Hawthorne is the powerful new album and short film from Queens-by-way-of-Detroit emcee Motown Priest, a gifted lyricist with a penchant for writing gripping narratives. More than just a gifted storyteller, he also has a phenomenal ear for production that helps to take this project to another level. It’s a cohesive, poignant, and incredible piece of art that serves as a searing look at the world we all live in today.

“This album and film weren’t about cheap moralism or heady preaching, it’s a very simple idea of confronting who we are, and who we are affects the world around us,” Motown Priest explains. “This is where Hawthorne, in both music and film, connects.”

He’s true to his word, too, because the album’s 12 tracks bang just as hard as they make you think. They’re the type of songs you can sit with and unpack, or you can blast them at full volume to make your system rattle—or both. 

Tracks like “For Sale” and “The Calogero Effect” boast soulful, nostalgic production that fits their more meditative narratives of succumbing to vices and childhood innocence. On the other hand, “Pandora’s Box” straight-up slaps thanks to its distorted guitars and live drums, while “New Religion” is an aggressive, teeth-gritting banger.

It’s all part of Motown Priest’s plan to fully engage with his audience while delivering one of the year’s best releases, regardless of genre and medium. In addition to the album, Hawthorne exists as a short film that further explores many of the same themes (ceaseless desire, identity, and capitalism) through the visual format. Within its 35-minute runtime, the film follows the same protagonist as the album, a young man who seeks change and fulfillment but doesn’t consider the pain and damage he causes along the way. It makes for a damning look at so many cultural ills, and it couldn’t have arrived at a more fitting time.