Following on from the release of their debut album Evergreen in 2014 and the international attention that came both before and after its release, BROODS’ follow-up sounds like something you would expect from them, albeit with a twist. Conscious feels deceptively similar yet refreshingly different, keeping the breezy echo of their debut but filtering in a darker side, alongside some natural instrumentation, to expand their palette and make for a more dynamic album. Results tend to vary, but this is no reason to shy away from it.
The lead single for Conscious, Free, sets up the album’s new mood perfectly; minimal as they may be, the industrial elements to the song give it an edge that their debut largely lacked, retaining the massive hooks but giving them a more foreboding backdrop. Almost as if to bookend the package, the album’s title track Conscious closes the album in a similar way, with a dark beat backing Georgia Nott’s light yet powerful vocals, with the chanting of the song’s hook adding a touch of drama that gives it its own sinister appeal. For those interested in the echoing brightness of their debut, the shimmering synthpop of Heartlines and the minimal yet pure synths of We Had Everything evoke a similar sense of style, expertly melding with their darker brothers without feeling dated or out of place; We Had Everything in particular shows off the album’s inclusion of live instrumentation, with piano playing a major part in its production, giving it an extra catch that makes it one of the album’s highlights.
The most striking moment on the album, and perhaps its centrepiece moment, comes with Recovery. Mixing a sweeping, almost choral synth arrangement with an infectious clicking beat, it makes the most of the album’s improved production values while playing alongside Georgia’s vocals perfectly, whether she be repeating the song’s simple hook or screaming her heart out as the song closes. The song also heralds the album’s weakest moment, however; the stretch of songs that come after Recovery and before Bedroom Door are the album’s weakest, and mostly feel like filler in comparison to the rest of the album; Couldn’t Believe, Full Blown Love and Worth The Fight are the only songs to really lack any factor that makes them instantly worth a second visit, which is somewhat disappointing after such a slew of strong tracks. Similarly, the Tove Lo feature track Freak of Nature feels somewhat unnecessary in the grand scheme of the album, which is disappointing as it comes during the album’s strongest point.
But with nine strong tracks left to enjoy from the album, this feels like a minor complaint. While cutting some filler could have left a better impression, the pure strength of the album’s opening and middle sections and the improvement that occurs over the album’s last two tracks makes up for its shortcomings. The improved production and fuller sound makes for a much more compelling piece of work, with both Georgia and Caleb showing immense growth since their already enjoyable debut. Conscious may not be a perfect follow-up, but BROODS deftly avoided the sophomore slump and managed to create an incredibly enjoyable piece of work.