Review Summary: A truly beautiful way to say goodbye.
When art rockers The Mayan Factor announced the release of an album a year after the band’s lead singer, Ray-Ray, died of a heroin overdose, the news was met with both surprise and confusion. The group’s third album Yesterday’s Son
isn’t an album of new material written post-Ray-Ray’s passing, the band has stated that the songs appearing on the album all began as demos that were written and partially recorded in sessions years before the tragic loss of their singer. As an act of closure, the band has re-recorded new instrumental tracks to back the original vocal takes from their vocalist, and bundled up the newly finalized versions of the originally unreleased tracks as their farewell album to their fans.
What’s most impressive about Yesterday’s Son
is how cohesive it sounds. Even though the vocal takes are a few years old, the music flows very naturally around Ray-Ray’s singing, so much so that it’s as if he was actually recording the music with the band. The production seamlessly brings every element together, and the finished result feels very much so alive, something that many posthumous releases of unreleased songs understandably lack. You can really feel the care, effort, and emotion that was poured into the heart of these songs.
The musical quality of Yesterday’s Son
is as brilliant as it's ever been for the band. The layered contrast between the delicate acoustic strumming and shimmering electric guitars makes for a simply gorgeous atmosphere that projects imagery akin to a sunset on a spring day: the sunlight feels soft and dwindling, but it always seems brightest as its fading into the horizon. The visual of the brightness of the sun on a distant horizon is an image fitting to that of Ray-Ray’s vocal performance, in that it has a bleak sense of poignancy, but it’s also warm and comforting with a glimmering assurance of hope. Ray-Ray sings in a rustic low-tone, reminiscent of iconic grunge outfit Pearl Jam’s frontman, Eddie Vedder. The band also keeps short recordings in the album of Ray-Ray briefly speaking in the demo sessions before the tracks start, his voice haunting these songs and making them feel as full of memories as looking through a photo album.
It’s also apparent that The Mayan Factor haven’t lost a step when it comes to their ability to give modern alternative rock a subtle ethnic twist that goes a long way, as the usage of kongo drums for percussion is still present in the album. Though it’s not clear whether or not the songs on Yestrday’s Son
were expanded upon since the original demo sessions, or just re-recorded. These songs sound great, but they originally just started out as random demo tracks that never had the chance to be filtered or organized through the process of making an album when they were first conceived, and the mission of the band was to simply finish these songs up by working with whatever vocal demos of Ray-Ray that they could, instead of furthering the songs any more than that. The album is more of a way of just wrapping up what was formerly undone, and though it really can’t be helped, with only seven tracks it’s more of a collection of unreleased material as opposed to a proper album.
Due to this, the album lacks a bit in sonic variation. Every song is along the same lines as one another, and there’s nothing like the jazzy rock cuts that were featured on previous Mayan Factor albums to be found, only songs that have flares of sweeping melancholia and neo-progressive rock flirting, though the band really cannot be faulted for this as it’s probable that songs of another flavor never had a chance to be created before Ray-Ray’s passing.
All in all, Yesterday’s Son
is a strongly emotional powerhouse of a tribute to their late lead singer, and one that packs a walloping punch to the heart at that. It shows the band playing in top shape despite their heavy loss, and acts as a heartfelt way of saying goodbye to their fanbase.