If you live in the New England area and you haven't gone outside yet today let me save you the trouble: it's blisteringly hot out there. I had the luxury (or medical necessity) of sleeping in late today and I just stepped outside to test the weather, and I think the weather passed its exam with flying colors. I felt like I had put on a very warm blanket that was smothering the life out of me. It's not only hot outside today but it's as uncomfortable as a jacuzzi in Antarctica - something that I'd love to experience one day.
Hot weather demands hot music; music that moves your feet and gets your booty dancing. To celebrate the blistering heat of today allow me to introduce you to the debut album from Mayer Hawthorne, A Strange Arrangement, an R&B record with soul and character.
Starting off with the self-titled track A Strange Arrangement Hawthorne begins his serenade, lulling you into the album with his dopey voice and relaxed instrumentals. It's a gentle introduction to the album that fits. It lopes up and down, taking its time and enjoying itself, while not veering into repetition or stagnation. It's a good intro that leads into the next track nicely.
The track that follows is Hawthorne's first single, Just Ain't Gonna Work Out. With a hip-hop beat and doo-wop guitars Just Ain't Gonna Work Out is a fun song. Here we are introduced to Hawthorne's falsetto vocals that seem put-on at first, yet as the song progresses we realize they mesh very nicely with the overal timbre of the song.
On the love-balad I Wish It Would Rain Hawthorne's falsetto vocals take center stage again. Again they seem almost fake, put-on for the sake of the music. However as the song continues we realize that they are sung with intention and purpose and without them the song would not be the same.
That's the impression I got from this album during my first few listens. At times I felt like some songs were a joke, made so purposely over-the-top that they weren't meant to be taken seriously. Only after listening to the album a couple times was I able to see the seriousness and devotion Hawthorne put into the album. His attempt to recreate a vibe and feel of records in decades past was off-putting at first, yet wholly welcome as I continued to listen.
Mayer Hawthorne's debut album A Strange Arrangement is a throw-back to a genre long forgotten by current music trends. It's a shame really, the soulful truth found in Hawthorne's tracks would not be possible in a straight-forward rap or hip-hop album. Hawthorne has modernized the lost art of doo-wop and sap, two things that I love to experience and hear.