Ends & Begins
“I got hit by a truck, I got hit by a truck and it drove off and left me here for dead,” Labrinth sings plainly in the opening seconds of Ends & Begins, the savant artist-producer’s third studio album. When we last heard from Labrinth—on 2019’s Imagination & the Misfit Kid, a concept record that told the story of a young artist who trades his creativity to a businessman in exchange for success—he was excavating himself from underneath the pressure that had piled on him since signing to Simon Cowell’s now defunct record label Syco. Ends & Begins is a tight 10-track record that consolidates his experimentation years into a sound that feels wholly original, yet familiar. It draws an immediate line under those difficult times, picking up directly where Imagination & the Misfit Kid left off, and explores what happened next. “I was touched by a God and it fucked me up like an electric current pulsing through my veins,” he continues on “The Feels,” a floating expanse of piano plinks and swelling harmony, unsure of whether the lightning strike has been a defibrillating jolt or a finishing blow. It’s the opening chapter of a story of love as salvation—potent and all-consuming, suffocating and disorienting—and the fight to hold on to something good, no matter the challenges. The front half of the record sees Labrinth in the depths of his passion and clinging to it like a life preserver, singing of feeling “safe under your protection, your sacred embrace” on “Covering” and making zealous declarations of devotion on “Kill for Your Love” over the buzzing thrum of percussion and synth. Single “Never Felt So Alone,” a collaboration with FINNEAS and Billie Eilish (featuring vocals from Eilish), steers into the turbulence, nosediving into different, more intimate struggles and pulling up before impact. “What can they take from us when we’re already living on ground zero?” he questions rhetorically on “Only Way Is Up,” a modern take on classic ’80s rock that underscores the despairing melodrama. It’s the album’s title track “Ends & Begins” that resolves the narrative—a lyrical infinity loop over cinematic synths, with Labrinth’s vocals echoing into the spaces of the production. It sounds like approaching the end of a tunnel. Not stepping into the light, but illuminated from within; still surrounded by darkness, but keeping it at bay. Roll end credits. It’s reassuring to discover that Labrinth’s drive to innovate and refine has not diminished. Instead, his Emmy-winning time spent building the musical world of HBO’s hit drama Euphoria has elevated his ambition, lending his production a sense of dramatic flair that was perhaps absent from his previous records. Labrinth’s artistic strength lies in his ability to communicate a feeling—with Ends & Begins he treats those feelings with the gravity they deserve.