Brokenera’s first musical venture was Locos Love (Let’s Taco It Over), a soulful 2012 pop rock jingle about everyone’s favorite shelled food. From that unlikely start, Jessi Knop and Garrick Karpinski recognized their collaborative potential – Karpinski a multi-instrumentalist and composer with a head full of melodies, and Knop, a singer/songwriter who could bring structure and a voice to those melodies.
Several years of continued experimentation resulted in Cloud Effect, an expansive and ambitious first album that showcases the duo’s combined power and creative evolution. Beginning as a solitary studio effort for Karpinski, the songs on Cloud Effect revealed themselves in phases once Knop layered in vocals. A back-and-forth songwriting process emerged and eventually the duo enlisted a string ensemble and chamber orchestra to perform their entwined melodies and rock riffs. (Magik*Magik Orchestra, best known for their work with Death Cab for Cutie, are featured.)
Karpinski’s vision for the album was to meld “the energy of Nevermind, the sonic soundscape and creativity of Pet Sounds, and the thematic storytelling of Dark Side of the Moon.” Like Dark Side, there’s an overall concept and sequential arc to Cloud Effect. The first half is a brooding struggle to come to terms — with hardships, with time passing too quickly, and with life itself. Lyrics like “I feel the weight of the world caving in, the crashing and crushing of my soul,” will feel timely, but the album was written pre-pandemic as band members struggled with their own challenges of meningitis, surgery and a family member’s addiction. It’s a building crescendo that resolves itself into the dazzling rapture of Side B, which Karpinski envisioned as the album’s “enlightenment.”
Knop brings a confident steadiness to the album. As walls of music crash, swell, and dissipate around her velvety vocals, Knop’s lyrics soothe and reassure. It’s not a promise that everything will be okay, necessarily, but is a reminder to us that in the worst of times we are not alone and have the choice to sink or stay afloat.