Mayer Hawthorne – A Strange Arrangement
It’s been one of the most anticipated albums of the year. Back since that charming little heart-shaped piece of red vinyl entered our lives towards the end of 2008. I am of course referring to Mayer Hawthorne and his debut album A Strange Arrangement – out now through Stones Throw in the US (via iTunes and the Stones Throw site), and out in Europe imminently. It’s worth noting that if you do purchase the vinyl or CD from the Stones Throw website, then you’ll automatically receive the 4-inch vinyl single of the track “Love Is All Right”, b/w “When I Said Goodbye (Demo Version)”.
Stones Throw are also gifting us with this excellent remix of Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out by Astronote…
I would guess that a strange arrangement would have to be the hip-hop DJ, Haircut, turning up at a BBQ and handing Peanut Butter Wolf (Stones Throw label head) a demo and ending up a few months down the line signing on to release a throw-back soul album under the alias of Mayer Hawthorne. But that’s precisely what did happen. This 12 track, 34 minute wonder does indeed have a distinct throw-back element to it – it’s uplifting, soulful, yet at times quite sad. Tales of love gained and lost, it’s both deep and sincere. The beats are meaty enough to make the sound contemporary and relevant, whilst the melodies and vocals pay a sweet homage to the soulful greats of yesteryear.
02. A Strange Arrangement
03. Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out
04. Maybe So, Maybe No
05. Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’ Nothin’
06. I Wish It Would Rain
07. Make Her Mine
08. One Track Mind
09. The Ills
10. Shiny & New
11. Let Me Know
12. Green Eyed Love
Part of the charm of this album is the fact that Mayer Hawthorne himself has no soul-singing pedigree – he’s from a hip-hop background, but what started off as a demo quickly grew into a fully-fledged soul album. Although it’s not in the same vein as say Amy Winehouse’s retro-style album Back To Black (she is indeed a classically trained singer), this is no gimmick. What some people seem to forget is that a lot of very popular soul singers back in the day were no Frank Sinatra in the vocals department – but it’s such imperfections that add to the experience. You cant deny heartfelt efforts on tracks like A Strange Arrangement, I Wish It Would Rain and Let Me Know – they genuinely do strike a chord.
This isn’t to say Mayer Hawthorne’s vocals aren’t good, because they are. Check out the falsetto on Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out for a prime example! I’m simply addressing the fact the some people presume: hip-hop DJ + retro soul album = gimmick. Another example would be the track Cold Game by Myron and E with The Soul Investigators, which came out last year via Timmion Records of Finland – two guys with hip-hop backgrounds who absolutely killed it with a retro-soul track. Ironically it was Stones Throw who picked up the track for a later American release!
Mayer Hawthorne has struck a near perfect balance with this record – it has charm, rhythm, lyrics, stories and will get you moving! You can ultra-analyse it to death if you like, I know it’s not an absolute masterpiece, but it really is a fun and incredibly infectious album. I wish more artists were brave enough to create something a little bit more obtuse in this day and age. Sure, in style it’s been done plenty over the years, but executed correctly it can definitely still work… and it has! Seriously, buy this freakin’ album, you wont regret it. The continuous gentle bounce between ballads and foot-tapping, arse-moving numbers is just smooth. A definite success story for Mayer Hawthorne’s debut on Stones Throw.
Upcoming Live Dates:
- 05th September: Bumbershoot 2009, Seattle, Washington
- 10th September: The Roxy, West Hollywood, California
- 13th September: Downtown Brew, San Luis Obispo, California
- 14th September: Starline, Fresno, California
- 15th September: Rickshaw Stop, San Francisco, California
- 16th September: Catalyst-Atrium, Santa Cruz, California
- 18th September: Musicfest NW, Portland, Oregon
- 19th September: WOW Hall, Eugene, Oregon
- 21st September: Kilby Court, Salt Lake City, Utah
- 23rd September: Larimer Lounge, Denver, Colorado
- 24th September: The Waiting Room, Omaha, Nebraska
- 25th September: Darkroom, Chicago, Illinois
- 26th September: Blind Pig, Ann Arbor, Michigan
- 27th September: Drake Hotel, Toronto, Ontario
- 29th September: Great Scott, Boston, Massachusetts
- 30th September: Johnny Brenda’s, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania