Michigan native and acclaimed songwriter Quinn XCII is back with his fourth studio album, Change of Scenery II, which acts as an extended and matured sequel to his 2015 debut EP. Produced by long-time collaborator and old friend Ayokay, the album returns to many of the uplifting and nostalgic sounds of Change of Scenery, but it’s safe to say he has grown tremendously as an artist.
His first EP came out when he and Ayokay had both recently graduated from college. “We made the first EP at that transitional point between college and the ‘real’ world — we were these broke kids working on music that was either going to do something great for us or do nothing,” wrote Quinn XCII in an email to The Daily from Columbia Records. Following that release, he gained an immense amount of popularity, especially among high school and college students, likely due to the easy-going nature of his music. Quinn XCII masterfully mixes genres, and his discography boasts everything from rap to rock to reggae.
Though Quinn XCII normally spends his recording days in Los Angeles, in light of the pandemic, he switched up his location for this album, moving to Newport, R.I. The introductory track immediately tells us this location, “We Made This Album In Newport,” and the album art matches the East Coast beach theme. As usual, the album includes a few features, like Jeremy Zucker and Chelsea Cutler.
Change of Scenery II, while at first listen could seem to be a regression from the matured sound Quinn XCII has built up over the past five years and four albums, is simply a nostalgic, easy-going callback to the sound that he had when he first emerged on the scene. The album isn’t basic or boring, but chock-full of feel-good tracks for a time that is exceptionally difficult for so many people. Where the album really flourishes is in its deeper messages of the songs. Songs like “Feel Something” dive into the numbness that so many people feel during deep isolation and loneliness. The chorus, which repeats, “But if I survive, I would jump off this skyscraper, to feel something,” encapsulates this feeling in a song that is, surprisingly, otherwise an easy listen.
The first half of the album consists of more easy-listening and happy tracks, whereas the second half is filled with more introspective and slow songs. Initially, fans of Quinn XCII might not love the album as so many of the songs don’t sound like his most recent album or releases, but this type of album is one that grows on you. Much of his popularity came well after the release of the Change of Scenery EP and many of those fans are more fond of the sound of A Letter To My Younger Self or of his popular single “Another Day in Paradise,” which is more high-tempo and more highly-produced.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the record is how centered it is around the guitar. A lot of Quinn XCII’s past music is filled with exceptional and impressive production, with various instruments and layers. This album benefits from the simplicity of its instrumentals, which allows for the lyrics to stand out instead.
For a time that’s so uncertain and lonely, Change of Scenery II is the perfect album to fill a little bit of that emptiness. It is reminiscent of an easier time, though in Quinn XCII’s own words, it’s still the matured version of his early music: “Now that we’ve been in the real world a while and music has become our ‘jobs,’ this record was more about getting back to that excitement and genuine curiosity, and right away everything just flowed so easily.”
It’s easy to see through listening to the album that this project truly came from the heart.
Daily Arts Writer Gigi Ciulla can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.