AZTEC SUN – In The Name Of Everyone

AZTEC SUN - In The Name Of Everyone

The first four notes on AZTEC SUN's debut album, In the Name of Everyone, will evoke a lot of emotions for Washingtonians. Those notes, immediately followed by the words, "step back, doors closing," can induce frustration or elation for residents of the District who rely on the Metro for their daily commute. The opening track of "In the Name of Everyone" deals with the trials and tribulations of WMATA, with lead singer Stephane Detchou belting out the lyrics "I was trying to get to work, I was trying to get to school / When the choo-choo fails you, what you gonna do?" AZTEC SUN, working with Soulive's Alan Evans, set out to craft a record that captures the energy and dynamism of their live shows. The result is a funky, soulful album that gives the feel of a party, from top to bottom.

We were on hand for the band's sold out album release party at Pearl Street Warehouse, and the band's enthusiasm to have reached this point in their musical careers is palpable. On stage that night, Detchou made it clear there would be no "warm up songs" and that the band would dive right into the deep end. The band was on fire that night, and their pride in the album is absolutely justified.

The band told DC Music Review before the album was released that they were determined to capture their live sound in the studio with Evans. This mission has been resoundingly accomplished. Having seen AZTEC SUN perform these songs live several times, it's easy to visualize the band's choreographed moves as I listen to the album; moves they showed off at Pearl Street Warehouse for that Saturday night throwdown. The songs themselves transport me to the live setting, where the band coordinates their outfits, takes joy in listening to one another, and are constantly on the move on stage.

The live recording process comes out clearly on the second track of the album, the title track "In the Name of Everyone," which begins with the guitar mixed to the right until the band's horn section starts on the left. Here again, Detchou's lyrics are a reflection of life in DC in 2018, with this song inspired by the feelings many Washingtonians experienced the day after the 2016 elections. The song opens, "You woke up on a Wednesday morning, feeling like the world was on its knees." The title track is an outstanding R&B slow jam that transitions to become a rocking funk tune at the bridge. The vocal section of Detchou, Sara Ghebermichael, and Lee Anderson sing repetitions of one another's lyrics with divergent inflections and fantastic harmonies. When the song reaches its closing breakdown, with Ray Lamb's guitar solo reflecting Detchou's gut-wrenching screams, the song reaches an excellent peak for what may be the finest track on the album and a natural choice for a single.

"No Time" may be my favorite song on the album though, with the horn section of Joe Goltz, Adam Kent, and Graham Robertson providing a fantastic, syncopated melody that, along with fast, thumping beats from bassist Shane Weckesser, and a Latin-tinged bridge by keyboardist Ryan "Catch" Banning, make for an unbelievably fun tune.

The album slows down for a breath during "District," Detchou's contemplation on gentrification and the changing face of Washington, DC. "Cranes shape the skyline and I can't see the view," is a relatable lyric for anyone who's lived in the District for more than a few years and has seen the rapid pace of change in the 2010's.

When the album then turns to "Resist," the Afrobeat-inspired protest song, it feels almost jarring when contrasted with "District" right before it, but the impact is exquisite. "Resist" provides some of the most enjoyable lyrics, like "He want be Messiah, but he just crazed man for TV," and "He smell like dictator." This song shows off the musical range of AZTEC SUN, to move from songs reminiscent of 70s funk and soul bands to something far closer to Fela Kuti.

"Wild" gives Ghebermichael an opportunity to take an opportunity on lead vocals getting back to the band's self-designed "funk with soul" stylings. It's placed well after "Resist" to bring the listener back to the band's roots, so to speak. The lyrics, "Don't you know it's a funk thing?" seem extremely self-aware at that moment. The mixing that gives such a great live feel on "In the Name of Everyone" returns in "The Healing" as instrumental parts and lyrics are faded across your headphones. Anderson brings this tune home toward the end, answering the question "When do we start the healing?" by belting out "Time for action!"

The band has long closed their shows with "Love... Call on Me," so it's no surprise to see that song take the closing slot on their album. This beautiful love song winds down the record nicely and rounds out a roller-coaster of emotional lyrics, tempo and genre shifts, and raw energy with a soulful anthem that will have listeners yearning for more.

AZTEC SUN - In The Name Of Everyone

AZTEC SUN

In The Name Of Everyone

Released: 2018

Track Listing:

1. Red Line

2. In The Name of Everyone

3. No Time

4. District

5. Resist

6. Wild

7. Healing

8. Love... Call on Me

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About the author
Seth Gordon-Lipkin

Seth Gordon-Lipkin

Seth caught the bug of live music after seeing Elton John play the MCI Center at the age of 10 and has been frequenting DC"s concert venues since moving to our nation's capital in 2006. A dedicated fan of the jam band scene, Seth has logged countless miles attending upwards of 70 Phish shows, dozens of Umphrey's McGee shows, and trips to LOCKN' and Peach festivals. Also an activist, you're likely to spot Seth registering voters with Headcount at DC's local music venues.