Broken Hearts Club

The Odd Future alum matches raw emotion with buzzy synths and 80s sophisti-pop, finds Nathan Evans

Syd knows how to turn naivety into an asset. Broken Hearts Club chronicles a relationship from untrusting beginnings to blissful romance to agonising breakup. Calling to mind Lianne La Havas’ self-titled record from 2020, Syd hits the same narrative beats as that album but spends more time soaking in the sensual highs of her first real romance. That feeling rubs off on the record like graphite, as the LP dances around the dial of modern R&B with a lovestruck glee.

The record’s opening act finds Syd seeking assurances and trust from this new potential lover, yet the songs that bind this moment do little to convince of the album’s merits at first. ‘CYBAH’ cannot escape the jaws of Jai Paul knock-off territory, and for a make-out song, the 80s sophisti-pop pastiche used on ‘Fast Car’ isn’t exactly a turn-on. Fittingly though, quality begins to glimmer through on ‘Right Track’. Taking its cues from the classic era of 2000s guitaR&B, Syd delivers such a flirtatious performance that it makes the reflective mind state she sings from here sound impulsive. From there, she dives right into the core of Broken Hearts Club.

‘Sweet’ expresses the unreal excitement of love actually blossoming, and ‘Getting Late’ brings with it her most ecstatic vocal performance. Kehlani walks in wrapped in a feather boa on ‘Out Loud’, and the pair channel Musiq Soulchild’s cutting chords and conversational lyrics. Syd yearns for more commitment from her lover, sick of being treated as a secret side piece. It seems like the relationship could buckle under the weight of its increasing seriousness.

‘BMHWDY’ is where the script catches alight, where the smooth keys and guitars are gutted and replaced with distressing textures that sound like a malfunction. You can hear Syd’s world unravelling. She lays a hauntingly simple tune atop that mourns the broken promise that was sealed in track one, leaving her with ugly emotions to fight through.

After composing herself on the thoughtful ‘Goodbye My Love’ interlude, her send-off message is one of newfound self-confidence. The buzzy ascending synths on ‘Missing Out’ say everything: she’s growing past this love, bounding onto whatever is next, and her ex is unfortunate to lose the opportunity.

Where Lianne La Havas follows a more mature, world-weary protagonist that can pick out details like no other, Broken Hearts Club uses Syd’s inexperience to its advantage. There’s no clever foreshadowing here, and the real-time emotions make the death of the relationship so much more powerful. Both she and we got something terrific out of it.

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