From his 2011 all conquering track 'Levels', which at one point seemed to be in every DJ's playlist, to being joined onstage by Madonna at Ultra Music Festival in 2012, Swedish DJ and producer Avicii has been rising to the top with all the speed of a NASA rocket.
His most recent single, 'Wake Me Up', combined his unmistakable signature synth sound with country music, a move possibly inspired by Madonna herself who did the same over a decade ago with 'Don't Tell Me'. Yet Avicii didn't stop there, recruiting Aloe Blacc, a rapper and soul singer previously signed to underground LA hip-hop label Stones Throw Records, to add yet another point of entry to EDM's ever growing popular appeal.
Hitting number one around the world from the UK to Australia, it's this track that opens his debut album 'True', which is released on 17th September on Universal. With its affirmations of youth, unity and love, this is a rallying call for the thousands of kids switched on to the sensory overload of EDM festivals, but how does the rest of the album stand up?
Firstly, it's an almost entirely vocal affair – bar final track 'Heart Upon My Sleeve' – so continues Avicii, aka Tim Bergling's, pop-centric vision of EDM. Whatever your current take on his sound, this is likely to entrench it further. Already previewed, 'You Make Me' is the second track, front-loading the album with familiarity as Salem Al Fakir declares: 'All my life I've been waiting for someone like you?” Describing the the chemical rush of adolescent love, it's a kick drum accompanied update of '80s soft rock, a steroid injected, gym-toned version of Martin Solveig, who in turn had already taken the vision of Phoenix to a main stage audience.
'Hey Brother', featuring Dan Tyminsk, is even more explicitly countrified than 'Wake Me Up' and follows a similar formula of chorus/verse/drop, resulting in a potentially huge radio hit. 'Addicted to You', meanwhile, the first of two tracks featuring Audra Mae, comes off like Adele rewriting 'Skyfall' for the dancefloor, its cinematic scope conjuring up closing credit, or at the very least show-stopping fireworks. Her next, 'Dear Boy', features another close vocal imitation, this time of Lana Del Rey. With the most overtly 'Avicii' synth line, it breaks down to dubstep half-time for what is already a set favorite.
'Liar Liar' with Blondfire starts out like yet another stadium rock meets EDM fusion but throws in an ever-shifting mix of element: epic pianos, Kitsune style emo electro and even a '60s organ wig-out. Kitsuné If baby boomers are getting down to EDM in an attempt to prove that they're still hip (and they are), then this maybe the track for them. 'Shame of Me', featuring Salem Al Fakir again, starts with a psych-rock beat before dropping into a bassline that sounds inspired by Yello's 'The Race', no doubt triggering waves of nostalgia in 30-somethings raised on 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off'. This is followed by further retro nods, including some Roger Troutman-esque Zapp talk box vocals and more Adele/Audra alongside Salem in Freddie Mercury lite mode.
Perhaps, then, Parliament's George Clinton will be the next to join the EDM bandwagon, following in the footsteps of ubiquitous Chic frontman Nile Rogers who appears alongside Adam Lamber on 'Lay Me Down'. Featuring looped and filtered guitar and vocal, it's another '80s power ballad, not too far removed from Daft Punk until Avicii drops more pogo friendly stadium chords.
This insistence of peppering his trademark 'dur duh duh dur' over every track begins to become a little tiresome. Linea Henriksson's 'Hope There's Someone' sounds like classic Royksopp, starting out with a smokey smouldering vocal, but it's not long until it descends into overblown, fist-pumping pomp.
Which just leaves 'Heart Upon My Sleeve', the dramatic closer that somehow enacts Metallica guitar riffage via the medium of classical strings for a head-banging closer.
The US – who this is clearly aimed at - might have invented house and techno, but there's little of it's direct legacy here. Instead, Avicii has built his city on rock and roll, combining it with the inward-looking folk tradition of country and the imported euro dance that has captured the attention of the US The result is a sound that is huge, built for stadiums, open top cars on even more open roads, and sprawling cities where the American dream still holds the promise that anything is possible. Whether or not that is 'True', Avicii will find out with his album's release...
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