- A.D. Amorosi
Where Does This Door Go
Wearing a snazzy suit and casting yourself as a retro-soul act is a fine way into the music business, but a potential artistic dead end. Those attempting to paint themselves out of a creative corner in 2013 include Fitz & the Tantrums (with the hit-and-miss More Than Just a Dream) and JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound (with the breakthrough Howl). And now Mayer Hawthorne, the Ann Arbor-born, Motown-schooled slickster who's on his third album (first on a major label), seems well positioned for stardom.
Working with a host of producers, including the ubiquitous Pharrell Williams, and making room for drop-ins by the likes of rapper Kendrick Lamar, Hawthorne makes his play with a laid-back, cool-as-a-cucumber lover-man persona. Occasionally, he slides into the wholly generic. (Did he really just sing, "We'll forever be ships passing in the night?" in "Corsican Rose"? Yes, he did.) But while he's mostly a mild vocal presence, songs like the lead single "Her Favorite Song" and "Reach Out Richard" show him stretching out sonically while showing off his aptitude for creating soothingly seductive ear candy that would sound right at home on 1970s AM radio.
- Dan DeLuca
Mayer Hawthorne plays 8:30 p.m., Aug. 3, on the Sands Steel Stage at Bethlehem Musikfest at PNC Plaza, 645 E. First St., Bethlehem. Also featured: One Republic and Serena Ryder. Tickets: $39-$49. Information: 610-332-1300, www.musikfest.org. He will also DJ, along with King Britt, at 10 p.m. Aug. 3 at the Hard Rock Cafe, 1113 Market St. Tickets: $15. Phone: 215-238-1000, www.hardrockcafe.com.
(Third Man ***1/2)
On his website, Pokey LaFarge declares: "It's not retro music. It's American music that never died." On his fifth album, the St. Louis-
based singer and guitarist makes another irresistible case for that claim.
Although only 30, LaFarge draws mostly from pre-World War II sounds. But he still comes across less like a mannered preservationist and more like an inspired original. The way he mixes and matches jazz, ragtime, and country blues is matched by the natural verve and charisma of his singing, whether he's crooning through ballads like "What the Rain May Bring" and "Let's Get Lost" or tearing through rhythmically harder-edged numbers like "Central Time" and "Close the Door." Sealing the deal is LaFarge's songwriting. Drawing often from his own Midwestern upbringing, he avoids gauzy nostalgia and gives these performances an undeniable immediacy that makes them as resonant and vital as anything out there.
- Nick Cristiano
Top Albums in the Region
This Week Last Week
Locally Nationally Locally
1 1 Jay Z Magna Carta ... Holy Grail 1
2 3 Kidz Bop Kids Kidz Bop 24 -
3 2 Sara Bareilles Blessed Unrest -
4 4 Ace Hood Trials & Tribulations -
5 7 J. Cole Born Sinner 3
6 32 Taylor Swift Red 17
7 8 Teen Beach Soundtrack -
8 10 Cody Simpson Surfers Paradise -
9 6 Imagine Dragons Night Visions 7
10 9 Justin Timberlake 20/20 Experience 12
SOURCE: SoundScan (based on purchase data from Philadelphia and Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, Chester, Camden, Burlington and Gloucester Counties). Billboard Magazine 8/3/13 © 2013
In Stores Tuesday
Buddy Guy, Rhythm & Blues;
Vince Gill & Paul Franklin, Bakersfield;
Robin Thicke, Blurred Lines;
Keiko Matsui, Soul Quest