Our Take • Max Wonders' 'Hues To Blame'
Max Wonders has reached the end of adolescence and has plenty to say about it on his new project, Hues To Blame. About a year ago, the 19 year old rapper pulled the Los Angeles via Chicago transition, hitting the studio nonstop since and dropping two projects, honing his sound and perfecting his craft. You Will Never Find ended up being one of last year’s top projects for us, replacing any question marks around the young upstart with exclamation points.
Max Wonders' discography started with his spun out The Wonder Tape, and the constant in his library has been a penchant for experimentation. This works to and against his favor in different ways, but let’s be real; these are the best musicians, and when the experiment falls flat, that just means the next attempt will be that much better. Let’s dive into his newest project, Hues To Blame and see what works.
Hues To Blame's premise is an analysis of capital Y Youth. As an artist still technically in his teen years, hindsight comes with time, but on the other hand, who better to break down the peaks and pitfalls of ageless-ness than someone in the thick of it? If you're looking for honesty, you came to the right place, and Max Wonders offers relatability to the young and a time capsule for the old.
Thematically, the project touches on much of what has become the millenial experience, including feelings of ennui, the escapism of summer memories versus the real thing, drowning in booze and love, all that good stuff. And phones, phones everywhere, used effectively as intros / outros / interludes. Lyrically, in my opinion, this is Max Wonders' best output yet, outdoing his past work by opening up to the fans, letting his personality and thoughts shine through, as well as exploring his abilities as a story-teller. We'll touch on the beats and design in a second (certainly fire) but it's here where Max Wonders is able to distinguish himself from the crowd, providing what will keep dedicated fans coming back for more. On top of the content, he's also coming up with some of his best flows yet.
To me, Max Wonder's sound is the really interesting part. I first became a fan through his track "Complacent / Interlude" and still listen to it frequently, addicted to that perfect balance of synths, melody, bass, everything. Hues To Blame being an album on youth, you'd have to expect he'd gamble with the production (the last thing this project could be is dull), and he does not disappoint. For the most part, it all clicks perfectly, achieving that blissful level of balance that lets you either rage to a track or fall asleep to it, the juice that "C/I" has. For me, the standouts in this area are "Vices", "Kid Again", "Hotel Paradise", "Rocket Ship", "Stay" - I'll just stop there because the majority of the songs qualify. As good as his writing is, Wonders' ear for production is just as righteous.
The truth is there are a couple tracks that didn't land for me, and they happen to be loaded in the front of the album, so when I started listening, I was concerned. But as stated before, Max Wonders is taking risks here, and this is the price of admission (worth every penny, but needs to be said). "World Gone Crazy" just has too much going on for me, "Go Home" sounds like a dope Outkast homage but felt a little out of place. And more generally speaking, sometimes the bass on the project felt overpowering, not the best thing when Max Wonder's biggest strength is his subtlety. Who knows, maybe it's just my shit headphones.
But guess what! None of the above nitpicking matters that much, because Hues To Blame is AMBITIOUS. If he didn't swing and miss on those items, he probably also wouldn't be willing to risk it on the songs that turn the project into a musical double rainbow. He's filtering his story through a kaleidoscope, a grand and ballsy undertaking that has no interest in what is selling right now. If you had to describe his sound, it would be somewhere in between frenetic, melodic and crushing. If that description paints a confusing picture, it's an accurate one, and highlights both the great strengths and minor weaknesses of the project.
The online liner-note for the project states, "Don't Let Your Colors Fade". Whatever issues Hues To Blame may have, if the above quote can be taken as a mission statement, there's no doubt Max Wonders has accomplished what he set out do. Do all the songs work? Maybe not. Does it feel too long at times? Perhaps. Is it bright, risk-taking, and filled with new experiences around every corner? Absolutely. Sounds a lot like growing up.