ANIME, TRAUMA AND DIVORCE: ALBUM REVIEW
Open Mike Eagle is one of the greatest living Chicagoans. He's been one of the best rappers out for years now, but the absolutely fascinating ways his lyricism has evolved has been a treat to watch. Along with his work as a musical artist, he's started a rap podcast empire and continuously pushes everyone around him to be better. His newest project Anime, Trauma and Divorce plays off of his goofier tendencies by taking us through his experience trying to make it through a harrowing year.
The aura of Anime, Trauma and Divorce is so overpowering that for the first couple of listens, I barely paid attention to the lyrics. The drums and synths on this album make listening to it feel like peering through a dream. The bass drum hits are thumping and natural. The drums feel like they were played by an orchestra section rather than programmed in a DAW. The synths sound like they were taken from fish playing electronic violins underwater. This odd instrumental makeup makes you feel a bit lost; as if you were wandering through someone else’s thoughts.
Lyrically, the album feels like listening in on one of Open Mike Eagle’s therapy sessions. All of his insecurities and fears come out, but with these intense emotions, there also comes observations about the smaller things in life. He gives the lyrical thesis of the album on “Sweatpants Spiderman” when he raps “tattoos, haircuts, gold chains, anime.” At many points on the album, he talks about the pains associated with aging and figuring life out.
Anime, Trauma and Divorce is unrelenting with the depths we take into Open Mike Eagle’s mind. It’s full of self-deprecating thoughts and lyrics that force you to empathize with his suffering. On “Death parade” he raps “I lift my feet up, I lift my feet up… I tripped.” Right as we begin to think that he was coming out of his funk and into something better, we realize that his feet are only off the ground because he was mid-fall. There are many moments on the album like this: many moments where there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel, but it is quickly snatched away from us.
One of my favorite moments on Anime, Trauma and Divorce comes on the song “Wtf is Self Care” which perfectly encapsulates how ridiculous the idea of self-care can be. On the song, he raps, “I think I know what you’re suggesting… it just sounds depressing.” Ultimately, it’s a song about Open Mike Eagle's journey to learning what self-care means to him, but it offers biting critiques of the industry built up around it. Open Mike Eagle laughs in the face of the self-care industry while he spits hilarious bars like, “What the fuck is self-care? It’s like finding good smells or fine wood shelves… but in my neighborhood, nobody sells that shit so ‘oh well’.”
Sitting through this project is a journey through sadness, but it’s not sadness for sadness' sake. It’s hauntingly honest and powerful in a way I have rarely heard music approach before. It really feels like every thought that popped into his head in the last year went directly on the page. The project ends with a collaboration about snorkeling between Open Mike Eagle and his son, titled "Fifteen Twenty Feet Ocean Nah." Even through this depressing journey of an album, family is always there at the end. As he suggests that final song, having fifteen or twenty feet of ocean above you can feel like drowning, but ultimately, your only choice is to keep swimming.