While there’s no disputing the eclectic feel of the tracklist for Neal Fox’s new album Unhinged, there’s one element that binds every stitch of material together on this tenth studio LP from the noted singer/songwriter, and that’s sonic integrity. If a track is built on an exchange between a vocal and a guitar, the harmony is the focus rather than the rhythm or the rhyme it would just as soon frame. In songs like “My Special Girl,” “Insanity Was Throwing a Party,” and “That Rabbit Hole,” nothing is off-limits for Fox lyrically because he has the ability to venture places with his sound that other poets wouldn’t be able to. He’s using that power for good here and leaving an inspiring message at odds with the intimidating cover artwork Unhinged features.
There’s so much more to this album than cosmetic luster could ever account for, and I would point you towards “Dear Facebook,” “After the Great Reset,” and “Fishy” for evidence supporting this notion. Bound by the emotive output of the lyrics and the tempo at which they’re broken off to us, these tracks take a step towards the spiritual by remaining as distant from the mainstream (yet influenced by its most basic of pop concepts) as possible. Conflict is somehow an agent of harmony in Unhinged, but rather than questioning why this is, I’ve found it much easier to simply sit back and enjoy the fruits of Neal Fox’s labor in all of their high-definition glory.
Fox is always putting his feelings on the line for listeners in this album, but not in the sense that the narratives here amount to ultimatums reprocessed in hindsight. Contrarily, I think there’s a really reassuring vibe to the way he’s presenting the songs and stories comprising the best moments in Unhinged, like “The Good In Us,” “You Have the Right,” “Truth Matters,” and the aforementioned title track. He’s welcoming us into his world with open arms rather than giving us the windowpane-filtered view from the gallery, the latter of which has become the preferred method of expressing intimacy among a lot of his peers in the pop genre over the last couple of years. This is a man who isn’t afraid to dig deeper, and his recordings here show that.
If you need a sonic pick-me-up with a sterling message if you listen closely enough for it, I would recommend placing Unhinged near the top of your required listening list for the month of October. The music here, even when it’s toned down, has a bite that begs for us to listen to the message in play a little closer than we might have in a scenario featuring a lesser artist. Neal Fox is living true to the design he set forth for his music a number of years ago but also adhering to the gospel of evolution when and where it counts the most. A lot of his contemporaries might be slowing their roll, but this is a player who doesn’t appear to be losing his edge at all.
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