Reviews

Quinn XCII Hits 10 On The Relatability Scale With Change Of Scenery II

Albums constructed in good company tend to turn out favourably. Such is the case with Michigan’s Quinn XCII‘s latest long-form offering, Change Of Scenery II. The record arrives quite literally on the heels of his July 2020 album A Letter To My Younger Self, representing Quinn’s fastest turnaround between albums, with a layover of just 239 days, and six years after the A Change Of Scenery EP. Later on release day, Quinn shared on Twitter the 12-track, 34-minute journey had charted on Apple Music as the “NUMBER 1 POP ALBUM IN THE WORLD.” The record features assists courtesy of Chelsea Cutler, Jeremy Zucker and Alexander 23, with Hazey Eyes producing, as well as Quinn’s primary producer, Ayokay, who doubles as the singer’s longtime friend, dating back to the pair’s childhood in Michigan.

Hopping between sad and hopeful and sentimental, the songs that make up Change Of Scenery II all share the fact that they evoke emotion. The album title is apt in that Quinn spent the recording of the album with his collaborators at his family’s vacation house in Newport, Rhode Island.

In a Twitter Q&A following the release, Quinn said the making of the record “was essentially just two weeks of hanging out with friends and trying to be as creative as possible.”

Opening on a dedicated intro track for the first time since his 2018 album, The Story Of Us, Quinn kicks things off with chill chimes, intercut with voice notes, flowing into the trap-ish drum beat bolstered second track, “Distracted Youth.” Singing about the superficiality of today’s society, Quinn sings, “Nobody is focused on the love // We just want attention for no reason…I can’t look myself in the mirror // Can’t keep track of all the yеars I won’t get back.” The melancholy turn enacts an obsequious reflective moment for the listener, as thoughts of the social media rat race we all live in in 2021.

Moving along, things become more upbeat as we come across the second promotional single, “My Wife & Two Dogs.” The track marked the first time since 2019’s From Michigan With Love album that Quinn included an ampersand in a song title — a logogram that also made appearances on Quinn’s second album, 2017’s The Story Of Us. Shrouded in thumping drums, Quinn divulges his future life plans, that he may “buy some real estate with all of these cool songs // we may move out to the beach with my wife and my two dogs.”

Coming in at tracklist spot No. 4, maracas and supple guitar undercutting shifted vocals, “SOS” paints a summer-y picture of second guessing in a relationship that is portrayed by the analogy of falling overboard from a boat, “You drowned in broad daylight while I kept on floatin’ // What’s the point in coast guards? We already sank.”

“Hey, Goodbye” checks in the fifth slot. Opening on soulfully soothing guitar plucks, Quinn calmly sings of nostalgic memories and a romantic breakdown as the seasons progressed and injured the relationship that was once fruitful, “When we both met last fall // We had zero cares at all // It was la-la-la-la-la, la-la, alright // Then you left me this spring // Grabbed your clothes and packed your things // It was na-na-na-na-na, hey, hey, goodbye.”

“Doris Terrace” features producer Ayokay and noted ambient pop poet Jeremy Zucker. The track is named after the street that houses the house in which Quinn made the album in Newport, Rhode Island. Grappling with thoughts of depression and self-doubt, Quinn sings of the sun shining regardless of how things are going in life. Zucker chimes in, “I made it out the house today // I even called my mom // It feels so strange to measure my worth // With every little thing that I get done.” The track is chill and heartfelt, ending on a reassuring voice note of Quinn addressing his collaborators, telling them “…even though that is true, I still know everything that we made here is amazing and special. You know what I mean?”

Next up on the docket is the album’s lead single, “Stay Next To Me.” Chelsea Cutler checks in for this one, which was originally teased on TikTok. On an Instagram live with Ayokay and Cutler after the release, Quinn informed fans that “Stay Next To Me” was his fastest track to reach 1 million digital streams, surpassing that number in under two days. Featuring a cutting high falsetto courtesy of Cutler, the pair sing of a party that neither singer is enjoying. They acquaint and bond over their shared discomfort in the situation, and decide to stay next to each other and ride the evening out together.

“Mexico City” sees Quinn revert back to the chill, vibe-y style that he coined in the early days of his career — but more on that later. The track appears to come down an octave or two in the vocal category, as well as the sonic topography. The semi-lofi beat wrought with summer-y vibes serve as a perfect point to take a moment and reflect on the first two-thirds of the record, before getting super sentimental down the stretch.

Entering the final third of Change Of Scenery II, “Monday Morning” is a jolt that wakes the listener back up from the zen brought on by the previous track. Opening on piercing metronome-esque tones, which are then met by synths and drums, the track will have you bopping back and forth on whatever day of the week it graces your eardrums.

Track 10, “We Don’t Talk Enough,” touches on how life gets wild when you grow up, and with that, friends grow apart through no fault of their own. The track features Alexander 23, who adds his bold but heartfelt vocal tones to a track that embodies the oft-uneasy spot in life that is the period between ages 20-30. Losing touch with friends is a side effect of a busier life and location migration — this song strikes a chord because we all have friends that we don’t talk to anymore. Ten out of 10 on the relatability scale.

“Feel Something” rekindles the pace of the record, swathed in a synth-y murmur throughout, Quinn sings of numbness in life despite successes and good company.

The journey ends with the reflective “Look How Far We’ve Come.” Quinn sings about college life and enjoying life with friends. This one hit all of us hard when Ayokay threw in a mashed-up sample from A Change Of Scenery’s final track, “Another Day In Paradise.” Digging up memories of the summer of 2015, when the sounds of the original mixtape were fresh and new, while it feels just like it was yesterday many of us got our first taste of Quinn XCII. “When you and I were young // This is all we ever wanted // Look how far we’ve come,” sings Quinn, before the song — and album — arrive at their close with the closing sound of a door.

In the aforementioned Twitter Q&A, Quinn divulged that Change Of Scenery IIwas created over a two-week period during lockdown.

Backed by his three-piece band, Quinn played a sold-out drive-in concert in a parking lot near Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California, on March 11, which was livestreamed on YouTube for fans who were unable to attend in person. Change Of Scenery II-featured artist Alexander 23 served as support for the show, which was capped off with Alexander joining Quinn onstage for the pair’s song from the record, “We Don’t Talk Enough.” Other surprise guests throughout the show included Ashe, Jeremy Zucker, Chelsea Cutler and Ayokay. The setlist, which featured some deep cuts from Quinn’s early mixtapes, also provided fans with a first live in-person listening opportunity for the tracks from Change Of Scenery II, as well as this past summer’s album, the aforementioned A Letter To My Younger Self.

Quinn also kept fans up to date over the opening weekend on his album’s performance on streaming platforms, retweeting streaming performance watchdog accounts on Twitter.

Featured Image: Columbia Records©