Portraits, the fourth full-length LP from metro Detroit rapper Chris Orrick, is exactly what the title suggests: intimate portraits of Orrick's life and the demons he struggles with, which happen to be all too relatable. Orrick tackles substance abuse, depression, and the end of the world as we know it with a side of self-deprecation and intelligence.
The album opens with "Self-Portrait," a devastatingly honest song about insecurity and self-hate. Opening with nostalgic sax by Malcolm Elliot, the music sets Orrick up for a retrospective internal conversation, tearing apart all the things he wishes he could change about himself. "You know the inside of you's gorgeous," Orrick tells himself, "But on the outside it gets morbid." He continues to unravel in a tornado of self-consciousness, calling out not only external characteristics, but also habitual behaviors. "I hate that you hate everyone/ the way you condescend," he chastises himself, finally ending with, "I hate the way you betray yourself/ I hate the way you hate yourself."
Those lines would be jarring to hear from anyone, but feel especially poignant coming from an artist who admits to struggling with alcoholism and depression. "Betraying himself" is another reference to the times he's turned back to the bottle after telling himself he was through. Orrick explains that his tendency to address himself in the third person in his music stems from his experiences.
"When you deal with problems with drinking and drug abuse and depression," Orrick tells Metro Times, "you can kind of feel outside yourself in those moments."
Orrick transforms this feeling into a visual in his music video for "Design Flaw," a song that takes the impossible task of putting depression into words, and he fucking nails it. The video follows a puppet version of Orrick mirroring his motions while he dissociatively observes from afar. "In between the laughs and the gaffes, he's a lit match/ without a can full of gas," is how Orrick describes himself when experiencing depression. While the video can come off at first as quirky and disturbing, it's actually an incredibly vulnerable exposé of Orrick's struggle with mental health. It's a video that can help people who don't experience depression to understand it, and people who do to feel less alone.
Even in the midst of a mostly dark album, Orrick makes room for a slacker love song that could melt the hardest of hearts. "Lazy Buddies" is an ode to his partner of 13 years (which I only learned from listening to "Mom") and the ups and downs of their simple life together. It's safe to assume from listening to Orrick's music that a romantic relationship with him could have some dark days — but Orrick isn't blind to this fact. He addresses this in some of his songs and uses "Lazy Buddies" to show that there's still some puppy love under all that cynicism. The song is so not-romantic that it is, which is what makes it so charming. Orrick suggests he and his other half "grab a shitty bottle of wine and we can share it/ maybe that's too romantic/ a little corny for our tiny story" — truly a 2018 love story.
The album continues to address alcohol abuse in "Barfly" and "Escape Plan," while also leaving room for a eulogy for Orrick's late mother in, "Mom." If you made it this far through the album without shedding a tear, this one ought to do it. But that's not Orrick's goal. He's not out to make people cry or have anyone feel bad for him. It's clear that Orrick's music is his outlet for getting through life and handling the cards he's dealt, though he admits that the fear of instability looms steadily above his head. "I still wonder what's going to happen, this could all be done tomorrow or five years from now or 10 years from now," Orrick tells MT. "What happens after that? It's scary turning 30 and not knowing where any of this is going."
Portraits is out on vinyl on June 1.
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