The latest release from Heartour, a ten song collection named R u in, ranks as one of the best releases this year in any genre. Songwriter Jason Young, creative engine behind the project, hits the right note with this album as he shows clear investment in each of the album’s songs – there’s no audible coasting on R U In. He treats each of the songs as if it is a centerpiece number rather than clearly delineating between what qualifies as filler and tracks with loftier aims. The production is another factor setting this release apart from similar more run of the mill efforts. Jason Young has honed his songwriting and arranging skills a great deal during his time in the limelight and shows an endless amount of invention for manipulating electronic instruments to great effect. 

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You hear it from the opening track onward. “Brain” lays down an early gauntlet as Young marshals an impressive array of synths, keyboards, and computer generated sound with impressive results. It is an intensely physical aural attack that, nevertheless, doesn’t reach claustrophobic levels. It isn’t without musicality as well. There are discernible time-tested musical moves laden throughout the arrangement and it likewise possesses a punchy chorus you won’t soon forget. 

The second track is just as impressive, if not more so. “Refill the Fountain”, like “Brain”, relies on some traditional twists to popular songwriting whilst still manifesting a totally contemporary sound. He creates a honest to God groove for this track that his voice is clearly capable of milking for all its worth and his voice scales the same heights of physicality as the electronic music. His wont for shifting gears during the course of a track is in full evidence here as well. 

The first of the album’s “lighter” cuts comes with the third track “Let the Robots Drive”. Realizing that ten songs bursting with all-out electronic assaults of a sort would result in the very same-y album, Young wisely mixes things up on R U In with tracks that take a much more understated approach. These are invariably much moodier offerings than their more bold and in your face counterparts and this track is no exception. It percolates with restless percussion throughout its entirety and Young gives what I think is one of his better vocal performances on the release. 

“As Far As We Go” is a curious hybrid, in a way, as it marries both of the aforementioned approaches into a single stunning track. It creates delicious tension thanks to how it sounds ready to burst free of its self-imposed restraints at any moment but yet never does. “The Persuadable One” isn’t nearly as bashful. It is arguably the best song on the album and Young audibly darkens the musical mood for listeners without veering too far away from the template he has established for this release. The lyrics are among his finest as well. Heartour’s new album outstrips their previous fine efforts thanks to it being a virtual songwriting clinic – Jason Young stages a tour de force album benefitting from superb pacing and, as a nod to a lost art, sequencing the tracks in an engrossing way.

Nicole Killian

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