Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Mac Ayres will make you swoon with his masterful sophomore album ‘Something to Feel’

“Something to Feel” is available on all major streaming services
(Courtesy of the Mac Ayres facebook page)

Although it didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved, Mac Ayres’ “Drive Slow” was one of the most dynamic and refreshing R&B albums released in 2017. It was a project that burst with potential, projecting Mac Ayres’ name onto the future of modern independent R&B. However, as exciting and seemingly out-of-nowhere it was, “Drive Slow” was a merely a hint of what was to come. It was an impressive effort, but there was a noticeable lack of variation and cohesiveness. After just a few listens, I knew every lyric and every musical moment all too well. There simply was nowhere else to go with Ayres, so all I could do was pocket his name in my Spotify library and wait out my long-term investment.

Months later, Ayres suddenly made a post on Instagram announcing the release of a new single. It was hilariously informal, almost seeming like a joke at first.

“new single out MONDAY. oooowweeeee WHO’s READY????”

As casual and funny Ayres is on social media, the single proved he is very serious about his composition. The song, “Stay,” is heart-wrenchingly beautiful – both lyrically and harmonically. Ayres very clearly indicates that he’s digging in deeper than ever before with his music. Suddenly, he popped back up on my musical radar. Many people were making music similarly to Ayres, but only he could deliver his unique balance of energy and smoothness. I was more than ready to re-engulf myself in his music, and sure enough, he announced “Something to Feel” on Twitter a few days later, and released it on Sept. 5.

To get the full effect of the album, one must listen with an attentive ear. It makes for fine background music, but a proper listen of the project requires your full attention. The true value of this project is in the details. Every song takes full advantage of the spatial nature of stereo mixing, and if you put on a good pair of headphones, you will feel totally engulfed in the music.

Ayres has something to say, and he does so with eloquence and grace. However, like any well-crafted and dynamic album, not every song is meant to sweep the listener off their feet. For example, the short and sweet ballad called “This Bag” is difficult to deduce a meaning from, but the simple nature of the track makes it quite uplifting and pleasant, giving it a very specific and effective role in the context of the album. On the other hand, many of the more complicated tracks require dozens of listens and reveal refreshing new details each time through.

One of the most impressive parts of this album was the rollout, an often overlooked but extremely important part of any piece of media. There’s nothing worse than going to see a movie and discovering that all of the best parts were already shown in the trailer. The film wins; you bought your ticket and their unethical strategy succeeds. Ayres, on the other hand, masterfully selected his singles so that none of the grand effect of the album is spoiled. The cards that he showed — “Stay,” “I’ve Always Been” and “Get to You Again” function more like invitations than reveals. Within the context of the album, the singles are a nice touch of familiarity. The arrival of a single in the track listing does not yield an instant skip. Rather, it is more of a moment of comfort and excitement. He achieves this in a few ways, unique to each track. “Get to You Again” is accompanied by a wonderfully mysterious intro, “Soon,” that builds up the reveal of the song with a dramatic and distinct presentation of the single’s theme. “I’ve Always Been” functions as a fun callback for loyal Mac Ayres fans, as the single actually predates “Drive Slow.” Eventually, when you touch down at “Stay” at the end of the album, the familiarity we as listeners have with the song only bolsters its role as the finale.

It is clear that his musicianship has skyrocketed in the short period between albums. Mac Ayres is no longer just singing over soul beats. While he was able to masterfully pull melodies out of the instrumentals on “Drive Slow,” oftentimes songs felt lacking in terms of direction and motion. Songs like the two-part “Roses” and “Something to Feel” display Ayres’ masterful incorporation of his vocals into the instrumentals.

This leap in musicianship is evident by a quick scroll through his Instagram account. Nowadays, Ayres is constantly creating, recording and sharing with his audience. He’s more transparent with his work than most, often playing live versions of singles prior to release or showing off project files for new songs. However, through this album, he shows that he is capable of achieving such a level of quality and uniqueness with his music that his little teasers don’t spoil anything.

Ultimately, “Something to Feel” is a masterpiece of modern R&B. In a genre where albums are getting longer and songs are blending together, Ayres delivers a concise and powerful punch to the indie music community with this project.

“Something to Feel” is available on all major streaming services.

Tyler Wyatt can be reached at [email protected]

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