When I first picked up RU with Me I was fairly reluctant because Paul Avion is not only an artist that I was almost completely unfamiliar with, but also composed music in a genre that I’ve never listened to. However, upon further research and listening, it came to my attention how fascinating a character and musician Avion is. By all intents and purposes, Avion follows the beat of his own drum. Having moved to Los Angeles from his hometown of New Orleans in 2005, he then moved to Paris where he took up a job as a dishwasher in order to immerse himself in French culture. This However, seems relatively pedestrian compared to his decision to live over the past year in one of the poorest slums in Kenya where he lived and worked at a school for disabled children. While living there he filmed part of his experiences and posted them on his website. This fascinating story should not in any way overshadow the comparatively interesting nature of his music.
Avion, who has also performed with the band Par Avion, displays his diverse musical talent on RU With Me, which explains why spin.com rated him #2 on their list of 8 bands to watch in February of 2009. Avion utilizes auto tune extremely well in the opening track “R U With Me” as well as “Mombasa Island”. While many people are critical of the use of auto tune in genres such as hip-hop, it fits well with the type of music Avion produces. This auto tune style is one of many used throughout the RU With Me album, as there are also love songs like “Slow and Steady Road to my Heart,” uplifting songs like “Stand Up, Be a Man,” and even songs that feature verses in French, “Menage A Trois.” I was particularly impressed by the socially reflective lyrics displayed throughout the album, particularly in “Stop Joseph Kony,” in which Avion sings about the missionaries in Uganda trying to bring change, but sadly observing he “want[s] to bring something special, but [is] just made of sand, can it be that the whole world is out of [his] hands”.
Overall, RU With Me is a diverse album that combines politically and socially conscious lyrics with well diversified styles of production. While the album didn’t inspire me to investigate the indie band scene further, it was interesting to hear an up and coming artist in a genre outside of my usual taste. I would imagine this album will be met with much satisfaction from avid Paul Avion fans.