Cutting her teeth as a member of Charli XCX’s touring band, and bumping shoulders with the likes of CupcakKe, Empress Of and SOPHIE on her debut album, ‘Look At Us Now Dad’, Banoffee was beginning to make a strong case for herself as Melbourne’s own princess of hyperpop.
But right after that album hit shelves in February, Brown’s rollercoaster of a life took a straight nosedive. There were the obvious obstacles thrown her way by the pandemic, like a cancelled world tour, and a forced move back to Melbourne from her adopted home of Los Angeles. But there was also the cataclysmic end of a long-term relationship, painfully drawn out for a number of reasons, not the least of which being the fact she and her soon-to-be ex had to spend months in each other’s company through lockdown.
- READ MORE: Banoffee on new album ‘Tear Tracks’: “It can feel very double-sided to have a break-up record written about you”
Catharsis came in the form of songwriting, with Brown penning the bulk of new record ‘Tear Tracks’ while her relationship was deteriorating. Most breakup albums are written after the partnership ends – and Brown’s, written in real-time, is exceptionally raw. Though fans of the more explosive bangers on ‘Look At Us Now’ might come away from it feeling shorted, ‘Tear Tracks’ is a consistently spellbinding journey through the pillars and potholes of Brown’s psyche. Its sonics are beautiful and bruised in equal measure, the enigmatic artist’s heady musings on love and other human flaws playing out like diary entries set to glitched-out MIDI instrumentals.
‘Tear Tracks’ offers a window into Brown’s often choppy stream of consciousness, clean of the glittery metaphors and colourful stories an artist might hide behind on a more reflective breakup record. Take for example ‘Something Great’, where amid a dizzying soundscape of ultra-slick sub-bass and modulated vocal chop-ups, she howls: “And even though you won’t look me in the eye / I’m here to tell you that I will never lie to you / I will tell you straight, we had something great.”
Brown allows herself to feel vulnerable and hurt – see ‘Idiot’, where she beats herself up for missing her ex, or the genuinely touching ‘Tears’, where she dolefully concedes that her ex will “always be [her] best friend”. But she also pries into the parts of a breakup that pop ballads would typically shy from, like on ‘Never Get To Fuck Any1’, where Brown worries nobody will ever pleasure her the way her ex did.
As a follow-up to ‘Look At Us Now Dad’ – which was built around ultra-bright, caffeinated hits primed for clubs and festivals – ‘Tear Tracks’ is admittedly a risky detour. Brown is well aware of that: she split from her former label Dot Dash to sidestep potential pushback on an entire album of balladry. On ‘Tear Tracks’, Brown brushes off the unspoken rule that a sophomore effort must be bigger and more theatrical in favour of something gentler, more candid and closer to the heart.
Of course, Brown hasn’t shed any of her weird and wonderful flair. She teamed up with Charles Teiller (of Planet 1999, the first act signed to PC Music), Sydney producer Petro and close friend Ceci G to build soundscapes that, while emotive and even heartrending, burst at the seams with that bubblegum buoyancy only ascribable to Banoffee. Take ‘Pill’, a prickly pop anthem about growing numb to medication cycles. Or the crystalline haze of ‘Tapioca Cheeks’, a cruisy bop about how Brown loved it when her ex cried because it made him vulnerable, comparing his freckles to bubble tea pearls (the taro kind, to be precise).
On ‘Look At Us Now Dad’, Brown tackled themes of hereditary trauma, self-acceptance and abuse. It was a sober, devastating portrait of a broken soul desperate for clarity. While we find Banoffee more broken than before on ‘Tear Tracks’, there is a subtle note of optimism to be gleaned from it: she might not too emotionally stable right now, but she’s taking the steps necessary to get there, working through her trauma through songwriting and freeing herself sharing the results with the world. And whether you choose to dwell in the melancholy of ‘Tear Tracks’ or rummage for its shimmery slivers of hope, the album’s beauty is downright inescapable.
- Release date: November 10
- Record label: Prime8 Music