Ernest Brockenberry’s debut LP “Depression General Store…” reveals wonders on every aisle

Words by Jason Lee

If singer/songwriter/instrumentalist/producer Ernest Brockenberry were a resident of A.A. Milne’s apocryphal Hundred Acre Wood instead of Brooklyn, New York there’s a good chance the former’s notoriously dyspeptic Eeyore would be a less depressed donkey than his usual droopy-eyed, self-deprecating, tail-misplacing self, or at the very least he’d be a dyspeptic donkey who feels heard thanks to Brockenberry’s lushly meditative tone poems including the song “Eeyore” crossing the stark avant-R&B ardency of Frank Ocean or Blood Orange with the bracing synth-based indie-pop songcraft of Porches or Bleachers not to mention how TV on the Radio’s vanguard-defining debut EP Young Liars came out around 20 years ago today which seems more than merely coincidental…

…cuz on track three of EB’s debut full-length LP Depression General Store of Non-Specific UnFeeling Ernest addresses Eeyore directly on “Eeyore”, offering to “bury your secrets / and kill all your demons / patch up the holes / inside of your mind” which is just the sort of clear-eyed expression of empathy Eeyore has long needed to hear from his forest-dwelling pals but never does due to Tigger’s false bravado, Piglet’s naiveté, and Pooh’s well-meaning ever-upbeat attitude meaning none of them are in any way capable of acknowledging the ass’s tragic sadness (it’s a shame you’re always blue) much less the strangely spellbinding allure of said blue mood (my favorite color is blue […] it looks so good on you)…

Photos by Raney Charlevoix Peterson

…and what’s more, moving beyond mere empathy, Ernest expresses a desire not only to console but to “wait at your bedside / just so you can wake / with you hand in mine” with such amorous intentions made even clearer as the song progresses with mentions of 2am booty calls and 3am taxi rides all delivered over a compulsively unceasing rhythmic pulse adorned with gossamer harmonies, crystalline synths curlicues, and echo-laden peals of ghostly guitar, all of which capturing the lyrics’ equally non-intuitive mixture of melancholia and eroticism

…and so it goes thru much of the record in various sonic and conceptual permutations like on track elevan, “Mad,” which I’d venture to say is the first nü-elecro-soul-gospel-trap-dub song I’ve ever heard plus that coda hits in a certain kinda way or track four “Freakout” which audaciously flips an oft-sampled classic, “Le Freak” by Chic (1978), namely the opening disco mating-call “whooooop” which in its new setting comes off more like an internal flash of panic (“cold sweats like I’m sixteen”) which isn’t to imply Ernest lacks for a sense of humor (see for starters “Eeyore” even if the humor depends upon knowing the titular character) with wry tossed-off asides like “today I’m glad for my object permanence / to know that you’ll be back when you slip away again” (“Bully”) and perfectly Zen distillations of romantic calamity (“loving you is complicated / loving me is complicated”) that reduces nearly every love song ever to a mere eight words…

…but whatever the particular mix of gloom, humor, lust, affliction and affection expressed in any given tune (e.g., “coughing blood on my favorite shirt / Cheshire grin even when it hurts”) the one constant for this listener at least is how Ernest Brockenberry sounds like he’s forever observing and contemplating these various goings on from the eye of the hurricane—a calm center in the midst of concentric circles of chaos and pain, swirling from without and within—which makes the album no matter how fraught its inspiration and lyrical explications feel like a big snugly (admittedly snarled and scratchy in places) security blanket and couldn’t we all use one of those right now…

POSTSCRIPT: Ernest celebrated his LP’s release last night (12/29) with a live set at the Sultan Room alongside frequent collaborator Blackjeans and Alec Gaston


ERNEST BROCKENBERRY “Depression General Store of Non-Specific UnFeeling”

CREDITS: Written by yours truly, at a very turbulent time
Production by @tkthearchitect @blackjeansonahotday and myself
Additional writing by @tkthearchitect & @blackjeansonahotday
Mixed by @tkthearchitect
Mastered by @aireatlantica
Recorded at @luckycatrecordclub
Artwork by @raney_charlevoix

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