New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Review: Briston Maroney’s ‘Ultrapure’ is a mature reflection on growing up

With his sophomore album, the Nashville singer-songwriter captures the essence of living through your 20s.
American singer-songwriter Briston Maroney. (Courtesy photo by Muriel Margaret)

Growing up doesn’t have to feel so hard with the release of Briston Maroney’s new album “Ultrapure.” After a long summer of track teasers and single releases, the deeply personal addition to Maroney’s discography came out on Friday, Sept. 22. 

The change in style might disappoint fans of his debut album and its high-energy tracks, but the mature pivot he’s made with his music is wonderful to witness.

Since his breakthrough single “Freakin’ Out on the Interstate,” Maroney has crafted a blend of heartfelt lyrics with upbeat, aggressive guitar solos and drum rhythms. His debut album “Sunflower” leaned more towards the latter, offering a rollercoaster ride of instrumentals and indie-rock flair, where the message behind the music often took a back seat. “Ultrapure” is the exact opposite the lyrics and motivation for each track far exceed the production and sound. That “Sunflower” sound is still present, but it’s mellowed and refined. Maroney’s stories on this release show immense creative growth.

“Ultrapure” is a story about growing into adulthood and all the turmoil that comes with it. It’s about forgetting moments in your past, moving away from home, losing friends, controlling your emotions and learning to live with yourself. His recent Instagram caption states that “these songs are about just about every feeling under the sun, but more than anything they’re about letting go of the idea that anything is supposed to go a certain way.” 

The idea of letting go in “Ultrapure” manifests through Maroney’s repeated use of sun imagery, along with variations of lyrics like “if I can loosen my grip,” and “I’m taking my hand / off the detonator.” He has always shared his mental health journey with his fans, through social media and at his concerts. When I attended his Asheville show last year, he openly discussed the stresses that came with touring and performing, with having an audience and expectations to meet. He had postponed his previous show to “take care of his mind and body,” something that deserves more empathy from fans. This album grapples with some of the same struggles.

A perfect example is “Sunburn Fades,” his second summer single that stands apart from every other track. Before its release, Maroney stressed to fans that this was a nerve-racking song to share with the world because of its honesty. 

“‘Sunburn Fades’ was the first song that really woke something up in me,” Maroney stated in an interview with WERS Radio. “Nothing feels quite like a song just spilling out of you when it needs to.” 

He set expectations high and delivered something miles beyond them. The raw pain in Maroney’s voice as he sings “You never quite forget the first letdown” echoes through every college student dealing with their mental breakdown of the week. After just one listen, you’ll be screaming “I can’t take it anymore” along with him.

Maroney has a talent for making ordinary things sound poetic and turning them into melodies that strike you like a lightning bolt. “Detonator” and “Breathe” are just that, adding an energy to the album that cuts through some of the bleaker moments. However, the experience of “Ultrapure” wouldn’t be the same without the vulnerability of the album’s final songs. 

“Spring” is a sickeningly sweet promise to Maroney’s girlfriend and indie pop artist, Samia. It’s the most romantic song he’s written and works as the silver lining to all of the difficulties Maroney outlines on the album, like those in “Sink;Swim.” With lines like “no matter how I’ve tried / haven’t found the perfect way out,” the vulnerability is relatable to practically every listener. Finally, there’s “Skyline,” with an outro that’s perfect for your own coming-of-age movie moment. This three-song run is a whirlwind of emotions, ranging from spiraling depression to utmost passion.

“Ultrapure” is many things. It is loss and love, hope and heartbreak, failure and success. It’s a dynamic album addressing universal fears, accomplishing its goal of making the listener feel seen and reminding them that they’re not alone in their hurt. It’s not only a reflection on Briston Maroney’s life, but every college student’s life, too.

Contact Jordan Wilkens at [email protected].

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  • L

    LanaOct 20, 2023 at 1:46 pm

    Great piece; very insightful!

  • G

    GigiOct 3, 2023 at 2:54 pm

    A wonderful article. Congratulations!