Tuxedo – Tuxedo
Stones Throw: 2015
“Love shook my senses, / Like wind, crashing on the mountain oaks.” – Sappho, 600 BCE
“I work all week, just to make ends meet / I wanna get you in between the sheets.” – Tuxedo, 2015
Pretty much ever since people had songs, they had love songs. For thousands of years, singers have been trying to catch ears, eyes, hearts, and everything in between. One era that particularly nailed the slinky, sexy, seductive songs was the 1970’s and early to mid ‘80s. Alongside bell-bottoms and barrels of recreational drugs, funk, disco and R&B reigned supreme and singers like Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes all the way up to Shalamar and The Whispers got it in. Tuxedo, the collaboration between hip-hop producer Jake One and singer Mayer Hawthorne, blows the dust off that sepia-toned sound-scape, and breaks down some new jams for your soul party playlist.
The pair came together in 2006 when they exchanged side-project mixtapes and they were struck by the similarities in styles. After a flurry of sending tracks back and forth, a mysterious self-titled three-song EP surfaced on the internet in 2013 and delineated into Tuxedo. They’ve also previously released two official collaborations, “Henny & Ginger Ale” which was featured as a bonus a song on Mayer Hawthorne’s How Do You Do album, as well as “Designer Drug” which was a bonus song on Mayer’s last album Where Does This Door Go. Collectively, their sound is funky, dance-friendly, and sensual, all with an unironic attraction to the post-disco panache.
Now the pair has polished their tunes and their dancing shoes and emerge ready for the spotlight. Mayer Hawthorne is a compelling front-man as he reels in his falsetto to a comfortable croon. His voice is strong and convincing without sounding forceful as he opines for a lost lover on the album’s opener. “R U Ready” follows, and it may as well be a question for the listener.
With Jake One on the boards, the pair have produced a carefully crafted atmosphere. The record features all authentic synthesizers, pure piano lines and slinky guitar riffs. No samples, loops, or patches were harmed in the making of this record, making the album as equally enjoyable in the headphones as the sound system. Enlisting legendary ’80s engineer and producer John Morales to mix the album was a great addition. Better known for slow bangers for hip-hop heavyweights, Jake One’s tempo is turned up and he helps lift Hawthorne to dizzying heights.
Records like this are really only as strong as their hooks, and on that level, the album shines. Nearly every song is a call to the dance floor. “Watch the Dance” could be a show-stopper in an upscale strip club, which is meant in only the best way. “The Right Time” sounds like a Hall and Oates deep cut. “So Good” has got an infectious groove that pairs with a bouncy synthesized bass line, while both “Two Wrongs” and “Get U Home” are slow jams that keep the album simmering. “Roll Along” is another highlight, thanks to an infectious bass line, mid-tempo groove and horn section.
The only quibble is that sometimes the vocals and production are so smooth and well-polished, they become difficult to hold on to. Very few moments stand out as memorable as the album all meshes together like the whirling light from a disco ball. But these songs aren’t really meant to be over-analyzed. Its late-night, cut up a shag carpet dancing, music, perfect for getting loose.
To that end, the best tracks on the album belong to the ones that channel the grimy “G Funk” grooves popularized by Death Row, producers Battlecat, Daz, Dillinger, Warren G, and made iconic with vocals by Nate Dogg. The album closes with “Number One”, Tuxedo’s noble attempt to reverse engineer the unknown “sample” for Snoop Dogg’s “Ain’t No Fun.” Hawthorne mirrors Nate Dogg’s delivery over a gorgeous, groovy beat. And in these moments, it doesn’t sound like nostalgia. It sounds downright triumphant.3.5 out of 5
You can purchase Tuxedo on iTunes.