Album Review: Maeko’s ‘Dead Center, Looking Around’

By: Shamus Hill

Dead Center, Looking Around is Maeko’s debut album, and the Boston-based artist has crafted a genuinely intelligent project that covers a wide array of human experience, listenable for anyone out there in search of introspection. With this, the UMass Amherst alum demonstrates his progression as both an artist and a person with this release, utilizing a stellar production team featuring BLAKE, Dave Chapman, Natty Reeves, and Esbe. The buoyant, poised sonic structure effectively assists him in achieving a solid concept, which centers around entering, coexisting with, and moving past the hardships of life at its very core. I highly recommend listening to the album from front to back to truly experience his marvelous concept.

Furthering this, Maeko’s latest bestowal navigates through a variety of subjects, ranging from deep loss to  the beauty of life. If there’s anything he wants you to know about Dead Center, Looking Around, it’s that:

The project is a trip to the “hive” from front to back, both sonically and conceptually. The “hive” represents the chaotic, hectic, messed-up aspects of life… Flying in, seeing it dead center, and flying out having learned more.”

As you begin listening to the album, Maeko gives insight towards how he felt upon entry to the world of music as an artist. Soon following this, he dwells on his aspirations to be like some of the artists he sees on stage from afar. He’s confident that his dreams will manifest eventually, however as time continues and more negative events unfold, Maeko’s hopes begin to diminish. This behavior combines with conflicting trains of thought, which ultimately result in Maeko being in “the center of the hive” – a place where he’s seemingly watching all of the chaos unfold all around him. Instead of remaining on the sidelines, he reflects on how he can truly make an impact on the world, and from there begins moving with new knowledge that he’ll carry into the next challenges of his life.

Some standout tracks for me off of Dead Center, Looking Around were “Amber” (ft./Prod. BLAKE), “Scarlett Lining” (Prod. Esbe), and “Rather Bee” (Prod. Natty Reeves). “Amber” is a groovy, yet mellow track which perfectly encapsulates the feeling you get on late summer nights. BLAKE continues his sensational production job on this track, and even hops on the record to add a verse of his own. “Scarlett Lining” features some tremendous production at the hands of Esbe, who excels in helping Maeko continue the lively spirit of this project. This song, in particular, features Maeko’s cry for positivity in the world – something that’s of utmost importance in the current climate in our country. The Natty Reeves-produced “Rather Bee” is a jazzy, ambient record that helps you cool down and reflect, which is exactly the purpose of the end of Dead Center, Looking Around; No matter what we experience, we have to reflect upon these experiences so that we may grow appropriately and learn from them.

That being said, this project is the perfect microcosm of life. We all strive to not only have experiences, but to both learn and grow from said experiences all along the way. Maeko puts these lessons and what he’s learned on display through the use of the metaphorical “hive” in Dead Center, Looking Around in a clear light, making this a must-listen for any fan out there. Be sure to go see Maeko live in Northampton at this year’s Extravaganja event, next Saturday April 21st.

Listen to Boston-based artists’ debut album below:

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