Double a-sides have existed since the days of the 7-inch/45 single, where two songs (one on each side) are promoted as the one single. Famous examples include The Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane and ABBA’s Voulez-Vous/Angeleyes.
These are a rarity in this digital age, but this hasn’t deterred suave soulman Mayer Hawthorne from releasing both Crime and The Stars Are Ours together.
The Stars Are Ours should be discussed first. Hawthorne’s vocals are sublime over a chilled-out, guitar-driven 1970s soft-rock influenced backing track (think Ry Cooder). The falsetto and thick harmonies recall the best of the Doobie Brothers and the Eagles. The pre-chorus and chorus are both infectious and danceable, yet there is an underlying warmth and complexity that really brings out the performances of the session musicians. Listeners would be forgiven for thinking that they had accidentally switched to an oldies-but-goodies radio station if the lyrics about getting high weren’t so explicit.
The flip-side, Crime, shows another side of the man behind the stage name of Mayer Hawthorne, Andrew Mayer Cohen. He is also involved in the rap and hip-hop genres under a different stage name (Haircut), so it’s no surprise he has enlisted the help of rising rapper Kendrick Lamar (Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe) to contribute a verse.
Crime is another track that is literally just about partying (‘a little weed, a little red wine…we just wanna party’). However, unlike those disposable dance songs on the radio about getting wasted, this song is classier and better thought out. The medium-paced, organic arrangement features a groovy, psychedelic-sounding guitar riff and Hawthorne’s heavily processed vocals that make him sound like he is in a drug-induced stupor. The ‘it’s a cri-hi-ime’ hook is a high in itself as Hawthorne’s falsetto rivals that of Don Henley, Brian Wilson and others. Lamar provides some edgy, jaunty flow in his verse, as a direct contrast to Hawthorne’s drawn out notes. Somehow, the ratchetness of the rap fits with the mellow vibe of the track as Crime is after all another ode to Mary Jane.
On paper, Crime and The Stars Are Ours are from entirely different genres. However, they are certainly two sides of the same coin as they are both feel-good tracks on the joys of weed and partying.