Album Review: JPEGMAFIA – All My Heroes Are Cornballs

By Kwase Lane, Staff Writer
[EQT; 2019]
Rating: 9/10

Key tracks: “BBW”, “Free The Frail”, “Post Verified Lifestyle”

JPEGMAFIA is back and better than ever with his third album, All My Heroes Are Cornballs. Peggy takes a more delicate approach to production on this project; however, that doesn’t mean it’s any less bizarre, innovative or aggressive than Veteran. It just does those things in a more apologetic, sorry-I-haven’t-been-to-church-lately way. All My Heroes Are Cornballs is a masterful demonstration of the ways music can unearth emotions you didn’t know you could feel and make you wish you could name to them.

Read more: Lobsterfest 2018 Q&A: JPEGMAFIA

“BBW” is one of the shorter tracks on the album, clocking in at only a minute and a half, but that doesn’t make it any less of a banger. Although JPEG’s delivery isn’t the most forceful, the half-holy and half-haunting vocals that fill the space around his voice make his words feel that much more pointed. Even without this extra push, Peggy’s message still hits home as he drops phrases like “Don’t get sent to Jesus filled with lead.” The shift from Veteran to All My Heroes Are Cornballs might be jarring for some fans, but this piece serves as a protection against any doubt that might creep in. It’s comforting that even when Peggy is making more universal music, it still sounds like the Windows XP shutdown noise, except it makes you want to punch the person nearest to you. 

One might notice some odd side effects after a few listens of “Free The Frail”. My symptoms include uncontrollable shaking, crying and a pleased grin plastered across my face, but yours might differ. The twirling synths keep listeners suspended over JPEG’s more grounded verse, and they serve as a great transition into the chorus. Peggy lifts himself above his worries and cares on the previously mentioned instrumentation, and when he does, it feels like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. This effect is compounded by Helena Deland’s smooth crooning that concludes the song. Maybe Peggy is just a really skilled musician, or perhaps he’s accidentally stumbled across what the U.S. government was seeking out in the MK Ultra mind control experiments. Either way, this track is auditory crack, and one should probably limit their exposure.

“Post Verified Lifestyle” feels like a sonic depiction of someone trying to cut water with a chainsaw, getting frustrated with it and quitting halfway through. JPEG’s voice grates over wavy, soothing production for 50 seconds before suddenly cutting out and giving way to the ripples that he sends through the instrumentation. The track continues with a brief skit, during which Peggy jovially cries out, “Don’t worry about it. You’ll be OK.” He returns for the next verse with quiet confidence, almost as if the previous declaration was one of self-encouragement. The last 50 seconds of the piece are populated by both a sample of Taylor Swift’s “Delicate” that has been pitch-shifted until it sounds like she’s saying “Damn Peggy” and a random Playstation noise, but somehow he makes all of these disparate elements sound fantastic together.

All My Heroes Are Cornballs is a masterpiece. The entire project is charged with a low hum of energy that occasionally comes through as joy, anger, unplaceable sadness and sometimes all three simultaneously. JPEG carves a beautiful statue out of random samples and synths and leaves all the right areas rough in a way that is supremely authentic. Everything about this is prime JPEGMAFIA, down to the album art. I want nothing more than to go to my attic and find Peggy sitting there in full regalia, but that’ll probably never happen. 0/10 I’m so disappointed. This is definitely the album of the year.

Listen here:

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