Hailing from Nelson, New Zealand, Broods have always specialised in a glacially cool strain of alt-pop at odds with their beachy home city. Across the course of their 2014 debut album ‘Evergreen’ and second record ‘Conscious’, the duo have messed around with their synth-pop foundations a bit, veering from a gloomy, industrial glower to the hulking balladry of Tove Lo collaboration ‘Freak of Nature’. At times, across those records, their darkness failed to fully ignite. Though snappy production from Lorde collaborator Joel Little painted a glossy picture, the duo were still the process of finding their voice beneath it; while songs like ‘Heartlines’ and ‘Never Gonna Change’ are stone cold bangers, other album tracks felt a little hit-and-miss – competent, if a little lacking in spark. Too much gloss is not always a good thing.
On the other hand, ‘Don’t Feed the Pop Monster’ fully leans into playfulness, from the kitschy visuals through to their entire sonic approach. ‘Peach’, complete with snappy plunks of piano and a knowing cry of “everything’s looking peach now”, bottles pure joy, just as elsewhere they capture the pained ache of being left behind. “Every time you go, I cry, oceans pouring from my eyes,” Nott sings, one part self aware, two parts torturously heartbroken, Broods shares fellow Kiwi Lorde’s gift for carefully wielded melodrama (which the latter covets so much that she named her last album after it).
Broods might urge listeners not to feed the pop monster on their third album, but at the same time, embracing immediacy and straight-up lyrics has done the duo no end of favours. Channelling the minimal simplicity of Julia Michaels, ‘Why Do You Believe Me?’ burrows deep into the through-the-motions pain of a relationship that’s spluttering out of existence, while the eerily choral ‘To Belong’ is a freeze-framed moment on the dancefloor, inserting itself into the brain of a hedonistic reveller trying to seek safety in numbers.
According to Broods, ‘Don’t Feed the Pop Monster’ is about feeding the pop angel instead. When Nott sings “I’m an old dog now / I’m not here just to please / Get that leash off of me” on the biting ‘Old Dog’ it’s something of a mission statement for the whole record. Broods are actively shedding expectations, chasing a sound that sounds brighter and more vivid. Though this record is as polished as anything they’ve done before, it somehow feels easier to break through the sheen, and get to the heart this time around.