Music has the uncanny ability to save people’s lives.
We’ve heard the stories, we’ve seen the redemptions, and it may as well be our most powerful fuel for kindness, awareness, and love. It performs miracles. It bares truth. It’s the universal language. And without it, progressively rich creators like Broken Robots would have never graced our airwaves.
So what do you get when a defeated saleswoman and a medicated panhandler join forces in a white flag surrender? The obvious: many consequences. The serendipitous: a whole lot of growth.
Kat and Tony Baker met at a time where, for the both of them, self-destruction was steadily ascending towards a venomous climax, resulting in joint prison time and rehab stints. However, through music’s undeniable superpower of igniting shared inspiration and drive, the couple’s lives began to shift in a remarkable way.
The pair already had a well-versed experience in the music scene – Kat was an aspiring folk artist and Tony had been an audio engineer and musician – and with their individual expertise, they began writing music for fun, using Soundcloud as a means for their artistic expression.
It was in 2018 when they decided to take the plunge, officially releasing these songs as a debut album (Home Is Not a Place) and sparking a generous following for their cutting-edge sound that melded indie-pop, neo-soul, trip-hop, and rock. Now a therapeutic anchor, the Bakers, joined by long-time friend and bassist Lonnie Philips, make their music like their lives depend on it. And it’s more evident than ever in their newest EP, The Escape Artist.
Regarding the album, Tony said “I came up with the name for the EP when I was serving a small prison sentence for a drug possession charge- beyond wanting to escape the literal prison I was in, it extended into a metaphor, I think many people can relate to escapism in some way or another.”
It’s not often that I hear a new artist and think I’ve heard something entirely unique, but that’s essentially all my mind could formulate as I listened to this record. For one thing, the production quality is crazy good. There’s a never-ending slew of elements and textures that pop in and out in all the right moments. Just when you have a song figured out, a washing vocal or far-off ding! comes up for air like it was holding its breath in anticipation for its couple seconds of glory. Layers and layers of intricate details, that, if missing, would leave a void more significant than we’d probably realize.
Then there’s the fact that every track makes you feel like a total badass, whether from the sensual swagger etched into the heavy grooves of “Drippy” or the 70’s hip-hop/rock funk infusion of “Fourteen to One”. With catchy repetitions like “You could be a thread and I’ll be the needle” and “Gonna get it/Yeah we’re gonna get/Gonna get it til we got it/Then we’ll get it again” Broken Robots has made their music enjoyably accessible and downright fun.
Kat sings like she’s selling a secret, drawing you to the edge of your seat by way of soft, whispering swells. On tracks like “Dimes and Quarters”, where a financially struggling ex-con is contemplating going back to selling drugs, Philips’ bass lines are a clear focal point, endlessly swanky and vibrantly dynamic. Tony’s guitar riffs flourish in a vibey exterior during the chorus of “Burn it Down”, a song dedicated to burning toxic bridges and building ones anew.
Through fast-paced beats, crunching guitars, and savvy lyrics,“Mockingbird” eloquently touches on the sensationalism and political agendas brought on by today’s media that invokes overwhelming stress, confusion, and anger during unnecessary times. In their music video for the track, the trio specifically relate to the cause and effects of Covid-19, drawing on the social distancing and quarantine experience by editing together individual scenes that were separately shot through their iPhones. Every other song on the EP (except “Drippy”) has also been paired with a corresponding video, each taking an artistically riveting approach.
Tony concluded with, “I always promised myself that if I ever got my life together I would name an album ‘The Escape Artist’. Kat’s lyrics/poetry and the way she uses her voice along with Lonnie’s bass playing really brought that name to life in my opinion.”
The Escape Artist is one of those records that manages to give you something you thought you had, but didn’t. It fills the musical gaps in your brain like how a lost-now-found puzzle piece finally finishes the picture. It’s a brilliantly contrived piece of work gripped by the strength of perseverance. Boundlessly inventive, there’s much for Broken Robots to be proud of on this one. And I’m already ready for more.