jeans, I got a bankroll / Never show them that lil' green, I keep a bankroll.'' A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg feature here, with Ferg floating on his opening verse and Rocky adding something of a spoken word line on occasions, as well as adlibs.  

Though created by a band of 13 members, “ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE” recruited a number of great features, in addition to the aforementioned JPEGMAFIA, A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg. This album employs over 15 outside contributors, from producers to background vocalists. Shawn Mendes and Ryan Beatty sing on the chorus to “COUNT ON ME”. Charlie Wilson injects a soulful element into “I’LL TAKE YOU ON,” one of the best tracks on the album. Baird adds a verse on “OLD NEWS,” and SoGone SoFlexy adds quality bars on “WINDOWS” — the only song with all seven vocalists from the boy band. While the project could have sounded disjointed with so many contributors from outside of the group, all of these features are seamlessly integrated into the album.

“ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE” is arguably BROCKHAMPTON’s most coherent project. In the past, the group has released what appeared to be a patchwork of mutually exclusive tracks that don’t blend — which is seemingly inevitable given that the band had 16 members at one point. BROCKHAMPTON has proved that they can make not just a cohesive project, but one that balances poignant rawness and bass-shaking bangers, all while weaving in strong features. If this is actually their penultimate album, “ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE” sets America’s favorite boy band up well for a grand finale.