Published March 19, 2021
By ANDREW WANG
American singer-songwriter Quinn XCII teams up with producer Ayokay on his new album “Change of Scenery II,” a collection of pop songs that — unlike what its title suggests — end up sounding just a little too much like one another.
Intro track “We Made This Album in Newport” is a sub-one-minute ambient track with quirky vocal snippets and instrumental swells, a fun and postmodern way to start off a project that more and more artists are embracing.
Quinn demonstrates his chorus-writing ability on “Distracted Youth,” which features a rolling synth and lyrics about the apathy and unimportance that he believes to be characteristic of modern love, but the track does rely heavily on its rhythmic chorus because of the sparsity of the verses. Listeners are then blessed with a groovy, dopamine-inducing chorus on “My Wife & 2 Dogs,” one of the better feel-good numbers on the album.
Unfortunately, he is not always able to replicate these successes, with tracks like “SOS” and “Hey, Goodbye” sounding like cheap imitations of earlier songs, failing to execute with their somewhat awkward choruses and relative lack of uniqueness.
“Doris Terrace” changes the mood of the project and addresses topics like depression and mistrust, showcasing a solid feature from fellow singer Jeremy Zucker and a relaxed beat that masks the song’s subject matter. Keeping with the theme of strong guest features, the Chelsea Cutler-assisted “Stay Next To Me” is another pop banger that benefits from the variation offered by Cutler.
“Mexico City” and “Monday Morning” both serve as prime examples of a common pitfall in today’s albums. They’re just about mediocre enough to be decent songs, but are completely devoid of anything that differentiates them or makes them actively likeable, occupying a similar role to strawberry ice cream: nobody’s favorite, but still bearable.
In sharp contrast, “We Don’t Talk Enough” is perhaps one of the best tracks of the entire project, featuring a minimalist guitar beat layered with melancholic lyrics about slowly growing apart from a close friend, a vibe that’s truly a departure from the rest of the tracklist. “Feel Something” displays Quinn enunciating the last word of every third line, something that gets boring at first, but actually works quite well once the beat drops.
Quinn XCII ends the project on a pretty strong note with “Look How Far We’ve Come,” a nostalgic-sounding conversational cut between two graduated college students that morphs into a melodic vocal sample remix to signal the record’s close.
“Change of Scenery II” is not a bad list of pop songs, but it loses itself in tracks that sound and behave similarly, some of which inevitably are executed better than others. The best tracks here tend to be the ones that depart the most from the norm, whether that be in the form of guest features or entire mood shifts.