For many of us, bouts of anxiety or depression can be treated by window-shopping or Amazon trawling to reach a better state of mind. But no matter how good a salve, such retail therapy can’t cure underlying issues — a truth hinted at by Harriet Brown as he sings, “I’m just one choice away from purchasing away this pain” on his song “Retail Therapy.”
The Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter explores consumerism-as-a-coping-mechanism throughout “Mall of Fortune,” an album that helped him deal with all those subterranean emotions that drive the phenomenon. For him, that meant tackling the anxiety, paranoia and decision paralysis that his move to L.A. and his experiences in the music industry spurred.
All that personal turmoil caused “moments of super-painful” self-reflection. “It was like staring in the mirror when you’re extremely crossfaded . . . on whatever,” he explains with a laugh.
But through those struggles, Brown built “Mall of Fortune,” an electronic funk adventure full of percolating and surging beats, gurgling bass lines, scintillating synths and Brown’s lithe voice, which can be seductive or secretive depending on his mood. Groundbreaking turn-of-the-century producers such as Timbaland and Pharrell Williams inspired the album’s future-sex-love sounds, but Prince remains the most obvious touchstone, especially when Brown updates “1999” for 2019. “One thing that I know is we don’t gotta spend a dime,” he coos on “Paper,” “ ’cause we ain’t got it, but that don’t mean we can’t party right now.”
Acknowledging and working through all of his feelings was a “battle,” but Brown emerged from the process with an album full of soulful, sensual grooves that belie his internal strife. And he ended the process better than he started. “After the album,” he admits, “I started going to therapy” — the old-fashioned kind.
Show: July 19 at 9 p.m. at Songbyrd. $10 suggested donation.