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Every week, we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is Brijean’s new EP, Angelo.
Brijean make music to escape to. Percussionist and singer Brijean Murphy told VMP last year, “I write just to soothe anxiety and enjoy the playful and gentle respite from gnarly stuff. If I imagine a space that feels really good, it’s a little trip.”
In 2019, after Murphy and multi-instrumentalist and producer Doug Stuart met gigging around the Bay Area music scene — Murphy as a live and session percussionist for artists like Toro Y Moi, Poolside and U.S. Girls and Stuart as a trained jazz musician and self-taught producer — they put out Walkie Talkie, an album of tropical house that embodied a transportive beachside vibe. The duo signed with Ghostly early in the pandemic and released Feelings the following year. As many people were stuck inside and live music had not yet returned, the record’s jazz-infused dance tracks and tranquil meditations encouraged self-reflection, connection and dancing as much as possible.
On Brijean’s new EP Angelo, the desire to lose oneself in music and movement went from being a collective desire to a personal necessity. Since the release of Feelings, Brijean experienced loss with the sudden passing of Murphy’s father and both of Stuart’s parents. A 1981 Toyota Celica the pair named Angelo brought Murphy and Stuart from city to city to be near friends and family, eventually settling them in Los Angeles. The car serves as a spiritual vehicle, too. “Angelo, Angelo, can you transport me?” Murphy asks over a hypnotic house beat, like she’s chanting into a crystal ball.
Brijean’s first stop with Angelo is the club, where clomping heels introduce a return to nightlife. A disco groove and scattered percussion capture a crowded nightclub on “Take A Trip,” while the hazy “Shy Guy” conveys a playful flirtation with the dude sheepishly hanging out at the edge of the dancefloor. Unlike Feelings, which the duo completed through jam sessions with collaborators, Angelo was recorded and produced entirely by Murphy and Stuart. This spotlights their strengths, like Stuart’s atmospheric production and bold basslines. Murphy’s work as a visual artist continues to show through textured synths and kaleidoscopic production on “Colors,” not to mention in her own artwork on the EP’s cover. The sheer variety and talent of percussion Murphy demonstrates — from wood blocks, to congas, to tambourine — is particularly bittersweet, knowing that her late father, Patrick Murphy, was a percussionist and engineer who introduced her to the skill.
As the EP winds down, Angelo takes Brijean to where they rarely go musically: back home. “Caldwell’s Way” is an ode to their Bay Area community, Brijean’s most lyric-heavy song to date and perhaps the closest they’ve gotten to balladry. At a time of grief and uncertainty, daydreaming and longing for escape can only take Brijean so far. Looking inward is sometimes the only way forward. “I wanna lose my phone / I can’t keep choosing time alone / Where do we float onto next?” Murphy softly wonders on “Where Do We Go?” which turns out to be Angelo’s central question. The answers are unclear, but Brijean has the vehicle to take them there.
Natalia Barr is a music and culture writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in publications like Rolling Stone, Interview Magazine, Consequence of Sound, and Crack Magazine. Find her on social media @nataliabarr_.
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