“I don’t know what you do with your free time, but I think about you,” sings crooner Ian Guerin in the chorus of “Free Time,” the new single from Irreplaceable. The swooning, bombastic sound of the section is a hint as to the sort of sixties lounge act cool Guerin goes for here—a reference to blackjack soon takes things further into the realm of Rat Pack-esque vibes. But Guerin is far from some simple nostalgia act, as a nod to Twitter early in the song shows that this is very much a tune about modern romantic anxieties. It’s a well that Guerin taps into often on Irreplaceable, without it ever feeling like the contemporary references are shoehorned in. The track’s themes of worries and obsessions exacerbated by social media scrolling hit close to home, while somehow not sacrificing the vibes of timelessness the album aims for (whether it’s taking inspiration from the sixties, eighties, or nineties).
It can be hard to go into detail about production in an album review, as often times the best production is that which ninety percent of the audience won’t even consciously think about, not unlike movie editing. Irreplaceable can be like that, as Guerin casts a wide net of R&B sounds that includes piano, strings, crunchy beats, and some basslines that would have been at home in the g-funk era. It’s a busy sound, but it all blends together for a smooth aesthetic that’s confident rather than cluttered. To witness the scope of Irreplaceable’s production on full display, look no further than the title track, which uses touches of Spanish guitar to immediately cement a melancholy mood. Ian Guerin sings about heartbreak often and capably on the album, but “Irreplaceable” adds notes of world-weariness to the mix that make its story even more affecting. We are introduced to a narrator who’s been hurt in love before too many times to count, after having broken it off in a relationship that was going nowhere—a decision fraught with regret, as the tone of Guerin’s voice easily demonstrates.
Of course though, Irreplaceable is not an album that sticks to one tone throughout, as the following track “Roll the Dice” shows. The lyrics tackle themes of two former lovers coming across each other again like the previous song, but with a wholly different energy. “Roll the Dice” is an exuberant number about wanting to rekindle an old flame, and this atmosphere of possibilities is underscored with stirring strings and a giddy disco beat. It’s a tune with the same joyous pulse of the best Jamiroquai songs, and might be the best track on the disc. I would say that Irreplaceable is the best retro soul record I’ve heard in a while, but “retro” would feel too much like pigeonholing Mr. Guerin. This is an album where a classic streak and a millennial sensibility work hand in hand.
Watch the Free Time music video by Ian Guerin here:
Follow Ian Guerin on the web:
Ian Guerin Album “Irreplaceable” Streaming https://songwhip.com/album/ian-guerin/irreplaceable
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