NNAMDÏ - BRAT (Cover Artwork)


BRAT (2020)

Sooper Records

Punk rock at its best is community. It’s through the community many find a sense of self, lifetime connections, and countless hours of music that provide life affirmation. To this day, it’s still this community that constantly introduces new connections and art to me. For example, a few weeks ago while scouring social media for something I hadn’t heard before on a quest to fill the empty hole in my heart where concerts currently lay, I stumbled across a tweet from Maxwell Stern of Signals Midwest promoting a new release by NNAMDÏ, a former tour mate. Intrigued, I grabbed my headphones and put on BRAT.

BRAT is the fourth album by NNAMDÏ and my first experience with the Chicago scene multi-instrumentalist. As the scattered acoustic guitar strums kicked off “Flowers To My Demons” mixing math rock and half sung, half rhymed vocals, I conjured up something close to Minus The Bear as a comparison, a band many of my friends love, but I’ve never been into. But as the song’s maximalist conclusion began to grow with each layer emptying out into the bass drop centered beat on “Gimmie Gimmie,” I knew my search was successful and settled in.

BRAT is impossible to pin down rhetorically and can be described as intentionally maximalist. There are so many sounds on this album it demands full attention and can be a challenging listen. Moments not to miss are buried down every musical left turn. The jazzy kick-pop of the snare drum a minute into “Everyone I Loved” in the song's first transition eventually gives way to psychedelic guitars and falsetto vocals. ”Perfect In My Mind” layers post-punk guitars with the chaotic energy of jazz and emo. The spacey hip-hop beats on the back to back of “Price Went Up” and “Really Don’t” recall early A$AP Rocky.

NNAMDÏ sings, rhymes, raps and deploys his vocal patterns generously on BRAT. It’s easy to have your ears lulled into the use of vocals as an instrumental layer until he calls you to attention with a lyric or inflection. On “Everyone I Loved”, the interplay between the smooth vocals singing “I can’t never / Trust my elders / Or my friends again” with background chants and final couplet in a scaled falsetto, “Everyone and god / Has let me down,” is one of those moments. A song about numbing yourself to loss. On “It’s OK,” NNAMDÏ deploys auto tuned vocals to create certainty in the final word of the lyric, “There’s no need to pretend / It’s ok if you’re not.” It brings acceptance to the sentiment.

BRAT is a community unto itself. It’s best absorbed as participation of joy in all musical communities which is clearly where NNAMDÏ's inspirations are. I hear punk rock in this, but I also hear jazz, emo, math rock, trap, hip-hop, and beyond. While it’s unsure when we can all be together in community again, for forty minutes BRAT creates that feeling.