It’s not often that an album is labelled “Psychedelic, Americana, Rock, and Pop” all at the same time. So when “9 to 3” showed up on the radar, the biggest question was how the Swiss American Ajay Mathur could have possibly packaged all that into just one album (granted there are 15 songs). The talented shooting star has already experienced some major success on a handful of charts, most notably, #9 on the National Airplay Top 80 Independent Charts. So now the fun begins: finding out if Ajay’s album actually packs all that promised flavour.
It all begins with the titular track “9 to 3”, a delightfully mellow tune that eases you into the record. Ajay’s crooning doesn’t sound as “refined” as anything we may be used to on the airwaves, but a tangible charm shines through, helped along by the chiming chorus of voices which joins the fray in the last minute of the track. This is followed by “Walking on the Water” in which Ajay has a little more fun, riding a fast-paced, toe-tapping instrumental. His singing is once again oozing out charm from every pore, complemented by the same church choir-esque singers in the previous track. Ajay has wisely followed a recipe for success.
Up next is “Nothing Really Matters”, where things slow down drastically. Regrettably, this does not work in Ajay’s favour. The track ends up a bit dryer, as his crooning loses the charm it held in the first two songs, while the sluggish backdrop and absence of his trusty chorus of beatific voices hurt in the long run. This was hopefully just an anomaly in what was turning out to be a terrific start to “9 to 3”.
Just around the corner is “Latin Lover”, where the tempo is measured once again, but some nice percussion impresses early, in addition to the sultry strings which are already a staple in Ajay’s songs. There is also a very strong Latin flavour to the track as the title suggests, and his voice seems somehow smoother than before, successfully creating that romantic, seductive atmosphere he was going for. It ends up as one of the better tracks on the album, even kicking things up a notch in the final minute and a half in with a scorching solo from the strings. A+.
Skipping ahead on the tracklist brings us to “Tell Me Why”, which has some slower plucking and softer chimes which really bring me back to the days of good ol’ R&B. Ajay’s singing has certainly grown on me at this point, and shifting gears also shifts the cute, cheerful charm, into a more somber, seductive variety in gentler tracks such as these. Honestly though, “Tell Me Why” brings up thoughts of weddings and fun times in the bedroom… at the same time. Which is actually quite perplexing. Can Ajay “tell me why do I do?”
Another interesting track is “Password Love” which makes use of a vivacious electric guitar which changes the genre altogether. All of a sudden, Ajay is a rock star jamming out to the beat of his drums and some righteous licks and riffs. Despite the drastic shift in tone and tempo, he absolutely owns this track. I wouldn’t have minded at all if the rest of his songs stood in the same rock and roll vein, because damn, this one really blew away.
The final track on the album is “I Mantra” which is simply a spectacular display of Ajay’s ability on the Indian sitar, a very welcome surprise at the end of an already impressive set of tracks. His crooning comes in much later, after dazzling with his instrumental, producing an odd mix of the exotic and Americana. Oh, and a dash of some (unexpectedly impressive) rapping because why not. The mantra is “Only me, myself and I”, and that Ajay, that was certainly more than enough to push your album over the top.
All in all, I wasn’t expecting to be so awed by Ajay’s “9 to 3”. There were a plethora of tracks on the album which seemed to have this unique, fantastical flavour and atmosphere which differentiated each song from the next. I was never bored or left wanting, instead, I was constantly excited for what was waiting around the corner. This was truly a spectacular release with very few hiccups. Ajay Mathur is headed skyward, and his unique and multidimensional music will be carrying him all the way to the top.