Friday, September 4, 2009
Mayer Hawthorne - A Strange Arrangement
With popular music these days being cranked out at speeds that would make Wile E. Coyote cringe, quality has reached an all-time low. Industry execs are beating a dead horse looking for the "new thing", but it all comes out the same - stale.
Well, as luck would have it, Stones Throw has their shit together. Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce a breath of fresh air - Mayer Hawthorne.
The Ann Arbor native's debut is obviously heavily influenced by the music of his home state - the classic, Detroit sound...but there's something new in the mix. Think Smokey Robinson and J Dilla had a whiteboy lovechild.
Mayer plays all of the instruments heard on his album. Yeah, I'll say it again. He plays ALL of the instruments, AND sings. Originality just seeps from this dude's pores. While there is a backbone of throwback soul to his records, listening to it, it's not so much paying homage to the greats as it is a progression of sorts.
Infectious hooks and upbeat breaks remind you of a time when things were a little more pleasant in the USA. I usually have to throw on some old Smokey, Curtis, or Cooke to get that nostalgic feeling, but now there's a modern artist who manages to squeeze that emotion out of me. Feel how you may, but I think it's amazing.
A few favorites:
1. Just Ain't Gonna Work Out - Heavy, dirty breaks that sound like they could have fit easily into a Tribe jam support Hawthorne's tightrope vocals over a bobbing bassline on this apologetic breakup song that still manages to score high on my nod factor.
2. The Ills - A great example of Curtis Mayfield's impression on Mayer. Uptempo drums (sounding a bit like Pusher Man) over a busy bee bassline and big brass/sax stabs really grab your attention and keep it (an amazing feat to maintain MY attention).
3. I Wish It Would Rain - The saddest "miss you, girl" slow jam ever, but he pulls it off. This dude really makes you feel the pain in his lyrics. Give it a listen.
Bottom line, this album is listenable the whole way through, which is becoming a rarity these days. A Strange Arrangement is available on iTunes now, and you can snag it HERE.
do-Buy meter: 8/10 dB