Within the past two years, Los Angeles-based musician Garrett Borns has been on the rise. After the release of last year’s LP “Candy,” Borns — affectionately, “BØRNS” — began garnering attention for his ethereal blend of psychedelic and electro-glam pop. The Michigan native takes his name from the Danish word for children, an appropriate moniker. With the October 16th release of Borns’ debut album “Dopamine,” Borns stays true to his name, crafting an album that revels in the dreamy haze of childhood nostalgia; an experience equal parts amusing and cathartic.
I, like most of Borns’ early following (including Taylor Swift) was introduced to “Candy” last year and was hooked almost instantly. Infectious — to say it lightly — Borns' rich synth sounds and swinging falsettos are hard to pass on. Yet at only 4 songs, “Candy” could only satisfy so much of my pop fill, and I began religiously checking all my sources for new releases. Thankfully, my wait ended last week, and after ripping through “Dopamine” on my daily walks from Carroll to DeBartolo (approx. 8 hours, give or take), it seems my pop fill will be long-satisfied.
Borns’ ability to effortlessly craft suave pop jams stands at the cornerstone of the album, showcased on songs like “10,000 Emerald Pools,” “Fool” and of course the already-hit, “Electric Love.” Yet, what is so distinct about the newcomer’s blend of pop is its dynamism. Presently, the bane of most indie-pop albums has been homogeneity and tedium, yet in “Dopamine,” every song provides new insights and perspectives. While pop may be at the core of the album, soul, funk, brooding rock and glam permeate throughout, proving an entertaining exploration.
In many of the new songs, Borns investigates subtly, showcasing his songwriting ability and artistic range. One such moment comes in “American Money” — “We carved our love in the mountainside/ We soaked our hearts in the rain/ And I, waited my life, for you.” Borns muses over a chorus of ominous synth beats and a simple drum pad loop, reminiscent of Lana Del Rey’s recent “Honeymoon.” Similar to Del Rey, Borns has the rare ability to readily transition back and forth from these slow, soulful moments to catchy pop sing-a-long choruses. Soul doesn’t mean boring, and subtlety doesn’t mean simple on “Dopamine.”
The strongest moment on “Dopamine” comes early in the title track, “10,000 emerald Pools.” Meticulously layering rich synths and wispy guitar riffs, Borns accompanies the track with an irresistible plea of falsetto mastery, “You’re all I need to breathe.” The song crescendos to one of the most powerful moments on the album in the chorus, a chorus — to the chagrin of my roommates — one can’t help but belt out.
Yet it is important to remember that “Dopamine” is still a debut album, a great debut, but a debut nonetheless. The album has some minor growing pains, but if anything it means we have more to look forward to. Whether this means adventuring with new mediums or collaborating with new artists, with Borns’ remarkable talent and impressive start the possibilities are almost endless.