Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Potholes
Donwill opens his solo full-length, Don Cusack in High Fidelity, by posing the question, “Did I listen to pop music because I’m miserable, or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?” It’s an interesting query that pulls back the curtains to one of the year’s most fun and creative projects.
A quick gander at the cover of the album is all one needs to understand the premise for this album (as if the title wasn’t enough). Donwill shapes 16 tracks into a concept album that quite accurately parallels the script of the 2000 film, High Fidelity (except with a hip-hop slant). That means that Donwill’s rhymes are packed with comical breakups, musical snobbery, and relationship inquisition.
Donwill, here known as Don Cusack (an obvious nod to the movie’s lead actor), holds a fixation with his past girlfriends after a testing breakup left him wondering exactly what he was doing wrong in his relationships. His other (better) half here is Laura, hence the title of the mixtape that lead up to the full-length. Although Donwill does have somewhat of an outline and structure to follow, he allows himself wiggle room so that his raps can still embody the creative storytelling that he is known for. However, the lyrics do leave the listener wanting just a bit more wordplay and intricacy.
The lyrical stories are backed by fantastic, upbeat production from a talented cast of beatsmiths. Producer Brickbeats reunites with the Tanya Morgan emcee to deliver production on a few tracks, while AEON and Donwill himself also step behind the boards. The production is funky and accessible. Electric guitars groove over pulsing bass lines, and organs and synths add a playful feel to the album. At certain points the music becomes almost danceable, but this is certainly no flaw.
The lighthearted vibe of the production complements Donwill’s storytelling perfectly. There is a fine level of insincerity (again, not a flaw) present that makes the album feel as movie-like as possible. In other words, the listener understands that the story isn’t actually true. Humorous monologues throughout only add to the playful vibe of the album.
Revisiting Donwill’s initial inquiry, there is ultimately no right answer, which some listeners may find obnoxious, however that’s not the point. In many ways, Don Cusack in High Fidelity is simply an attempt to poke fun at the all-too-serious side of popular music that tugs relentlessly on people’s emotions. And in doing so, Donwill has crafted what may stand as one of the year’s most entertaining albums.