Anime, Trauma and Divorce , the newest album from Open Mike Eagle, hits an emotional chord that feels humbling and familiar, examining insecurities and anguish alongside the ways we cope with them. It’s observational, funny and—most importantly—highly relatable.
The Chicago-born and L.A.-based MC comes hot off the heels of his critically acclaimed album Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, dropping bar after bar of self-deprecative jokes and references to a wide array of anime—from the existential nightmare of “Neon Genesis Evangelion” to the musically inclined, surreal action fantasy that is “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.” We’re given personal insights into his mental state, balancing self care and routine amid a divorce and fallouts with friends.
Opening track “Death Parade” explores the cycle of violence over unsettling distorted beats, where Open Mike Eagle vents his personal frustrations with increasingly angrier bars. Subsequently, he transitions to the lighthearted “Headass (Idiot Shinji),” on which he roasts himself with an arrangement you’d expect from Kendrick Lamar.
“Sweatpants Spiderman” opens with a solemn-sounding 8-bit-melody-driven beat, where the rapper born Michael W. Eagle II raps about his lifestyle and some of the changes in it. There seems to be a bit of a jaded quality to the verse as he lists off the things of interest to him with an air of dispassion. As anyone who’s had depression would know, you often will find little pleasure in the things you otherwise love. It’s an incredibly relatable song.
Single “Bucciarati” begins with a subdued set of jazzy horns and drumming, accompanied with a fuzzy organ in the background. Open Mike Eagle pours out his anguish and misery: “I need a doctor to look at this chart/ I need to ask who took me apart/ I need more fingers to pick up the pieces/ I really don’t know where to start.”
A guest appearance by Kari Faux on the chorus and the closing verse tie into the idea that “misery loves company” as she, too, opens up about her own demons: “As I grew older, void got bigger/ Tryin’ to fill the hole with sex, maybe liquor/ What’s the difference ‘tween the saint and the sinner/ Rather isolate myself ’cause I can beg you to differ/ Sometimes I can’t recognize who’s in the mirror.”
“The Edge of New Clothes” has a trap-meets-tropical flavor to it that brings back the uneasiness of “Death Parade,” as Open Mike Eagle explores the way in which people cover up their vulnerabilities—in this case with sheer bravado. “Everything Ends Last Year” takes on a more relaxed quality with some fuzzy and sparse guitar playing as he ruminates on falling out with some of his friends and collaborators.
“The Black Mirror Episode” opens with the sounds of water washing up on the shore, quickly interrupted with the echoing chanting: “Black Mirror episode ruined my marriage.” Open Mike Eagle goes on to detail how he found himself in a divorce after an evening watching an episode of “Black Mirror.” There’s a sort of silliness to the concept, because the show was probably not the cause but just a catalyst that led to the split.
The humorous and informative “WTF is Self Care” once again gives listeners a breather from the heavier content of the album. Open Mike Eagle asserts the importance of taking care of oneself in both a literal sense of dieting and getting rest, as well as finding time to enjoy things in life. “It’s like journaling/ Writing shit that feels nurturing/ Tried it out and found pain I was circling/ Started crying so hard I was gurgling,” he raps.
“I’m a JoeStar (Black Power Fantasy)” revives the backing 8-bit melody with synth bells bouncing back and forth between each ear as the clapping trap beat kicks into gear. Open Mike Eagle fully embraces his inner weeb as he creates his own season of the TV show—with himself as the (Joe) star.
As the album comes to a close, we’re treated to “Airplane Boneyard.” The song has a warping, pulsating and hollow beat with a subtle bass line. It’s followed by a live performance of “Fifteen Twenty Feet Ocean Nah.” The former explores the rapper’s career path that began with menial jobs and led to success—and the unfortunate lack of satisfaction he has had in his work. The latter details a not-so-great family snorkeling trip. It’s a humorous and light way to close out the dense album.
Anime, Trauma and Divorce strikes a chord with Open Mike Eagle’s brutal honesty and vulnerability. He covers his personal struggles with self-worth, relationships and happiness. The rawness of the subject matter will stand the test of time.
Follow editor Tim Hoffman at Twitter.com/hipsterp0tamus.