Favorite Track: "If I Got It (Your Love Brought It) Least Favorite Track: "Love Is"
In a band setting, it is very rare for a musician to assume the role of “drummer” and “singer”. The two positions seldom come as a package deal, but when they do, the drummer/singer in question almost always possesses insurmountable talent. Take names like Phil Collins, Levon Helm, Anderson .Paak, and Roger Taylor, just to name a few. A more recent addition to this elite class has been Aaron Frazer, who drums and sings for the soul/R&B band Durand Jones & The Indication. As with most of his drummer/singer counterparts, the man’s talent has always kept a solo career in the cards, but it wasn’t until Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys called him while he was cooking dinner that he finally received the push he needed to jump-start his own solo catalog. In the career of every artist, athlete, and entrepreneur there comes a tipping point; a culminating moment where one’s hard work finally pays off. For Frazer this was his moment. With one of his dream collaborators on his team, he enthusiastically pushed forward.
Aaron Frazer’s debut album Introducing… pairs his band’s soul/R&B niche with Auerbach’s Nashville-esque rock and roll production. His band’s itch to revitalize 60’s soul music, translates to his own work very seamlessly. The result is a remarkably consistent outing that has its sights set on a very specific sound. It’s focused, but eventually paints itself into a corner. By the second half Introducing… starts to rehash the same ideas that it began with, they sound just as polished, but they aren’t as interesting the second time around.
The backbone of Introducing… ‘s sound comes in large from Frazer’s high-pitched falsetto. It’s a trait that appears in all twelve songs, as he rarely veers left vocally. He’s remarkably on pitch the entire time, but eventually the sound he’s trying to emulate begs for the vocal conviction of an emotionally belting Sam Cooke or Ray Charles. He is clearly trying to make soul music, but it’s rare that his voice sounds soulful. He aligns more vocally with modern names like The Weeknd, who trademark this same falsetto for the R&B of the modern day. Luckily, the project features solid songwriting, and more than enough instrumentally detailed performances to pick up the slack left by Frazer’s sometimes-samey vocal stylings.
The album opens with “You Don’t Wanna Be My Baby”, a choppy, slow burning, ballad backed by some classic overdrive guitar work from Auerbach and a multitude of string sections. It’s a little un-eventful, and seems to lack a convincing hook. Yet, what follows it is Frazer at his best. “If I Got It (Your Love Brought It)” is far more up-tempo than the album’s intro. It features some driving keys and a collection of horns and organs that give the song a much more memorable instrumental palette than its predecessor. Its skeleton is much more fun, it’s groovy, and begs to be replayed in a fashion that no other track on this project does.
Frazer’s momentum continues with track #3 “Can’t Leave It Alone”. Auerbach leaves his footprints all over this one, with stuttering walls of sound that could have easily been featured on any of The Keys first three records. Again, the song’s horns really provide a feeling of intensity, and when at work with the track’s staccato keys, they build tempo and a conclusive feeling of anxiousness. Despite the album’s mostly-strong first leg, Frazer’s sound becomes rather formulaic by the back half of the album. “Love Is” the album’s tenth track, feels like less of a polished song and more of an under-written idea. The lyrics seem to emulate a Hollywood love story, one that’s been done already one too many different times. “There we stood at the edge/With the sun at our backs making shadows”, Frazer moans through his silky smooth falsetto. As the album goes on, under-written lyrics like this one become a trend. Moments that are sonically great are often dragged down by under-written lyrical content. The problem is mostly topical, as Frazer rarely drifts from talking about anything but unrequited love. The closest he comes to something more lyrically inventive is on track #4, “Bad News”, where he riffs on climate change, loneliness, and other modern issues. The song is a lyrical anomaly, but still acts as one of the album’s few highlights.
While it’s certainly flawed, Introducing.. Is almost everything that a debut album needs to be. It’s instrumentally sharp, to the point, and impressively consistent, (even if that means it lacks stand out moments). Although it can come off a bit one-dimensional, it’s important to acknowledge that Aaron Frazer is a young artist still trying to find his sound. Introducing… doesn’t give you much to take home, but what it does offer is fun, nostalgic, and well-made. It might not stick like it wants to, but while it’s plays you can't help but move your feet.