ALBUM REVIEW: A track-by-track breakdown of Tay Iwar’s ‘GEMINI’
‘Renascentia’ was an 8-track sonic experience to rival any and it was a perfect follow-up to Iwar’s first album, ‘Passport.’ While he dropped a 3-track EP, ‘1997’ to whet the appetite, and made cameos on songs and albums for acts like Odunsi and M.I. Abaga, they were simply not enough to satisfy his fans.
While ‘Passport’ was more a pop&b fusion kind of album, ‘Renascentia’ was primarily alternative R&B that showcased an uncanny understanding of sound mixing and sound engineering.
‘GEMINI,’ seems a perfect blend of ‘Passport,’ alternative R&B, experimentation and Iwar’s attempts and getting something for radio. It also has some soul, and 90’s music influences with Iwar’s apparent maturation of artistry and constantly evolving penmanship.
Topic: Insecurity, vulnerability
Guitar chords with undertones of a flute or a recorder. Layered vocal exercises, different notes and pitches. The drums seem peculiar to neo-soul acts. A short intro talking about the perfection of a supposed partner, despite his attempts at trying to find a weakness in this partner.
On one part, it points to insecurity, and on the other, it points to a man so in love and vulnerable that he’s not scared to talk about his insecurity. This track might not be for the transient listeners, but there’s something in it for music lovers. The vocal exercises and the casual, yet perfect guitar chords really are something to behold.
Theme: Death, Love. Drug use?
Topic: Intense emotion, torrid affair
An alternative R&B song that runs on an emo string and good drums. Apparently, this lover is older and demanding. We’ve all been there, not necessarily with one-sided love affairs, but with draining love affairs, even when love is present.
With how Iwar portrays the relationship to be toxic, and talks of sobriety and almost dying after falling in love, there seems some parallels with the ill-fortune of drug abuse. One considers if the song is a whole symbolism. The sticks in the production are impressive.
Topic: Insecurity, acceptance
New jack swing. 90’s Hiphop. While it sometimes seems Iwar was talking about the acceptance of a troubled love affair, it also seems like abstraction killed by clutter and symbolism overkill – if that’s what it is – and on the other hand, it could be attributed to Iwar’s good songwriting that interpretation is this open.
Theme: Love, Change
Topic: Dysfunctional love affair
Electronic and ambient vocal intro. Ashanti’s ‘Foolish’ sample. DJ turntable effect; very 90’s again. Tay talks about a lover who suddenly changes, but also one he’s not interested in swaying to his side. It feels like Tay is simply preaching an understanding of humanity, of which ‘change’ is a key part of.
The homerun is, however, his disinterest in eroding that change.
Verdict: Impressive perspective
One of my favourite songs on the album at every listen. The piercingly gentle piano chords and chirping beds infect my mind with the talk of sex (no homo). Another very 90’s song.
Verdict: A fave
Tay sure knows how to pick them – It’s fair to assume these ‘girls’ are different people. The sound is very danceable. One of the songs the album could have done without, but the story is compelling.
Theme: Loyalty, Humanity
Topic: Understanding of self
Another favorite. The strings are sharp and friendly. The drums and snare are doing it, the tambourine is working well. There is an idea of self-understanding and growth.
Topic: Growth, evolution
The piano chords, wrestle power off the domineering trumpets before the drums hit where the bass riffs hit and the hihats do their thing. The title is by far symbolism in itself. ‘Utero’ is Latin for, ‘in the womb.’ The brilliance is how the first verse discusses identity while the second discusses that in relation to love.
In relation to the title, ‘Utero,’ and the topic of identity, one might be tempted to think it means formation as a topic of natural human evolution.
On the second verse, Tay sings about the effect of tragedy as a way to keep people on their toes, calling it reality. On the first verse he sings, “We’ve been searching for the answers, they said I must follow what master say, It’s the only way, tell me is anybody there…”
It seems a story of the different questions associated with and the ‘bad parts’ of human development. It’s then a story of acceptance, despite being unsure of certain things; an appetite to experience those things anyway.
There is a confusion on this song that merges dark wave-sound with distortionist strings. On the one part, there is an acceptance of mistake, but then, on the other hand, there is a blame to the supposed victim. On the last song, Iwar sings about his development, which he accepts, so his predilection might be forgivable.
