Listening to Aiowell‘s Sixteen brought immediate comparisons to Joji. While it doesn’t follow the same “sad boy” style that Joji brought forward, the lowkey indie R&B tone brought those thoughts forward. Also considering that Aiowell completed Sixteen as an entirely solo release, it’s impressive that they were able to create a debut that’s so polished.
Sixteen starts with “Abandon Me.” It’s a slow-tempo burn. The instrumentals build a minimal melody with Aiowell’s vocals guiding the song. Vocals are warm and match the song’s tone perfectly. It’s like Aiowell makes a quiet introduction while pulling you deeper into the music.
Adding guitar on “Cuz I love u” adds a new layer to the music. Strangely, it reminds me of Dajung and elements of sogumm. Aiowell is firm in R&B, but I can hear some indie rock pieces which may be influenced by guitar. It’s got a passive additive style which leaves the melody sticking in your ears.
“Stupid Jeans” sounds a little more standard indie R&B with a gradual introduction verse that adds more instrumentation. The percussion sample is a standard for the genre because it sits on the back of the beat rather than in the center. It creates a fake lag in the tempo.
The close the EP, “let me go,” feels like an experiment. The song adds vibraphone and a tambourine mixed with a drum sample, giving “let me go” a funk highlight. I think the song sounds the most commercial out of the four songs but also shows how Aiowell isn’t stuck in a standard composition framework. It’s my favorite song on the EP.
I’m surprised at Sixteen. It’s a polished and precise EP. Honestly, it sounds better than it should for a first release. The only question is if Aiowell will continue driving down this style or will expand the audio landscape with more ideas. If you just consider this one release, it’s a strong start.