Midlife Crisis Vanity Project (MCVP)… Without even writing any words of my own, the title kind of says it all. Unca John is a Baltimore-based singer-songwriter hiding behind his secret identity as an economics professor. He’s emerging out of the shadows to debut his art, the ten-song MCVP. It’s full of classic rock, jangly pop, and retro song structures that have a wholesome exterior disguising a darker depth within. Expect lots of sardonic wordplay and dark humor from Unca John as he navigates a confusing time in his life through disarming song and dance.

MCVP opens with the quick-witted pop rock of “How The Hell?” “Hell” also happens to be one of the album’s strongest tracks – pairing cascading, plucky keyboards with crunchy and catchy guitar chords and rhythms. John explores falsetto accompaniments and honeyed harmonies here alongside his tried-and-true songwriting approach. It’s tough to give a true comparison to other artists, but The Cars, Fountains of Wayne, and even The Beatles might be some decent contemporaries.

“I thought I’d make my mark on history, I thought that I’d fulfill my destiny. Closer to the end than the beginning – I guess it’s time I started living.”

Don’t be fooled by the upbeat pop energies found throughout MCVP. John’s working through some demons here (or maybe he just has something to say to anyone who will listen). All those times I spent ignoring my Economics professor in college… I didn’t stop to think that there are people behind the “mask” up at the whiteboard. John’s words are pointed and poignant; his rhymes are clever; his vocabulary verbose; and his pentameter is perfect. Maybe we should hang out with our Economic professors more often.

John also lets his political views fly here on MCVP – taking aim at religious zealots; tinfoil hat-wearing crazies; snake-oil salesmen; and Armageddon believers. That’s most on display on the acid-tongued “Your Opinion,” where John really lets his ideologies fly. Sure, he acknowledges that “you’ve got a right to your opinion” and nods to the fact that “doing your own research” is a valid way to live your life… But he also makes sure to point out that those beliefs may be cult-like. Your secret clique is probably full of other pricks like you, and that’s your prerogative. Whether you share John’s beliefs or not, it’s engaging to hear him sneer into the microphone – you can truly hear the disdain in his voice for people who masquerade as holy but are truly just looking for control, and those powerful emotions are worth diving into. It’s, in true Unca John fashion, demonstrated with the most lighthearted pop-rock sounds imaginable – I particularly liked the rolling bassline in this song.

There’s more to MCVP than just political commentary and existential thoughts – the gentle waltz of “Honey Girl” is a tender love ballad with just as much powerful emotion (this time, positive) as the songs mentioned above. An inexplicable ode to the restaurant Subway could be completely sincere or a veiled commentary about losing a loved one… But either way, I never thought I’d hear an entire ’70s tinged song about the virtues of Subway (for the record, I’m happy that I can now say that I have). There’s also a song about “Cheese,” which is somehow also a love song. Unca John’s putting it all on display here – it’s a truly eclectic listen, but one that you’ll remember forever.

(You can find Midlife Crisis Vanity Project when it releases across the internet on September 12, 2023. Until then, enjoy the sneak preview of “Your Opinion” below via YouTube, or, get acquainted with Unca John’s Spotify before the big day.