Growing up in the 90s and early 2000s was complex, for sure. As kids we were getting tech innovations in the form of handheld games, chat rooms and cell phones. As we grow older in our society, it’s still pretty easy to fall sedentary and sit indoors on the social media platform of your choice. Newport News’ own HANZ brings us a good antidote to our lethargy this summer in the form of Go Outside! “There were times when I was stuffed inside and I was thinking too much or getting bored,” the 23 year old artist shared. “When you need a breath of fresh air, as cliche as it is, you need to go outside. Like walk around the block and listen to this album, you’ll feel good.” Just in time for the heat and summer shenanigans, HANZ released his 8 song project via all major streaming platforms on May 27th. The cover, staying true to the core message, features an image of himself in a mountain terrain. I took the time to sit with the music and speak to the artist to form some cohesive thoughts.
To start, Go Outside! is sonically unmatched. From the each tracked instrument to the softness of all the vocals- the album is easy listening. I appreciated live drums on the tracks and several. Listens in, I realized the duality of the album. Not only does the album play out well in a car or headphone setting, but the album will inevitably sound solid live. The several elements at play in songs like Honey and Wishing Kites give Go Outside! an added texture that sets the project apart from others. “My friend Aaron Jackson, aka Lamborghini Jones, produced half of the album and then I had one of my friends Thomas from the band Bangloud, he did drums,” shared HANZ. “I had my friend Will Arthur, who is my bandmate, do the guitar. There were songs where I had the idea, I had the chords on my computer and I would show them that and we’d create the idea we had. I did all the mixing and mastering, except for one song: Mission Kites. My friend Rasneek did that,”.
Where there are highs in the production value, there are pitfalls in some of the vocals. Honey and Wishing Kites are good examples again where the sound is cohesive but not mixed with singing in mind. While the vocals are soft in themselves, the two do not mix well together. In Wishing Kites, HANZ punches in using a rapping cadence and the mixing sounds agreeable. His beginning vocals where he is singing with Jasz are not mixed as smoothly and it is in the hook that we hear the duo lacks the technical finesse needed for a singer’s voice to be so bare on a track. Early is a better mix, in my opinion, where his vocals are much more treated with some reverb and softened to match the back instrumental track. Early is also where Arthur’s drumming skills are put on full display. Halfway through this song, the man goes off and that feeling of seeing or longing to see the song live creeps up.
HANZ’s lyricism and content begin and leave on a goodnote within the album. The initial song Go has the least amount of words, lending much more relevance to the opening ambience and sound. The last song, Park Bench, features an entire story, framed in a classic theme love. What sets the love-story apart is the durability of the love he sings about and how eloquently he narrates for his listeners. I can’t speak for all of us but I don’t know that I’ve heard a story of blind lovers crying in a park together. Overall the album is an experimental mash-up of colors, feelings, stories and intrinsically core positive messages. Where there are pitfalls in some technical areas, there are highlights in others. Go Outside! challenges what a listener understands about genres and sound. These types of albums that push the boundary in a quick and fun way are to be celebrated. One of my favorite tracks from the short 19-minute album has to be Hyacinth Hair Interlude. It is this track that demonstrates to the audience why HANZ got in the studio with Lamborghini Jones in the first. The dude’s ear for expansive (albeit weird) sounds made the interlude all the more fun.
Overall, I believe the album (I use this term very loosely, considering the length of the official project) positions itself and HANZ as a maverick in his field. There are many artists that attempt to raise the bar on what we consider ‘different’ or ‘unique’. After some time with Go Outside! I do honestly feel like HANZ’s artistry is authentic and effortless. It would take all parties involved in the making of this album more energy to make what everyone else is making. This genre-fluid project, aptly described as Colorblock, shows what happens when you devote in energy into being yourself and your message.