Montreal-based, JUNO-nominated music producer and instrumentalist Dabin, who is affectionately part of the sad boy club alongside artists like Illenium, Said The Sky, and William Black, released his third album Between Broken this past Friday and it is just…unbelievably stunning. If you’re looking to get into your feels, look no further than giving this a listen-through at least a handful of times. It will pull on your heartstrings in a way you didn’t know was possible before while sending chills down your spine. The 13-track project, which has been in the making since 2019, teaches listeners the lesson of being okay with feeling broken, and it’s clear how much work and heart was poured into every minute of this album. Through beautifully emotive sound production and reflectively vulnerable storytelling lyrics, Dabin creates a world where pain and hurt do not minimize the fullness of life.
Between Broken visually is represented by broken pieces and things being held together by a thread and Kinsugi, which is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending broken pieces with gold. We’re all just this sum of broken pieces put together in a presentable way. No matter how good or how bad, those experiences are worth their weight in gold, and they are a part of you and make you who you are.
Having spent his teens learning to play the piano, drums, and guitar, Dabin started producing electronic music in 2011 and quickly attracted the attention of Kannibalen Records, releasing his first tracks on the ever-growing independent label only a year later. Dabin has gained millions of plays while refining his musical style into what it is today, all while distinguishing himself with a unique genre-defying live show in which he incorporates electronic guitar, synthesizers, and drum pad. His sonic stories have touched souls far and wide, and Between Broken builds on the success of his previously released album, Wild Youth.
Opening with the title track, the mood of the album is quickly established with soaring guitar and synth melodies. The track, with minimalist vocal samples, provides a tranquil atmosphere for listeners to dip their feet into the calm, yet equally intense, soundscapes that Dabin is known for. About halfway through the track, there is an almost transcendent feeling that takes over, which subsides upon entering “When This Is Over,” featuring Nurko and Donovan Woods. Listeners are given a glimpse into the hurt that extends from hopeless love, told through the bittersweet lyrics among the rising production.
The idea of love is explored throughout the album, but in different facets that collectively show the human experience of love. “Drown,” featuring Mokita, shows the love and support between friends; it’s a letter to not letting a friend drown, to being there for them when they need it most. It also further highlights the importance of acknowledging that it is okay not to be okay – everything that happens in our lives, including our mental health, is just a part of what makes us who we are. Nostalgic love is the subject matter of “Again,” featuring MYRNE. The longing to return to return to past memories drenches the rich and soothing melodies. “Starbright” featuring Trella also focuses on nostalgic love, but in a different sense – wishing time were on our side, wishing we had said things when we had the chance to, and wishing on stars.
Things slow down as the halfway point of the album comes about with “Komorebi.” An intentional slowness accompanies the immense depth of cinematic swells. It’s a monumental switch back into guitar-focused sound design. Airy vocals and synths take over in “Smoke Signals” as a return to to nostalgia sweeps through the delicate harmonies, complete with silky guitar riffs. Broken hearts create the undertones for “Holding On,” complete with graceful vocals by Lowell to relay the hurt in regretful choices and hope for new possibilities. Even though the message carries a twinge of sadness, it’s overwhelmed by hopefulness, which is mirrored in the flowing brightness of the soundscape. Another sound switch comes with “Forever,” a house-centric dance track that focuses on wanting to hold onto memories. Koste‘s vocals, accompanied by luminous synths and driving beats, creates a euphoric energy that is enhanced by dazzling guitar lines.
Vocalist Xxajiii and fellow sad boy club producer William Black jump on to “Ready” to result in a track that leans into heavier sounds than previous tracks with more of a rock essence that still complements the sad boy aesthetic sound. In the same way the sound leans into a new area, the track also discusses leaning into taking chances, regardless of the fear you may feel. The rock direction continues with “Hope It Hurts,” which features almost screamed chorus vocals by Essenger to convey the emotion that one can only imagine comes with the title. Even with softer verses, the track still carries a powerful weight with its firm instrumentals.
“Holding On” guides listeners through the near-end of the album with delicate vocals by Noelle Johnson. As the lyrics traverse nearing the end of a touching visit and wanting to hold on to the memories, an ethereal soundscape filled with luminous percussions creates feel-good emotions. The journey of Between Broken closes with heart-warming vibes set by “Feel Like.” Tender vocals by Cappa float above the dreamy and atmospheric synth-driven production. Driving beats boost the overall emotional energy, bringing this 45-minute album to a soaring close.
Carve out some time this week to listen to Between Broken to experience the brilliance that is Dabin.