“b?” is a concept album released in 2022 that deals with the idea of ‘being’. Created by the Texas-based indie pop band HOAX, the 17-track project is quite a feat of an idea. Each song is written from the perspective of a different character, each of whom copes with ‘being’. Taking the mask off that we wear in public, pulling back the curtain to our true selves, and finding peace
with who we actually are, these are all questions pondered by the different songs that make up
The idea to take each song as a different character’s internal monologue and stitch them together into a quilt of an album is a really good and interesting idea that comes with both negatives and positives. With each song representing different people, it’s likely that some songs will do nothing for you as the listener, because if you don’t relate to the narrative of that person,
the message and song weakens. However, even those songs that don’t work for you, still add to the conglomerate of perspectives of the word ‘being’. Struggling with identity, your place in the world, and the feeling of belonging are common ideas and things that most people struggle with at least a little bit.
An aspect that I believe is present in a lot of concept albums is that a lot of songs struggle to work on their own, as a single. And this is present for the first quarter of the album, which, other than the first track “trees” kind of blend together and I don’t find myself wanting to listen to again on their own, although its entirely possible that that opinion of mine might change with future listens of “b?”. And for a 17-track album, of course not every song will reach the same level of high. However, even with the weakest tracks they add to the overall narrative and none of them detract from that message, and in-fact strengthen it. For example, the song “bleach” comprises of an AI voice, similar to those you’d find narrating TikToks, reprimanding you, the listener, for doing things for other people. Posting your life on social media, making goals just to make yourself look better while still feeling empty, and to instead just be. Don’t do, just be. It’s the defining struggle of the album, the battle of doing vs being, and its message is strong, but as a song as itself, I doubt anyone would go out of their way to listen to an AI voice criticizing and swearing at you. However, that’s part of the essence of concept albums. Sometimes one piece of the quilt is beautiful and whole on its own, but other pieces might need to be sown together to fully realize the bigger picture.
However, “b?” does contain a good number of tracks that work as beautiful pieces of fabric in their own right. “drew”, the song that made me want to review this album, is one of the best songs that came out last year in my opinion and has made it into my On Repeat for a few months now. It’s the perfect blend of melody, production, and catchiness that still takes on the message of the album. The only thing I would change about the song is to make it longer. And
“drew” is by far not the only amazing single from the album. “more than you know” is a nice slower tempo track about wanting to belong with someone else. “western medicine” takes common idioms and transform them into a catchy chorus in a song about wanting to distance themselves from their partner. And there are even more songs: “goldeneyes”, the aforementioned “trees”, “unamerican dream”, and the title track “b?” are all great songs.
“b?” is a really novel and brilliant album that makes you question just what it is to ‘be’. The songs slowly build up in tempo before slowing back down, providing a nice, thorough listening experience, one that I highly recommend to anyone.