“Right now, I don’t have a backup plan for if I don’t make it / I was too sad to move on to something bigger and better.”
The internet is a playground for musicians to build their interpretation of the world. With black holes of content and potential to find rare gems of samples, the advent of harnessing the Internet for sounds, fateful meetings, and far-reaching audiences. Within these parameters, The Range specifically captures the Internet’s struggle with duality poignantly with even greater fine-tuning in his sophomore album, Potential.
In James Hinton’s debut album Nonfiction, his music lived in a dark, negative space struggling against itself to enter a hopeful, positive space. Hinton merged his background in physics, drums, and mathematics into a dense layered sound. He captured the raw vitality of Chicago footwork while delicately layering polyrhythms, syncopated blips, restrained pianos and strings without letting any sound get away from a track. It is melodic busyness at its peak, evoking heart pangs with near indecipherable YouTube vocal samplings.
With his follow-up Panasonic EP as an interlude between the two projects, Hinton’s sophomore album Potential flips duality on its side, where the music lives in a positive space while grasping for its underbelly. Still bridging his utilization of music and physics, Potential sees a step forward into happier melodies while dichotomizing melancholic lyricism, such as in his opening ‘Regular’: “Right now, I don’t have a backup plan for if I don’t make it / I was too sad to move on to something bigger and better.”
In his second single ‘Five Four’, there still lies a rumbling of pent up frustration while still teetering on hope, which he even says was his message for the song:
“To me Five Four is about the frustration of not being able to change the tough circumstances in which you may find yourself, but still attempting to maintain a hopefulness about life.”
‘Copper Wire’, the third single from the album is Potential’s best example of an open-ended thematic song. The sampled loop crooning “without you” endlessly flipping between longing and hopeful intonations against chopped spoken lyrics “I wish that everything were still the same / trying to read the last page / and everything’s changed / we can make it rain on a summer day” reverberate Hinton’s toying with duality.
Hinton constructed Nonfiction and Potential with his crate-digging on YouTube, hunting for barely viewed vocalists who guide the song progression with the instrumentation being built around their voices. With his forthcoming documentary Superimpose (taken from a track by the same name) about the collaborators behind Potential, Hinton gives us a glimpse into his focus and inspiration for writing the album. While his collaborators share their personal stories, their lyrics on Potential are universal stories listeners can relate to.
With that, Potential is an ambitious album about growing as an individual. It’s approachable with a clean flow, moving between optimistic and troubled themes with ease so that the listener never loses focus. Potential is an album I especially resonated with, while in the midst of a personal and emotional crisis, Potential gives hope through its voices and melodies. Where his first song from his first project ‘Loftmane’ served as the darkness residing within duality, he uses similar melodic loops for the final song on Potential, ‘1804’, which serves as his cadence. With a deep breath in and a slow release, James Hinton gives us a story with an open-ending, one that we can each make our own.