Interscope, 2015

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love


On his eagerly anticipated full-length debut, Los Angeles transplant BØRNS takes the pop confections of last year’s Candy EP and repackages them to a somewhat halfhearted effect. Much like a box of chocolates, there are some tasty morsels to be found but also some duds, and while this disc is listenable throughout, it’s not a fully satisfying experience.

Where the four-song Candy EP was all sparkly, glam energy, stretched out to 11 tracks, you can start to see the cracks in the glimmer. Three of those four cuts make it onto Dopamine, and they sound wonderful as always. Opener “10,000 Emerald Pools” is still a lush love ballad, highlighting BØRNS’ gorgeous falsetto, and “Electric Love” is the flashpoint of the album, standing up to endless repetitions. The rest of the new material has a pop sensibility that pulls from a wide array of influences, from ‘60s Beach Boys-esque harmonies to silky Prince grooves to T. Rex glam. The BØRNS aesthetic is well crafted enough that all these songs are enjoyable, but there’s just something up with the sequencing of this disc that prevents it from being fully immersive.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

For instance, the downbeat, lovelorn “Dug My Heart” is sandwiched between “10,000 Emerald Pools” and cuts off abruptly before “Electric Love,” which is as effervescent and jaunty as “Dug My Heart” is placidly heartbroken. Next up, “American Money” is actually quite catchy and dynamic in tempo, but I can’t figure out whether the tone here is meant to be ironic (“Take me to that paradise in your eye / Green like American money”), particularly given that this disc features production from Emile Haynie (Lana Del Rey’s Born To Die). In Lana’s hands, it would be obvious, but with BØRNS, everything sounds like a love song. Meanwhile, lead single “The Emotion” is as frustratingly vague as its title would imply.

Still, the second half of the album shines most when it gets a little funkier – like on the soaring falsetto and sultry grooves of “Holy Ghost” or closer “Fool,” which sounds plucked straight out of the ‘70s with its breathy synths and the glossy vocals on that rafter-reaching chorus. It’s baffling that “Fool” would be saved to the end when it’s such an attention-grabber; it basically begs you to sing along on first listen. Also worth a mention is the slow-melting “Clouds,” which unfolds with a sense of weariness and longing that sets it apart.

So, for an album that seems to promise it’ll stoke your pleasure receptors, Dopmine doesn’t fully deliver on that promise. Still, BØRNS shows promise as an artist, with a gift for pop songcraft that will hopefully be harnessed to even better use as he grows.

Rating: C

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