After one listen (while skipping songs I’ve already heard), Mayer Hawthorne’s new full length, A Strange Arrangement, is pretty enjoyable. Expectations for it were high since his first single, “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out”, had us geeked for months. Other songs on the new one are much better than his second single, “I Wish It Would Rain“, which isn’t bad but didn’t surpass the (unfairly) high expectations I had for it.
The songs on A Strange Arrangement are varied, some are Motown-ish (“Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’ Nothin'”), some are slow burners (“Shiny And New”) and others, total floor-stompers (“The Ills”). After an initial listen, “Let Me Know”, a killer track, stands out as Mayer abandons his falsetto steez for an almost Neil Diamond-esque delivery. And it works. “One Track Mind” sounds like a Marvelettes album cut and “Shiny And New”, a well-placed ballad, rounds out the album nicely. The only setback is his cover of The New Holidays’ “Maybe So, Maybe No” which, in his defense, is impossible to cover due to its delicate arrangement and insurmountable cult status; and “Prelude”, an unnecessary 20-second intro of vocals.
For a debut with immense hype, Mayer lives up to high hopes, delivering 12 self-produced songs that aren’t cheesy or overly imitative. In fact, between tracks #3-#11 lies an almost perfect EP. And while his voice isn’t the greatest, he understands soul music and knows how to write catchy songs. I’ve read about people questioning his authenticity, but being authentic doesn’t make your songs good– writing good songs do. I plan on covering this more for my various outlets as the September 8th release date nears (where it will come with 2 new songs on a free 4-inch single!).
*BONUS: Here’s Mayer’s version of the theme song from the TV show Weeds.