The stars are out for Hawthorne

By Paul Lester, July 15, 2013

Mayer hawthorne
Where Does This Door Go? (Island)
Four stars

Youngblood hawke
Wake Up (Universal Republic)
Three stars

Nothing is certain in this world, but the fact that Andrew Mayer Cohen — the Michigan-born, LA-based singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who makes music as Mayer Hawthorne — has collaborated on his third album with Pharrell Williams suggests he’s about to make his long-awaited breakthrough. Williams applied his Midas touch to Daft Punk’s Get Lucky and Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines — the two best-selling UK singles of the year — and he’s on several tracks here, working his breezy magic.

He’s not the only one who has been brought in to make sure Hawthorne does the business after two albums which have not taken him beyond cult attraction. Among the whizzes at the controls are Jack Splash, who has worked with Cee-Lo Green and Alicia Keys, and Oak & Pop, sometime producer for Chris Brown and Nicki Minaj. Hip hop’s rising star, Kendrick Lamar, also makes a cameo.

But the real stars are the songs. Just as Daft Punk revived Chic and Thicke brought Marvin Gaye back to the future, Where Does This Door Go? looks back for inspiration. It sounds like a mixtape of classic American ’70s and ’80s funk and pop radio hits. No wonder self-styled rap messiah Kanye West declared that it “takes me back to that golden time in music”. The songs have the melodic polish and studio slickness of Hall and Oates and Steely Dan, the hooks are huge and the choruses are irresistible. In fact, this is the album the Dan might have made if they hadn’t gone for supine perfection on 1980’s Gaucho and retained some of their original ebullience.

LA’s Youngblood Hawke have already enjoyed some success, as some of their members were in Iglu and Hartly. Following their acrimonious split, Sam Martin and Simon Katz decided to form another outfit with, among others, Katz’s sister Alice.

And already, one of their songs, We Come Running — due for single release next month — has been picked up by Coca-Cola for an international commercial in a venture with music streaming site Spotify.

In terms of previous Coke ad artists, they may not be the new New Seekers but Youngblood Hawke do write songs you could imagine the whole world singing. They have the requisite jubilant quality, and their singing of the choruses in unison make them seem like communal chants. We Come Running — the video for which has had over 1.8 million hits on YouTube — even features the West LA Children’s Choir, heightening what was already a pretty happy-happy atmosphere.

The album title was inspired by a friend of the band who was riding his bike home and got hit by a drunk driver, leaving him in a coma. Instead of making music reflecting their anxiety as they waited for him to recover, they recorded a dozen affirmative anthems.

One online reviewer decided that they will cause “audience members [to] dance around, clap hands, point their heads to the floor and possibly cry”. After a while the positive energy is draining, but in small doses Wake Up is a tonic.

Last updated: 8:45am, July 15 2013