Favorite Track: "Coffee (feat Marc E. Bassey)" Least Favorite Track: "Second Time Around"
Indie Pop singer Quinn XCII is an artist I have loosely followed since the release of his 2016 EP, Bloom. The record specialized in bright instrumentation and laid-back lyrics that culminated into an infectious listen that kept me coming back with ease. The project was simple yet effective, with “Bones” being a song I still come back to frequently to this day. Since then, Quinn has released a few studio albums and gotten plenty of mainstream success under his belt. Listening to the singles for his newest studio LP, A Letter To My Younger Self, it was plain to see that Quinn was taking a significant left turn from the unique, indie pop production to a more basic mainstream pop appeal, with the dime-a-dozen pop instrumentation of “Stacy” and a obnoxiously boring and melodramatic attempt at a ballad with “Second Time Around”. These two songs showed next to nothing that interested me, as they both felt very face-value, and had nothing that was making them stick in my head. This surprised me, as it seemed to be something Quinn had no problem doing with previous releases. Nonetheless, the single “Coffee” caught my attention with its bright pianos and catchy hook, and I held out hope for the quality of the upcoming record and the possibility of Quinn producing yet another fun and interesting indie pop record.
Unfortunately for Quinn, the negative aspects of those singles ring true with the majority of A Letter To My Younger Self. There are a few exceptions, like the radio-friendly “Sleep While I Drive” and the incredibly catchy “Coffee”, but nearly every other song on the record has serious issues that drag down the quality significantly. The record starts with “Am I High RN”, which has a very heavenly vocal sample and lowkey delivery from Quinn, but it never really goes anywhere. The lyrics are painfully melodramatic, which is a common theme across the record, and the feature from blackbear brings little to nothing to the table. The song “Stacy” is so desperate to be played in a teenage coming of age movie commercial that it is astonishing. The nostalgic guitars in the background and the boring, lovey-dovey chorus leave me wishing for anything other than what was provided. All of the lowlights on this record seem to share a similar theme, one of lackluster songwriting, even though decent instrumentals are typically provided with “Stacy” being an exception. The track “A Letter To My Younger Self” has a fun instrumental that is a little dark and moody, but Quinn’s vocal delivery is nothing short of boring, and the same can be said for the corny Logic feature here as well. Almost all of the lyrics on this record are boring, and often feel emotionally immature or even cringey.
The production is definitely the high point on this record. It feels very pristine and polished, whether it be the drums on the track “Notice Me” or the cute little guitar lick on “Two 10’s”. The aforementioned "Coffee" was 100% my favorite track on the record, as it is exactly the kind of music I would like to see from Quinn. The lyrics aren't complicated and are about unrequited feelings for a girl, but unlike a lot of other tracks on the record are done quite tastefully. The pianos on the track are so catchy and the swung drum groove creates such a fun pocket that I can't help but be addicted to.
A Letter to My Younger Self is an incredibly well produced but poorly written indie-pop record. If Quinn’s songwriting was a bit more on point and felt less like he was pandering to the mainstream with melodramatic lyrics that are relatable to teenagers, the record would be significantly more interesting. Without his distinct personality present on earlier records of Bloom's caliber, the music becomes uninteresting and feels like wasted potential. Unfortunately it feels as though Quinn has taken a step backwards from his previously recognizable sound in exchange for painfully basic and unoriginal instrumentation and vocal lines.