Album Review: Mayer Hawthorne - "Man About Town"
By Ian Bremner
Mayer Hawthorne makes soul music, he makes pop music, he makes funk music, he is a DJ, he’s a record collector, he is a stylish man. Mayer Hawthorne is a Man About Town.
When Mayer Hawthorne is not haunting the record stores in Los Angeles, he is somewhere on the road making, recording and performing music. His Ann Arbor, Michigan hometown unquestionably influenced his hip hop and soul background, but his music has evolved into an entirely new brand these days. Man About Town is his 4th full length as a solo artist. Each album with a different flavor.
Hawthorne recorded his first album A Strange Arrangement in part because he got tired of having to clear the samples of old soul songs for his budding (turns out, it wasn’t that budding) hip hop career. Once Peanut Butter Wolf at Stones Throw Records heard it, Hawthorne was respectfully encouraged to drop the hip hop and pursue the soul singing lifestyle.
His second album, How Do You Do was dripping in Detroit Motown with a noticeably more upbeat feel, even including a sexy cut with Snoop Dogg.
Where Does This Door Go was where the transition became more evident. He brought in famous producers like Pharrell Williams and John Hill. It was his fun, party record.
All three albums are a joyous bunch of RnB, soul, funk, electronic and 80s rock n roll. It turns out, Man About Town is the album he’s always wanted to make. After soaking up some tricks of the trade from the superstar producers, Mayer knew he wanted to do it all himself again. He played almost every note on this new record and it has a smooth sensibility that you would come to expect from Mayer Hawthorne. This is what Mayer Hawthorne sounds like when he is at the helm of the control board.
A lot of people claim to be an “old soul,” but if someone ever was, it’s Mayer Hawthorne. His hip hop roots are not lost on Man About Town. He name drops Whitney Houston, Nike Air Maxes, and parts of the album sounds like Steely Dan meets Slum Village.
Though the songs are not 100% confessional or auto-biographic, this “man about town” is not entirely an alter-ego, either. Mayer Hawthorne describes it as a concept record about “living in a city of 10 million and being surrounded by tons of people all the time, going to all the coolest parties with the coolest people and still feeling lonely.” Sound like anyone you can think of?