Personnel: Steve Mason (vocals, guitar, melodica, piano, drums, percussion); Laurie Dempsey, Tory Clarke, Joshua Lyuch, Amy Welch (strings); Shane Murray, Darren Gibson, Ryan Broad, Joe Lunn, Helena Hannah-Shelton, Christos Zenious (brass); Craig Potter, Martin Rebelski (piano); Steve Duffield (bass guitar); Greg Nielson (drums, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Craig Potter.
Recording information: Blue Print Studios, Salford, Manchester.
After the intensity and sheer breadth of 2013's politically charged Monkey Minds in the Devil's Time, Steve Mason returns with his most cohesive and fully realized solo effort yet. In a deliberate step away from the thematic sweep of his first two solo releases, the former Beta Band and King Biscuit Time maestro uncorks a set of pop songs that stand proudly as independent pieces, yet make for an even greater whole. Produced by Elbow's Craig Potter, Meet the Humans manages to distill Mason's lush melancholia and maverick pop acumen into 11 strong tracks that refer to his two decades of recording while delivering something new. The album opens with the warm embrace of "Water Bored," an inspired bit of polyrhythmic, piano-led melodicism that introduces a more hopeful and resolved artist than on his prior solo output. Echoes of the Beta Band's nonconformist post-Brit-pop can be heard in the beats and tones of "Alive!," which revives Mason's relationship with the melodica, and "Words in My Head," the album's darkly epic closer. A live band feeling ignites the horn-laden "Another Day," and the buoyant Kristina Train-aided "To a Door" confronts death with a heady confidence that makes it feel like the centerpiece of the whole collection. Mason's hushed voice is in fine form throughout and Potter's production style draws from his own band's romantic landscapes, complementing the material well. The impeccably crafted tension and relief on "Planet Sizes" are classic Steve Mason as he builds the pounding, minor-key verses into a beautifully glimmering chorus, cleverly toying with the listener's emotions. Fans of any of Mason's earlier projects will find something to love on what is easily the gifted popsmith's best solo effort to date. ~ Timothy Monger
Mojo (Publisher) - "Tender sun-dappled folk runs throughout, laced with old-raver ingredients -- closer 'Words In My Head' has a synth echo and a fuzzy amen break straight from 1990..."
Clash (magazine) - "Mason finds himself in more buoyant, settled spirits and, in producer Craig Potter, he has found the perfect foil for an album that revels in hopping across the genres that have featured in his 20 years of music making to date."
Uncut (magazine) - "[I]t's another of his drives for ruthless emotional honesty, couched in variations on a familiar mix of heavily rhythmic piano, quasi-psychedelic guitar, folksy acoustic strumming and loping grooves."