There was a time when Michigan singer Mayer Hawthorne seemed like a rip-roaring retro soul man in the vein of Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears or this city’s own Nick Tolford and Company. With his newly released fourth album Where Does This Door Go?, Hawthorne completes a transition from fierce to fluffy. Robin Thicke and Justin Timberlake feel practically avant-garde compared to this guy.
That said, Door isn’t a faceplant or even a facepalm. It’s simply the lightest, airiest entry into 2013’s disco soul revival. With exquisite arrangements and dollops of falsetto, Hawthorne channels Steely Dan, Earth, Wind & Fire and Michael McDonald-era Doobie Brothers, presenting state-of-the-art mom music inflected with the requisite 21st century sex talk. (One misfire: “Robot Love” is introduced by Radiohead’s “Fitter, Happier” voice, apparently mid-orgasm.)
Perhaps that middle-aged lady demographic will get a kick out of Hawthorne when accompanying their daughters to the OneRepublic show he’s opening Thursday at the LC.