Songwriter, engineer and producer Mayer Hawthorne (aka Andrew Mayer Cohen) vents Funk and R&B on his new digital album, “Rare Changes.”
Grammy nominated (Best Box Set or Special Limited Edition Package), he started as DJ Haircut in the group Athletic Mic League before relocating to Los Angeles in 2005.
While there, Mayer Hawthorne changed his name, signing with Stones Throw Records after label head and local Producer Peanut Butter Wolf heard his sampling tracks, urging album worthiness.
This positive-themed collection of songs was initially released as singles between June 2019 and July 2020.
Now repackaged with a message from Hawthorne dedicating the LP to the “brave people of planet earth who are holding hands and fighting for the rare changes,” it opens with “Intro” — a drum-heavy, slinking cruise.
At times reflecting Dub spaciness and concluding with crisp keys, this sample showcases the 41-year old artist’s voice in the vein of one of his influences, Smokey Robinson.
Lead single, “Rare Changes” quickens the groove, hearkening to more experimental programming last heard on his previous solo album, “Man About Town” (2016).
Aided by Disco-paced break beats and bass runs, Hawthorne introduces a dull life, with nothing happening at all. Before long, celebratory brass and his sparingly-used falsetto flips the script, thanks to the addition of a lover — their togetherness breaking the mundane ouroboros nature of their existence.
“The Game,” “Over” and “M.O.” contrast between giving advice like not hating the player because they’re just playing the game and reckoning with single life, while reflecting the title single’s stomping R&B style. “M.O.,” meanwhile, chronicles Hawthorne spitting game to his “M.O.” over a sultry beat, while name checking Hollywood, Johnny Ramone and S.E. Hinton.
Even though “The Great Divide” follows the production standards of earlier songs, a recorded gaffe early on makes you wonder who thought it was a good idea to let Hawthorne’s voice squeak so noticeably. For an artist typically regarded for having reached his level of success without vocal lessons, it’s unflattering enough to draw attention to the fact that his vocals are always heavily filtered.
That small speed bump aside, the thankful for love “Only You,” brews with strong sexuality alongside the yearning of “Chasing the Feeling.” Light and easy-going with Reggae vibes on “Healing,” this song is as reliable as any of the other nine presented here in creating a smooth, confident sounding album out of single releases.