Tubby Love | The Real Thing
album review by John Powell
Tubby Love’s music has always had carefree sensibility, and on this EP in a series of EPs, Tubby sounds like Jason Mraz with more scope. His easygoing voice is perfect for his lyrics, which are both poetic and narrative. While only five songs, the EP manages to hit the widest of ranges, from one-drop reggae to a slow-churning ballad. This is partially epic, wonderful for the modern ear, as none of the songs sound remotely alike, but it also makes you wonder what the tying thread is. Needless to say, Tubby Love came just in time for summer.
“Miracle” has Jack Johnson’s cool with a very California flare, although Tubby hails from Boston. “The land of a million islands,” he sings about where he recorded the EP: Hawaii. The instrumentation is freaking flawless, mixed exquisitely. The band, including Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad’s Aaron Lipp on keys, is just supreme, squeezing the juice of melody from the fruit of reggae. “Some say it will always be here,” Tubby questions the fate the world, “Some say it will end for sure/ how will we ever know?”
Next is “The Real Thing”, admittedly one of the best love songs produced in years. Tubby’s voice gets super soulful, double-timing some lines in near rap. It flows magically over a funky groove. The key point is the second verse, where Tubby says, “We’ll be together/ climb trees together/ maybe even eat together,” and earlier, “I want to peel you like a banana and eat you.” There’s no corniness, only sincerity.
The trio of excellent songs ends with “Simple City”, a song far away from Hawaii and back in the northeast. The drums are thick here, the bass huge. Tubby ruminants- not without being slightly pissed off- about capitalism. The chorus sums it up when he says “I want to live in a simple city/ where there’s a garden with enough to feed my people in it.” Then he says, “I forget the whole monetary system is a bunch of bullshit,” so it’s hopeful with some cynicism.
“Afro” is an instrumental, old school Afrobeat song. Where it comes from: out of nowhere. Horns blast over polyrhythms, and it wouldn’t be hard for Tubby to turn to strictly composing Afrobeat, should he give up on his blend of pop and reggae, which he shouldn’t.
Sadly, the EP ends with “Shining”, a countrified ballad that isn’t bad, but it’s totally bland. The rest of the EP shatters expectations, but “Shining” bemoans a man in conflict with his love. “You only love me when I’m shinin’,” Tubby cries over slide guitar. Not bad, but wholly not befitting the rest of this EP. “Afro” is very different sounding too, but it keeps the energy high.
Still, the EP shines (pun intended). Tubby Love is, in real life, a caring and smiling individual, friends with any good soul. There’s no lying on this EP. It’s straight up good vibes, and that’s enough to enjoy. Luckily, the music steals the show.
Bottom line: Summer vibes, reggae, pop, and soul-dipped songs about love, loss, and repeat.