Review: Melbourne’s Brandon Stone Shows His Pop-Rap Versatility on ‘NORTHSIDE LULLABY’

It’s common for artists to rep for their hometown in their music, especially so on their debut album. Reminiscing about environment they grew up in and showing love to the community that shaped them into who they are today, it serves as a compelling introduction to the narrative that an artist can bring to their career – Brandon Stone’s NORTHSIDE LULLABY is one such album.

Named after the North Melbourne suburbs that he grew up in, the album is a love letter directed at the places and people who have played a major role in his journey so far. The purpose of the record is instantly clear on its 1st track “Breathe (Intro)” – a cinematic intro of his life growing up in the North, struggling to make ends meet while showing appreciation for his community. It grounds the album in his reality and sets the stage for the rest of NORTHSIDE LULLABY.

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On that stage, Brandon makes a case for the versatility he shows in his music. There’s the straightforward trap cut “Nick Cannon/Opps” which reminds me a lot of Jack Harlow given their use of the same flow. It’s way more enjoyable than Jack’s own material however as the beat switch in the middle provides a jolt of energy that the track needed despite its criminally short runtime.

Then there are the melodic trap songs – “Bad Man” and “Fitness”. Both air his gripes about past relationships, the subdued aesthetic and performance on these tracks are a good fit for the subject matter. However, Brandon isn’t exactly the best singer out there and the choruses/hooks that have worked in his music so far are the ones he rapped on. The admittedly monotonous delivery robs the potential climax that both songs could have offered.

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On the other hand, the guest singers on NORTHSIDE LULLABY are stellar – especially from Isadora and Carlito Hendrix. The former delivering a beautiful performance that complements Brandon’s heartfelt rapping on “All I Want”, helping set a sombre tone for the story he tells. Recounting about the vulnerability he felt in his past relationships, it’s a short verse but the emotions that come bursting out of it instantly grips at you despite having little to work with.

The latter sounds eerily like Tory Lanez with his nasally and high-pitched singing, but that doesn’t distract too much from how catchy “All Out” is. A pop-trap banger that’s a welcome respite after the back-to-back melancholy set by “All I Want” and “Crybaby Interlude”.

Speaking of pop, Brandon Stone shines the brightest over more eccentric production. His rapping is subtle in its delivery so having more energy beats to complement him provides depth to his music. “Favourite Mistake” features a bouncy beat paired with a clean string section (and Brandon on stellar chorus duty), while “Front 2 Back” with its bright keys and house music-flavoured instrumental is another fun track that proves Brandon’s captivating ability as a hitmaker.

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The biggest downside of NORTHSIDE LULLABY however, is the overabundance of said pop-rap songs. “Diva Diva”, “Stephanie Rice” and “I Tried” all employ the same formula of fun beats with charming raps. They’re all good tracks on their own but when strung together on a 14-track album, it starts to get a bit too one-dimensional. Though I can see each of these songs gaining a life of their own on playlists.

Brandon saves the best for last as “Drive pt. 2”. For someone who claims Drake as their biggest musical inspiration, this track with a quiet soul sample in its instrumental feels like it could fit right in on Nothing Was The Same. After exploring his failed relationships on this album where he gripes about being left behind or wanting to rekindle a romance, there’s bitterness in the closer as Brandon sheds the need for his ex to be in his life. It’s very Drake-like as he brings this narrative of the album full circle and a worthy ending of the world’s first official introduction to Brandon Stone.

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Listen to NORTHSIDE LULLABY here.

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Based in Melbourne and Malaysia. Jensen is a part-time journalist and full-time music fan.

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