Three years after his self-titled, 2011 debut album Andy Grammer, Grammer is back with Magazines or Novels, a smashing sophomore album with eleven tracks of varied music perfect for road trips, beach days, and anywhere in between. Continuing with Grammer's recurring theme of hip-hop production in sync with singer-songwriter charm, Magazines or Novels serves as a perfect complement. Slated for release by S-Curve Records on Aug. 5, Magazines or Novels does not disappoint, simply-put.
Weighing beats and rhythm permeate each track, an emphasis often lacking in contemporary vocal-heavy pop music. In ways reminiscent of John Mayer's earlier work, Andy Grammer focuses on, in Magazines or Novels' best songs, sustained vocals and rhythmic, ambient music. At times Grammer's voice channels Gavin DeGraw and at others Adam Levine. With this type of vocal range, Andy Grammer has the ability to compile an impressive mix of songs into this album.
Grammer wastes no time in beginning Magazines or Novels with "Honey, I'm Good," the no-fade-in opening track. With a quick tempo, this track alternates between portions of almost a cappella and others rife with church organs and all sorts of percussion. "Honey, I'm Good" boasts consistent and steady thumping from drums keep the song moving.
"Back Home" is a song about homeward-bound pride, an anthem to returning to one's roots. The strings on this track are impressively intertwined. A sense of yearning emerges between the strums of banjoes and the festive timbre of tambourines. Throughout the album, "Back Home" seems like the most vocally-challenging track for Grammer, who manages briefly to retreat to his comfortable range while continuing to impress in the higher register. Appropriately, "Back Home" was the first single to be released from Magazines or Novels.
"Forever" starts with Andy Grammer clearing his throat, as if this song's message warrants a phlegm-expelling pause. In addition to the intentional vinyl white noise in its intro, the sporadic bursts of heavy brass of yesteryear coupled with the crooning of other male vocals give "Forever" an old-timey aural quality. The song quickly takes a turn for the contemporary with Grammer's signature style of guiding the music with his voice -- not the other way around.
"Masterpiece" shape-shifts from start to finish. In its slow, acoustic, and distant piano intro, one can't help but to think of the musical arrangement in Christine and the Queens' "Nuit 17 à 52." Very soon thereafter, Grammer assumes the role of a pseudo-hip-hop/pop singer, channeling the cadence of Mike Posner and Eric Hutchinson. "Masterpiece" is arguably the album's most heavily-produced track, packing a lot of weight into its punch.
On a Western movie kick, "Sinner" features harmonizing vocals, twangy guitar with a ton of reverb, and a thumping kick drum. The distortion in the guitar and its solos create a musical composition built around the theme of adventure. Independent of the lyrics, the music in "Sinner" is attractive and compelling. Lyrically, just about anything could work with Andy Grammer's timing; the way he sings alongside the effective Wild, Wild West soundtrack, the song sounds complete.
Magazines or Novels displays a level of consistent creativity and continued talent from Andy Grammer. The challenge of a sophomore album that lives-up to the hype of a debut album is overwhelming, yet Grammer's second full-length release both meets and surpasses the standard he set back in 2011. Magazines or Novels has positive and critical undertones, paired alongside pensive and carefree ones. An emotionally complex collection of songs, this album will definitely please existing fans and entice new listeners to keep doing just that: listening.