Alesso – “Forever”
Release Date: May 22
The EDM (electronic dance music) genre is an easy one to poke fun at, primarily because of the genre’s youthful appeal and often shallow nature. Music that just begs you to dance by delivering superficial emotions and a steady dose of loud beats is always going to rankle the older crowd. But I feel like a lot of critics don’t understand what makes the genre really pop. Even I was a big anti-EDM guy who thought the music did nothing and signified even less. However, once you experience the music live, it’s pretty easy to understand what makes this music so appealing to everyone: it’s just plain fun.
The debut album from Sweedish DJ Alesso is EDM at its most EDM. There’s feel good vocals throughout, colorful production and electronic drops that ensure maximum dance potential. It’s standard stuff for sure, but “Forever” is finely tuned to make sure a party gets started. Like Zedd’s “True Colors” this year, this is EDM music that is perfect for the live performances, mixing emotion and electronics into an album that entertains accordingly. The first half of “Forever” is far superior, containing hit songs like “Heroes” or “Tear the Roof Up” that force the groove right out of you.
I personally think the EDM genre is improving by the minute. With Disclosure popularizing the UK garage style in America, Porter Robinson crafting full blown worlds with his music and artists like Alesso making silky smooth genre tunes, EDM has never been better. If you’re still not able to get behind the relentless electronic assault of the genre, “Forever” will not be for you. This is for the fans of the genre and it’s certainly a fun album to listen to. It won’t change your life, but every album doesn’t need to change your life with depth. “Forever” is simply enjoyable in the moment.
Recommended Tracks: “Heroes (We Could Be),” “Sweet Escape” and “Cool”
Jamie xx – “In Colour”
Release Date: June 1
The xx are one of those bands that are really difficult to dislike. Their debut album “xx” was full of sparse electronica and spacious indie-rock tracks that settled the listener into a mellow mood. Their second album, “Coexist,” expanded on this further by taking the band’s sound and expanding on everything that made their debut so great. A huge part of the band’s sound comes from Jamie Smith, the producer of both albums who goes by Jamie xx. Since The xx made it big, Jamie xx has produced for mainstream heavyweights like rapper Drake or remixing Gil Scott-Heron’s 2010 “I’m New Here” in its entirety.
For his debut solo release, “In Colour,” Jamie xx sticks to the sounds that made him a hot commodity in the music industry. Moody, stripped-down electronic tracks are the name of the game here. With “In Colour,” Jamie xx has capitalized on all of his influences and delivers not only the best album of his career, but one of the best albums of 2015. These are tracks that slowly move and develop into erratically beautiful tracks. The opening track, “Gosh,” begins with booming bass and a distorted vocal loop until a high-pitch synth carries the melody of the track almost entirely by itself. It’s downright gorgeous and entrancing to listen to, really bringing the listener into the mood of the track almost instantaneously.
Without a doubt though, the album highlight comes from “Loud Places,” a song that features fellow xx band member Romy Madley Croft. This is the kind of track you listen to at 2 a.m. in the dark and bask in the sheer beauty of the moody, romantic electronic production that slowly dissolves into a clapping chorus of vocal loops. It’s a masterpiece of a track and “In Colour” is a masterpiece of an album, forcing listeners to revisit it and lose themselves in the serene mood.
Recommended Tracks: “Loud Places,” “Gosh” and “Stranger in a Room”
Twenty One Pilots – “Blurryface”
Release Date: May 17
If you haven’t heard of the Ohio duo Twenty One Pilots, where have you been? The indie-pop duo mixes elements of hip-hop through their sugary sweet and heartfelt songs that are damn near impossible to resist. The duo’s debut studio album, “Vessel,” was fantastic and though the vocals of Tyler Joseph are certainly an acquired taste due to his nasally deliver, the album successfully captured everything that makes the band great. The production was top notch, the chorus’ were sing-along worthy and Joseph’s lyrics were full of heart. The duo’s latest album, “Blurryface,” does not deviate from that formula one bit, slightly refining the band’s sound rather than changing their style.
One noticeable difference is that Joseph’s rapping skills are drastically improved. While he primarily sings on “Blurryface,” his skills are immediately apparent on the opener “Heavydirtysoul.” He absolutely spits and it’s a moment that really puts the band into perspective. Twenty One Pilots are all about energy, finding the maximum emotional connection in their songs and Joseph’s improved rapping adds another layer to the fury of synths throughout “Blurryface.” The band even dabbles in some reggae inspired tunes with tracks like “Lane Boy” that mix their pop sensibilities with reggae’s rhythmic blues.
There’s an interesting concept in “Blurryface” that observes a character who goes by the name of the album. By doing this, Twenty One Pilots crafted an album that tells a story of personal, emotional struggle through the eyes of a fictional character. “Blurryface” may be a bit too unwieldy in the second half to top “Vessel,” but it’s still an album that delivers the goods for fans of Twenty One Pilots. It’s an energetic and heartfelt album that is sure to entertain a young audience for the coming summer.
Recommended Tracks: “Stressed Out,” “Heavydirtysoul” and “Hometown”