BA?RNS sophomore release sets the bar high for music in 2018


Odds are that if you have been engaged in the indie music scene from about 2014 onwards, or even just the music scene in general, you’re probably aware of the name BA?RNS. From his big radio hit “Electric Love” to “Time Flies,” to before he dropped his first name for the stage name, the Michigan native has translated his love of music into a successful career, proving that even further with the release of his new album, Blue Madonna.

In his first album release, Dopamine, BA?RNS explored a multitude of 70s iconography, incorporating not only sounds reminiscent of 70s soul and rock but also the imagery of the decade with his own distinct modern spin of electro-indie alternative pop. The entire album brought an element of eternal jubilancy and excitement. If Dopamine is the embodiment of the phrase “larger than life,” then his sophomore release Blue Madonna brings about an entirely different, yet still distinctly BA?RNS, perspective of the world around us.

A new perspective on mortality is added to BA?RNS sound on Blue Madonna. In several interviews regarding the new release, BA?RNS spoke about realizing his mortality and wanting to translate that feeling into his new work. With imagery of comic books, plasma balls, and the cosmos, the album becomes its own mysterious universe. The imagery of his albums have always been an important element to the music, and the dichotomy of these two releases’ colors puts another piece into the puzzle of the enigmatic personality of the mastermind behind it all.

The album was preceded by four singles. “Faded Heart” was released in July of 2017 and was the first to set the tone for what would become Blue Madonna. Its lyrics pertaining to the feeling of mortality and feeling of life as it’s happening and not in retrospect bring the entirely new feeling of this era of BA?RNS. The single became my summer anthem with its shimmering indie rock vibe and fun lyrics, and it was a spot-on way to gain excitement for the new album.

Blue Madonna starts off with “God Save Our Young Blood,” a sort of nostalgic-for-the-present tune featuring alternative music’s siren queen, Lana Del Rey, who he also teams up with on the title track “Blue Madonna.” The song sets the same tone as “Faded Heart” with an entirely different execution. Overall, it breathes mortal life into the idea of the album and completely brought me into the world of the album as it’s not depressing by contemplating human mortality, but an intricate work that can almost see the bigger picture.

Other notable songs include “Second Night of Summer” in which BA?RNS explores the feeling of being forgotten by a lover. Lyrics such as “throwing me that shade like I’m not cool enough,” show his fear of being forgotten and seen as insignificant, while still preserving his sort of comically cool rockstar confidence. In other singles such as “Sweet Dreams” and “I Don’t Want U Back,” BA?RNS also explores indie synth sounds while still maintaining interesting baselines, beats, and his own personal sound.

Songs like “Man,” “Supernatural,” and “We Don’t Care” clearly show what hasn’t changed in BA?RNSa�� craft. Most prevalent are the inspirations that you can hear in the undercurrents of each track. His inspirations that are most visible are from 60s and 70s bands such as The Turtles, whose soaring choruses are mimicked in many of BA?RNSa�� songs prior to and including his most recent work. “Man” in particular starts out with a nearly identical beginning to the bass line of “Past Lives” off of his previous release, Dopamine.

Personally, my favorite song on the album was “Bye-bye Darling,” which talks about the passage of time with a farewell tune. In the song, he bids adieu to the “paperback age,” the “telephone age,” and the “accident age.” Enveloped in this tune are some of his most interesting and original lyrics. When referring to the “accident age” it made me immediately think of how it’s no longer so common that things happen serendipitously. It seems that everything is now planned in the technology age, so his lyrics “Goodbye to the accident age, I’ll miss the chance to meet you on the street, sweep you off your feet,” spoke to that effect deeply to me.

“Bye-bye Darling” is the last song on the album, and certainly ends it on a very BA?RNS note with a flourish of retro musing. After the song ends, there’s a short bit of a different song that caps off the album. In this pseudo-song, BA?RNS uses close harmonies which instantly became reminiscent of the Mamas and the Papa’s 1967 album Deliver which falls into exactly the realm that BA?RNS finds comfort in.

Overall, I found BA?RNSa�� Blue Madonna to be a masterful success for the Michigan-born singer. I can’t imagine a time where I haven’t had this on repeat since it has been released, and I can’t see any end to my obsession with this album on the horizon; I highly recommend that everyone listens to it.