Album Review: Big Year | Big Boys NYC
The Sanctum has already welcomed the eccentric work of Big Boys NYC once and their latest LP ‘Big Year’ has already two reason to make you curious about what they did this time. The cover art is one of them, consisted of 9 artworks, 9 different pieces/stories to discover. Even though each of them could stand alone, the band chose to put it all in one place for their own reasons and it’s indeed intriguing. The 12 tracks, titled as the 12 months of the year is the second reason. I’ll say no more so let’s get sucked into this artful vortex.
January opens the album with a rustic texture that can actually turn me on as the graphic designer that I am. For the lovers of art, sound meets visuals during the first month of the year. The instrumental and overall feeling is surprisingly ‘wintery’ which is a success by itself. Here we find warmth, romanticism and keys that feel nostalgic. A great start, not too slow, not too loud. Just right I’d say.
As ‘February’ enters, the echoing metallic sound sends me back to the gorgeous opening of ‘Thin’ by iamamiwhoami from the album BLUE. It’s just as mystical and heavenly. We have whimpering wind synths and bright metallic sounds forming melodies under a laid-back beat. The sound is so spacy it makes the percussion feel extra mighty and dominant. The track is closing sharply (caught me off guard) to give its place to ‘March’. I’m not sure if it’s universal but here in Greece we have a saying about March being the worst and most bizarre month of them all. Obviously because of the unpredictable weather. Now the homonymous track by BBNYC is not even close to bad but it’s just as weird and unpredictable, embracing a good amount of confusion created by disparate keys and distorted, abstractly chopped vocals, all that placed in a constructive manner. It is not for everyone but it’s definitely there to offer what it does. Moving on to ‘April’, right in the middle of spring, the music gets mischievous and playful thanks to this old-school synth that makes me visualize pixelated vintage game characters dancing to the maddening rhythm. If BBNYC were to put lyrics into this one, I bet it would make a perfect electro pop single in the likes of La Roux’s ‘Bulletproof’. On to ‘May’, my personal favorite until now. ‘May’ is slowly burning under an urban landscape, into secret underground passages where no light can reach. It feels like a boiling pot of electro sounds that is slowly brewing itself until it reaches its peak and fade into ‘June’.
In the first month of summer we have all the materials prepared by ‘May’, transformed into a robotic language. If I had to label this track, I’d call it a ‘Lab Anthem’ for its sharpness and intellectual –almost scientific- approach. ‘June’ is playing in the background of every hacker’s missions and so is ‘July’, maybe even more fittingly. The percussion is rushing in like digital bullets flying in fast forward, then into slow-motion and back to their original speed. That’s the exact structure here. Striking and futuristic. Now even though I was expecting something carefree and relaxing for my favorite month, August, BBNYC had other plans! The end of summer sounds all serious and threatening like a wild cat observing its prey from behind the bushes before it attacks. This is light years away from relaxing! But even so, this grainy synth brings back the texture after all those months (!) and together with a huge snare makes ‘August’ a big, memorable moment in ‘Big Year’.
Autumn comes a bit rough, with the ominous ‘September’ which can creep you out with its haunting keys and devilish laughter if you listen to this sitting in the darkness. The atmosphere gets heavy and aggressive as ‘September’ turns into ‘October’, a badass soundtrack piece that knows its power like the protagonist of an action/revenge film in the likes of Resident Evil. Not only this track sounds more cinematic than it was (maybe) intended but there’s also a Film Noir flavor to it. I’m thinking Sin City or something of this sort. And after all this tension, the bass of ‘November’ is opening its huge mouth to swallow the listener into oblivion. If cold emptiness had a sound, this is it. And if you think that the void is a place of dead silence, just wait until the track’s closure where you’ll witness the most nerve-wrecking, uncomfortable moment in the album.
‘December’ is loaded with anxiety, speed and an ever-changing character like a rollercoaster going through a variety of loops, from old radio effects to gaming vibes and from Dracula-style keys into the familiar robotic abstraction. Even though ‘December’ would not make sense in another place, here in ‘Big Year’ it comes as no surprise, finds its home and serves its purpose.
If I go back to BBNYC’s ‘Untethered’ EP, I’d say that their sound is a lot less noisy and aggressive now, reaching another level of playfulness and maturity. Or maybe the LP format offered a wider space for the band to unfold a fuller spectrum of their vision and ability. Either way, we have a conceptual album, weird and versatile as the actual year we’ve been through (or maybe couple of years), that dares to embrace confusion and creative freedom without being outlandishly experimental. Theoretically, this combo sounds hard to achieve but it seems to flow out of BBNYC naturally. ‘Big Year’ is multi-layered enough to keep your mind busy and multi-faceted enough to expand your musical horizons. Music should be liberating after all and so it needs no borders, labels and standards. Cheers!
Listen to 'Big Year' here: