Written by Tim Carbone
I feel like pop culture has attempted to sink a lot of life lessons and morals into me, but I’ve never been too receptive to that stuff. I fail to learn a lesson unless I experience it first hand. I didn’t seem to get that the world and the people around me were constantly changing and I needed to accept that and adapt to it. Growing up I made friends and lost them and people went from shitheads to reliable pals and vice versa, but of all the existential questions we ask ourselves when growing up and freaking out, this kind of stuff just never clicked in my head.
That was until this year, where I found that a lot of the musical artists I love began to change drastically. MGMT’s old alternative and rock sound was left behind in exchange for a tilted, circus-y synthpop project. Arctic Monkeys completely shifted away from frenetic guitars in favor of relaxed piano to make a 1970’s inspired lounge album. BROCKHAMPTON’s DIY and chaotic approach evolved recently with their new album that felt much more experimental musically and heavy lyrically. Even one of my favorite acts, Kero Kero Bonito, teased a bit of new material early in the year on an EP that transitioned their clean computer MIDIs into grungy guitars and more somber synths.
A lot of this led my understanding of change to pull a 180 in the summer where I began feeling the world moving around me, as friends from home began their gradual procession out of our town towards work that was more local to their college, and friends from college began to morph from the fresh-faced caricatures we met as into more focused, skilled, and motivated adults. When Arctic Monkeys became more serious and composed, my friends were too serious about adult stuff and weren’t making time to relax and have fun anymore. As BROCKHAMPTON took more time between albums and changed what their sound, I’d talk to someone less than I was used to or how we’d talk would change tones. What they were looking for was way different than the innocent hope of friendship we had as first-years.
I felt a lot of discomfort in the fact that I didn’t feel like I was moving forward that much in comparison. The end of summer left me stir-crazy, anxious, and constantly questioning how to overcome the millions of pieces moving around me.
As the bands I loved kept on changing, it makes sense that KKB would jump headfirst into the new sound and drop a completely different type of album with no warning. The band from Britain made their name melding a variety of influences from J-pop, video games, city pop, and PC Music into songs that felt creatively pristine, while also subversively discussing modern day feelings and issues like the problematic education system and moving out of your family home, but in optimistic ways. They effortlessly shifted between topics, from the joy of jumping on a trampoline to how we can no longer prove who we are without the perfect picture.
The band dropped an EP recently that seemed to sound much less spotless, with distorted guitars and topics of social media facades and the collective understanding of smiling through bad days. The singing was raw instead of bubbly and the instrumental was less artificial, feeling like it was jammed out through frustration. The lyrics at least seemed to be tackling similar topics of growing up in modern society, but from a new, more knowledgeable angle. The new style was a huge departure from their bubblegum roots, but I was excited to see where they took it. I waited a long time for their new album, and they dropped the album, Time ‘n’ Place with no announcement on October 1st. It felt like a very telling shift for both them and myself.
The balance of simple topics and modern commentary returned, but this time from a much more experienced, apprehensive perspective. The songs on previous albums seemed excited to see the future, but Time ‘n’ Place feels much more melancholy and solemn; the band is prepared for the future, but the changes they’ve been experiencing while in the real world gave them a reality check and haven’t convinced them of as bright a future as initially expected. I was still struggling with facing my own future full of competitive job markets and mutated relationships, so it felt like a cautionary tale.
The song “Swimming” starts as a chill trip with the singer’s mother to the beach, but ends up as a tale of how the lessons our parents taught us feel familiar but different on our own. “Visiting Hours” paints an extremely vivid picture of the unease and love in briefly seeing a loved one in a hospital or nursing home that sent me rushing back to trips to see my sick grandparents. “Make Believe” finds the band discussing how they struggle to find time for childlike wonderment and creativity in an adult world.
Even a song like “Dump,” which lyrically just has the singer visiting a landfill, ends up as a collection of forgotten and unneeded possessions that are tied to individual memories, reminding me of why I used to love to visit the dump with my dad.
What I’m saying makes it seem like the album is depressing, but it’s actually ended up as very cathartic for me. The bouts of pure chaotic noise that even out to upbeat melodies become the feeling of stressing out over business cards and portfolios until I’ve made some new LinkedIn connections. The sudden onslaught of scratchy guitars is my programmer finding a game breaking bug the night before it’s due, but it’s also the ‘A’ on the milestone that we fought for. I wasn’t necessarily afraid of all of this change, I just became more aware of it. The album perfectly embodies the feeling of a rainy, suburban summer day, alone at home thinking.
The song “Dear Future Self” on the album directly hits home, covering the anxieties and hopes of how personal identity changes over time. In looking into the album, I found myself reflecting on these sentiments a lot and finding myself picking apart all of the changes I faced. People change and there’s literally no way to stop that. But I’m changing too, and I hope if I’m changing in ways that better me that others are changing for the better too. Just because everything you love is different now, doesn’t mean it’s worse.