Pity for the woman, though. There is also the possibility that Iwar was singing about being at fault for letting a faulty love affair take all of him. The album could have done without this song though, it is a repetition of what we’ve heard and heard over and again on ‘GEMINI.’
There’s a powerful riff under it all. The percussion is doing some amazing work here. Production is faultless on ‘GEMINI,’ but this is the most spiteful Tay yet. He sings the very funny line, “You gon wash them dishes on them dates. No more loving you I’m good I’m straight…” That’s pop culture, right there.
Tay really doesn’t like this girl.
Verdict: Wawu, chill Tay!
SPACE FEATURING SANTI AND PREYE
A bit of reggae. Good percussion. Amidst it all, there is a subtle cohesion about this album and the story kind of aligns with the underlying topic of a terrible love affair, even if it’s from different lovers – maybe. I’m not, however, sure it’s an intended cohesion, but I might be wrong.
Tay is finally seeking space. While Santi is an impressive act, I’m not sure this is a good match. Preye is definitely a better fit and should probably have been the only one on the song.
Verdict: Should have been a bonus track.
SUGARDADDY FEATURING ODUNSI
Incredible story, this. It starts with The Dream and Trick Stewart-esque R&B of the mid 2000s. A welcome deviation from the narrative we’ve gotten so far. The beat is 2000’s R&B too. The song discusses the reality of opportunity meets need and frustration with love that happens to a lot of ladies.
It would have been out of place, but it blends the lack of love with grabbing an opportunity to make money. When the beats switches up-tempo to danceable rhythms, I was sold.
Verdict: Issa single
DON’T KNOW FEATURING SUTE IWAR
Theme: Bad love
Topic: Bad love
I like the collaboration, I salivated at its prospect, but the production is not for me. There seems an appetite to merge dance music with alternative strings/instrumentation. Topically, it seems a repetition of the things we have heard.
African folk percussion. Spiteful Tay is back. Nothing unique about the topic, but songwriting is commendable. The progression of this production is also very impressive. The way pop strings fused with African folk percussion deserves applause.
This song’s potential to be a single is the only saving grace it has.
Powerful instrumentation, hook it into my veins. This is a wonderful song that I have liked since ‘1997’ dropped. The way the guitars worked on this album and the sound engineering showcase Tay’s immense growing ability as a musician. This song is gives me the chills.
However, with the way the album has been flowing, aided by its tracklist, the placement of this song is a major no, and it’s the only fault with the tracklist, yet a major one.
You can’t sing about bad love through the album and then get to the 15th track of 16, only to appraise a female – there is a disconnect. This song would have made a wonderful album opener, especially when you consider the tracklist.
A good song that is a filler. It continues the disconnect. On a tracklist level, it’s another major wrong move. Asides that, it wasn’t really needed.
Listening to ‘GEMINI’ is like a long-distance journey on a tour bus, savouring all the plains and forests have to offer. Taking in the journey as it progresses, admiring the stops and new food, enjoying the podcasts you’re listening to and a few more.
Then, after you get tired, a piece of gala you normally enjoy feels like a tediously put together meal. That’s Tay’s Album, ‘GEMINI,’ the quintessential mood music that might need time and perfect conditioning to age like fine wine.
‘GEMINI’ is a zodiac sign. A gemini is affectionate and prone to repetition amongst others things, so the repetition on this album is understandable. ‘GEMINI’ showcases honesty, maturity, evolving songwriting and great, relatable storytelling filled with 90’s vibes.
Tay is a visual storyteller who should try writing for movies. Some will call the album boring, but it is an acquired taste. The length is an issue – the album could have done without 6 songs.
It’s easy to criticize the album, but one thing we can’t fault is the songwriting. Tay exemplifies what is good about ease of songwriting – he makes ordinary things seem exceptional.
While one wants to fault the overt fixation on troubled love affairs, we can’t. We’re all experiencing them, but I do admit, those criticisms of over-fixation on troubled love affairs are understandable. This album looks like one that will age well though.
The music is organic and you feel that the pulse of the music punctuating this phase of Tay’s life through the different scenarios the tracks on ‘GEMINI’ paint, from the real, to the existential, to the hypothetical.
For what this album was meant to be, this album is so near-excellent, it should be a staple of sampling in 10-15 years.
• 0-2: Flop
• 2.1-4.0: Near fall
• 4.1-6.0: Average
• 6.1-8: Victory
• 8.1-10: Champion
Themes, Topics and Songwriting: 1.5
7.9 – Victory