Mayer Hawthorne sadly isn’t a household name. Not only is he not a household name in the music industry as a whole, arguably, he’s underrated in RB circles. It’s a shame because the 37-year old retro-soul/alternative RB singer/songwriter is gifted and definitely worth listening to. His fourth studio album, Man About Town confirms such, as Hawthorne keeps things soulful once again.
Man About Town opens with a brief, self-titled intro that sounds like a mix between Beach Boys harmonies and classic soul. It’s more ‘vibe’ than anything else, but give Hawthorne credit for foreshadowing the album itself. “Cosmic Love” gives Man About Town its first full-length song, characterized by Hawthorne’s sensual falsetto and not to sound redundant, but his soulful influences. Upon a first listen “Cosmic Love” may sound a bit underwhelming, but it packs more punch with successive listens.
“Book of Broken Hearts” continues on in typical Mayer Hawthorne fashion aka legitimate, satisfying Blue-eyed/alternative soul. While the pleasant record doesn’t supersede “Cosmic Love,” “Book of Broken Hearts” is a respectable follow-up, even if it isn’t particularly memorable. “Breakfast In Bed” is stronger, benefiting from its sunny, exuberance, not to mention those strings and horns.
Hawthorne shows his pop cultural hipness (and potty mouth) on “Lingerie Candlewax,” easily among the crème de la crème. “Angel on my shoulder said hold up / don’t touch it / I’m so torn up / LeToya Luckett, f**k it.” Sigh, only Mayer Hawthorne could pull off corny coolness like this. Sexy and soulful, M.H. doesn’t miss in the least with “Lingerie Candlewax.”
The shift to reggae on “Fancy Clothes” is unexpected, but like everything else on Man About Town, it works without a hitch. If nothing more, the chorus shines (“Put on your fancy clothes and ride away”), not to mention those horns AGAIN. On “The Valley” Hawthorne must’ve taken a page out of Miguel’s book… well, sort of. “The Valley” is specifically about California, but unlike Miguel, Hawthorne’s take isn’t titillating. That doesn’t take away from its optimism in the least.
On “Love Like That,” Hawthorne proclaims, “I want a love like that…strong like a heart attack / fire me up!” Indeed, the feisty song is definitely “strong as a heart attack,” particularly with frank lines like “Call me up real late at night / when the sex isn’t dynamite / let’s skip dessert, that miniskirt / yeah, you know it’s the one I like.”
“Get You Back” is a slick, throwback six-eight slow jam showcasing Hawthorne’s emotions, not to mention that falsetto: “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.” “Out Of Pocket” concludes Man About Town with more groove…and horns…soulful fare.
All in all, Mayer Hawthorne does it again on Man About Town. It’s not his best album, but the soul certainly hasn’t faded in the least. Is Man About Town an album that will be remembered years from now? Eh, probably not, but Hawthorne continues to show while he’s a widely underrated voice in the RB world. This won’t give him his big break, but will definitely please his loyal fan base if nothing else.
Favorites: “Cosmic Love,” “Breakfast in Bed,” “Lingerie Candlewax” and “Love Like That”
Mayer Hawthorne • Man About Town • Vagrant • Release Date: 4.8.16