Summer is almost over and there is no better way to close it out than by listening to “George Clanton & Nick Hexum.” Due to recent circumstances, the record feels like the summer we never had. If the title of the record was not evident, this is a self-titled collaboration between artists George Clanton of 100% Electronica and Nick Hexum of 311.
George is known for his vaporwave flavored electronica and synthpop. George currently releases music under his real name despite his debut music appearance as the vaporwave artist ESPRIT. He has since started his own music label 100% Electronica and has gained a greater following after releasing the excellent album “Slide” in 2018.
Nick Hexum is known for being the lead singer and guitarist of the 1990’s and 2000’s group 311. Their albums typically feature a blend of reggae, funk, hip-hop and metal. The group has released 13 studio albums, and is still active, having released the album “Voyager” in 2019.
The duo is a perfect combination as George produces synthpop beats whilst Nick provides the vocal delivery and a side of guitar. This collision of sounds and styles creates a stylish psychedelic sound with summer-flavored synths and distant guitar. Meanwhile the lyrics focus on summertime and reminiscing on past memories.
In an interview with Anthony Fantano, George remarked that he wished, “this was the summer that was appropriate for this record.” Given all the grief, turmoil, loss, and stress due to the virus and other factors, this album is a nostalgic reprieve. It feels like the soundtrack to the best summers spent with friends or even the summer that could have been. Even the instrumentals themselves feel like they were intertwined with a nostalgic emotion. This is due to the excellent production and mixing by George with consistent light synths and drum and bass beats.
The album opens with the single “Aurora Summer.” This track sets the tone immediately with a light drum beat and cycling whirring acid-flavored synths. The track then layers on an resonant guitar riff before Nick begins his verse. The lyrics focus on “summer” and the “heat… waving up in the air” while you “enjoy the view” and “make a splash.” Nick’s vocal delivery is relaxed and lingering but transitions to form a staccato rhythm as he delivers the chorus. The guitars continue to accent the beat as the track fades out into a drone with chimes.
“Out of Blue” starts with a bassy drone, woozy guitar sounds and even seagulls in the far background. Nick begins singing with the lyrics “it happened out of the blue … didn’t have a clue… never supposed the road I drove to would be closed.” The track then expands and explodes into a catchy vocal hook that reminds me of “Jeff The Brotherhood’s” song “Sixpack.” “Out of Blue” tells the story of a “rattling corolla” and a close call with the cops. The track has a fade at the end and then changes into a ringing synth reminiscent of “livin’ loose” the opening track of George Clanton’s album “Slide.”
“Under Your Window” is a standout on the album with a memorable lyrical hook. After some layering and the initial chorus, the drums get added to the mix with the synths for a groovy beat. The track has a romantic aspect as it explores an encounter of throwing a rock at a window presumably in order to get the attention of a crush. The line “you said I was insane that was your refrain” seems to hint that the affection was unrequited but “what do you know” at least he “gave it a go.”
The fourth track, “Driving in my Car,” is the first real lull in the album. This track slows the momentum built by the first three tracks. Despite featuring a promising intro, the song does not seem to know where to go. While continuing the themes of the album the lyrics are repetitive and leave much to be desired. There is a changeup in the middle of the track where the beat subsides to focus on Nick’s lyrics, which get layered on top of each other before returning to a refrain. The track closes out with an awkward whirring synth that sounds like a siren.
“King for a Day” is an excellent track that takes off right at the start. Nick opens with the line “in the midst of it all” as dark whirling synths move about. Slowly lead synths join in the euphonious mix. A drum and bass beat gives the track a funky hip-hop feel. The layering of sounds by the end of track is perfect as you can pick apart each sound.
“Shouldn’ta Done That” closes out the album. It is a melodic trancelike track and features a sample of George’s voice echoing underneath the cycle of a synth. There are some heavy lyrics that make mention of “paltry price” he’d be “happy to pay twice” and “it’s too late to turn back now.” It is a quiet and thoughtful sendoff to an album that began with an upbeat banger.
Altogether this record is an excellent collaboration that allows both artists to shine in their respective talents. I do miss the laidback and distant vocals George typically delivers but Nick’s style and delivery granted a new spin on an already great sound. The album is only 34 minutes long and they know not to waste your time by making it overly drawn out.
There is a clean simplicity underneath much of what the album does but there is enough layering and sound scaping to explore so that the album does not feel amateur. It allows the talents of both artists to shine through and I hope that we hear more from the duo later down the road.