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Friday, September 22, 2023

Garrett Borns triumphs in evocative new album

Electrifying pop hooks. A dreamy voice of smooth gold. The vibrations of pulsating synthesizers. All are recurring themes on Garrett Borns’ first studio album, Dopamine.

Originally from Michigan, BØRNS moved to Los Angeles to record his first release, seemingly capturing the endless supply of sun, excitement and inspiration that the sprawling metropolis has to offer. Dopamine is printed by Interscope Records, showing that Interscope’s lineup of artists covers almost as many themes, people and environments as the city in which it is based.

In the vein of Kevin Parker of Tame Impala, Garrett Borns uses a falsetto and production themes from all over the world of music to create an album that sucks listeners into a world of glittering love and ecstasy. Lana Del Rey and HAIM are clear inspirations for BØRNS, and if it weren’t for Odd Future and Top Dog Entertainment, one would think that all music coming out of Los Angeles was Rodeo Drive glitz, Hollywood Hills glamour and Manhattan Beach sun-bleached photographs.

It is difficult to find a bad spot on this album, not a surprise when Emile Haynie (frequent Lana Del Rey collaborator) and Jeff Bhasker (frequent Kanye West collaborator) are often listed with production credits. The verses on the track “Dopamine” can be a bit annoying and uncomfortable, and “Electric Love” is a bit monotonous. Yet these small disturbances do not affect the endless playability of Dopamine.

“10,000 Emerald Pools” is a pop ballad that sounds like a sunny Sunday morning. The synths of “Dug My Heart” are hypnotizing, and when mixed with Borns’ vocals create a wonderfully entertaining display that calls to mind the work of Beach House. “American Money” employs the popular trend of blown-out, distorted guitar. “Past Lives” is sad and poppy, electronic and a cappella.

Dopamine is formed around love and sunshine, but as the listener ventures through the 40-minute project, every life experience—every happiness and every sadness—will come to mind. And that is the triumph witnessed here. Dopamine is a soundtrack for life made by an artist who has made the most of his 23 years and will continue to make the most of what is to come. 

Grade: A

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