Having established himself as a modern singer who can flawless channel what pop music had to offer in the 60s and 70s, Mayer Hawthorne returns with his fourth studio record Man About Town – a soulful, funky at time, well-balanced album, which is bound to make you feel good.

‘Man About Town’ by Mayer Hawthorne Album Review

Hawthorne’s return to a well-suited R&B sound after his uncertain jab at popular prominence with the 2013 Where Does This Door Go seems more than logical. And an album that he has proclaimed as “the most Mayer Hawthorne album yet” is clearly the right way to go.

After the brief rhapsodic intro that bears the album’s title, opener “Cosmic Love” and later “Breakfast In Bed” are exactly the slow, sultry jams straight from what Hawthorne does best as a vocalist and songwriter. Without being too obtrusive, they carry the album’s invigorating energy, which stems from both the ingenious retro aesthetic and the sincerity in Hawthorne’s smooth vocals and falsetto stints. Thematically, these tracks are simple and unassuming and so is most of the album. The artist speaks of love in all its dimensions: from the “cosmic” to the ordinary and the everyday.

On “Fancy Clothes” midway through the album, Hawthorne allows himself to step out of his comfort zone with a reggae-inspired sound. The track opens with a soft-rock guitar solo before plunging into tropical downtempo beats. The track still carries his recognizable groove but also surprises the listener pleasantly with its diverse elements that transition from verse to chorus flawlessly.

The positive vibes shine through even on tracks about lost love and heartbreak. On “Book of Broken Hearts” he sings: “So just paint my picture in the book of broken hearts / I had so much love to give you / Now I don’t know who to give it to.” This genuine lightheartedness with which he approaches the topic, albeit cheesy and somewhat naive, is downright contagious. “Get You Back” is similarly optimistic with a bluesy balladic twist. “And now all I have / Is an empty flask / ‘Cause I’m still attached / And I’ve got to find a way / To get you back,” Hawthorne sings in utterly captivating crooning and falsettos.

His music may not bring innovation to the music field overall, but it does two important things that can’t and shouldn’t be overlooked. For one, he is reviving and making relevant a musical style and a variety of subgenres that have, for the most part, disappeared from the mainstream scene and is doing so with such an ease that it feels completely natural and unpretentious. And second, his musical artistry is all-embracing on Man About Town. Hawthorne effortless Motown-like sound, infused with an eclectic variety of influences (not to mention that he most of the instruments you hear on the album himself), makes for a brilliant and masterful record that is a pleasure to listen to. One of Man About Town‘s few flaws then is that it is too short – it’s 10 songs run for just over half and hour and leave you wanting more of Hawthorne’s smooth sound.

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