By Jeremy Thacker
If you’ve been part of the Provo music scene for a while, there’s roughly a 99.99% chance you’ve encountered Stuart Maxfield’s work. He’s a well known producer and audio engineer, and as a founding member of Fictionist his music has inspired and influenced countless groups in Utah Valley. A self-described “swiss army knife musician,” Maxfield has worked on countless projects across a number of genres. Flavor – his debut album with solo project S2_cool – proves just how versatile of a musician Stuart can be. As he puts down the electric guitars and art rock style that Fictionist is known for in favor of “chasing his funky muse across time and space.”
It’s impossible to listen to Flavor without wanting to get up and dance around. The bass lines and electronic synth quickly pull you in, while Stuart’s catchy lyrics and melodies have a way of getting stuck in your head for days. What’s most impressive though is the journey this album takes you on. Each track gets progressively groovier, and before you know it you’re on a wild trip riding a turtle through outer space with no idea of how you got there. Seriously, it’s a ride and it is SO hard not to get sucked in. I found that I couldn’t listen to Flavor during work hours because every time I tried I’d end up bopping at my desk, completely distracted from whatever task I had started.
Even just listening to the tracks you can feel how much fun Stuart had while working on these songs. The songs “Out of My Chest” and “Milk” illustrate this best. Both songs speak of love, moving on from past mistakes, and learning to live in the moment. While a subject matter that serious is usually reserved for a ballad, S2_cool ends up singing it over a groovy beat and showing that there is a lot of happiness to be found while accepting your imperfections and leaving your all on the dance floor.
There are very few things I’d change about this album. A few songs do seem to rely more heavily on the electronica aspect than others (think Postal Service or Owl City style beeps and boops) and while that wasn’t a problem for me I do know a handful of people who are turned off by it. The order of the songs also feels out of place sometimes. Calmer songs like “Mellow Gold” might flow better at the beginning after “Girl No Pressure” rather than being sandwiched between two high energy songs like “Pick Me Up” and “Milk.” In the era of Spotify and the shuffle button though, that ends up being a very nitpicky complaint.
Overall, S2_cool proves with Flavor that he really is a swiss army knife musician. He manages to pull together funk, disco, and electronica influences into such a fun record that it can’t help but make you smile and dance around. Make sure to follow S2_cool on Instagram. You can listen to “Milk” below!