Tje Austin first got his chops performing at coffee shops throughout the Lone Star State and on Myspace, with his Stevie Wonder meets Raphael Saadiq styled crooning. Fast forward two years, after sharing the stage with some big name acts (Trey Songz and Dwele), you'll find the laidback Austinite is now comfortable in his own skin, exposing himself without fear on his new release Xperience.
The sophomore return plays like a romantic novella that parallels real life, portraying one of those should have been, but burned out type relationships and the struggles endured to gain closure-think Love Jones and Brown Sugar for inspiration.
The album moves from chapter to chapter depicting the various phases of a break-up: the shock of feeling lost (Left Behind); reminiscing on the good times (Sunshine); learning that your love has found someone new and making a last attempt to salvage the relationship (Breathe); and the frustration of realizing that the love is officially dead and the pain of moving on (The Attention to Love).
Tje's smoky voice is soothing and confident. There is an honesty and openness in his lyrics that allow listeners to connect to his songs, rather than just listen. He speaks to his audience. It would be unfair to attempt to categorize his style because his sound is diverse and unconventional. It is a melting pot of influences incorporating acoustic guitars, R&B, neo-soul, pop, and electronic fusion, giving each track a different flavor.
The music is alluring to the ear, with synthesizers and digital horn sections growing and sinking throughout the tracks. The vocals are layered in whispers and echoes, giving the appearance of more than one person singing at a time, while adding strength and clarity to the lyrics.
The slow jams are sexy and the occasional wah wah effect of a wandering guitar leaves a silhouette-like seduction to the imagination. The waifting sound touches the senses and creates mystery to the overall music. It's not hard to tell Tje's instrument of choice. Twangy acoustic solos come off just as powerful as some of the more heavily produced tracks, showing that he can perform just as well alone, as he can with a band.
Tje Austin may not fit the playboy poster model stereotype of most R&B singers, with his southwestern bohemian look, but what's the fun in being the same as everyone else? Tje's deviation from the standard is what makes his sound organic and relatable, enabling him to emotionally share in the same experience as everyone else.
By Jarrod Miller-Dean