Open Mike Eagle really gained prominence on his album from 2017, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, which was my first introduction to the artist. However, he's been floating around for over a decade now as a member of hip hop collectives and more prominently as a comedian and podcaster. His time on Comedy Central may have been a big moment for him to grab the spotlight and show what he could do, and by the time his 2017 album came out it was finally time for him to shine as a musician. That album really succeeded on that mission, and his newest effort plays well to the same strengths of his most recent project.
There are two features of Open Mike Eagle that make him stand out in a crowded field of not just hip hop broadly but even broken down to conscious hip hop. Open Mike Eagle is both a humorous but also an emotive artist, often within the same song. Some artists like Quelle Chris, Thundercat and Busdriver take on one of these feature primarily and others like Milo and Billy Woods embody the other well. Outside of perhaps Quelle Chris, Open Mike Eagle balances these both better than most.
Anime, Trauma, and Divorce make a pretty quick point of the themes of the album. Starting with the first word, this is where Eagle is more playful and witty throughout the record. Sweatpants Spiderman is a great example of this, where Eagle is self-reflective in a kind of self-deprecating way. Even his delivery, which is often a little more spoken in its flow, seems a little more goofy to match the tone of the song. Other songs certainly take on some of these humorous styles, but they are often more sprinkled in rather than in your face. By nature, the guy is a big nerd, hosting a podcast on Adventure Time and co-hosting one about professional wrestling. By leaning into his already existent personality and humor it only highlights him as a person and not just a voice.
Then we have the trauma and divorce. Where his last album was more of a societal reflection, this new album is far more self-reflective in comparison. Eagle examines his faults, his struggles, his depression and of course his broken relationship with the kind of clarity that has to stand out. Everything Ends Last Year is one of the biggest standouts of the album for me, where the instrumentation stays smooth, quiet and minimalistic throughout and allows a line like "It's October and I'm tired" to really reverberate. The Black Mirror Episode coming after this is one of the most harsh songs on the album, accusing the Netflix series for his marriage falling apart. The dense and dark beats feel like they speak to the tone of the show, as well as the pain that seems to be seeping through under the lens of the show.
Open Mike Eagle certainly plays to both these strengths well throughout Anime, Trauma and Divorce. He is confessional in a way that brings you close, but also comedic in a way that softens the lyrical blows he's throwing at you. An album that feels incredibly human in a genre that can sometimes overexaggerate the personalities behind the musicians, Open Mike Eagle keeps it real throughout and does so in a frequently spacious and pleasant way.
Favorite track: Everything Ends Last Year