By Anastasia Landeros
A reflective Macklemore attempts to find his new groove without Ryan Lewis on “Gemini,” his first solo album in 12 years.
But Macklemore isn’t entirely alone.
All but one song features a cameo from another recording artist.
The reflective “Ten Million” is the only true solo track on the album and offers listeners a dreamy, slightly electronic look into the rappers struggles as an artist, a constant theme throughout the album.
Nostalgia also plays a major role in most of the tracks as well, a motif that has been a constant throughout his entire music catalogue, mostly notable in his 2002 hit “Thrift Shop,” which he co-wrote with producer-partner Ryan Lewis.
In the song “Levitate,” featuring soul/hip-hop singer Otieno Terry, Macklemore makes some throwback references to a jerry-curled Mario Lopez, Prince in ‘Purple Rain’ and two-stepping, all over funk-style trumpets.
The track “Corner Store,” featuring electronic-rap/hip-hop artist Dave B and fellow Seattle rapper Travis Thomas, has listeners following Macklemore on a night out with his friends, pre-stardom, to a 90s, slow-rap beat.
His most surprising track on the album, “Firebreather,” seems a bit out of place among the softer direction he takes in “Gemini.”
Featuring Reignwolf, Seattle Indie/blues rock one-man-band headed by Jordan Cook, “Firebreather” stars distorted, hard-rock guitar riffs and the raspy vocal chorus of Jordan Cook— a sound reminiscent of The Black Keys.
It’s this play on his usual musical style that allows for any listener to find a new favorite song.
For those looking for a smooth and sultry dysfunctional-relationship track, try “Over It,” featuring neo-pop artist Donna Missal.
Late ‘90s, early 2000s R&B fans will enjoy the song “Zara,” featuring Moroccan R&B singer Abir, for its retro feel and lovin-my-girl lyrics.
Not all songs on the 16-track “Gemini” show off Macklemore’s well-roundedness.
The song “Ain’t Gonna Die Tonight,” featuring previous collaborator Eric Nally, starts this album off too aggressive.
Eric Nally’s screaming vocals could turn listeners off if this album is their first introduction to Macklemore.
Unfocused lyrics, a post-chorus of sneezing and the seemingly random addition of the pungi flute, or snake charmer flute, on “How To Play The Flute,” featuring
singer/songwriter/rapper King Draino, is too abstract for the flow of the record and lacks a clear direction.
“Church” featuring alternative hip-hop artist Xperience could have also been left off this album.
It’s a sweet tribute to all the good things in his life, but it’s too musically similar to his 2013 same-sex marriage anthem “Same Love” to add anything musically different to the album.
Although clunky at times, “Gemini” offers a song for almost all listeners as Macklemore flexes his musical muscles and proves his worth as a solo artist.