Oh sometimes/ I get a good feeling, yeah!
“Levels” is the most memorable track ever produced by Avicii. Surely it was this single that first made a name of this young Swedish producer. The progressive house masterpiece was placed at number one in 2011. After two years, however, Avicii has fallen from my consciousness: not really hearing anything from him that would set him apart from the other myriad of producers. Well thanks to True that was all about to change.
My initial reaction to the first track, “Wake Me Up”, was one of skepticism. It sounded nothing like anything Avicii back catalogue. A bango began to strum and Aloe Blacc’s vocals flowed with a folky, soulful feel. The first thing that popped into my head was that this sounded like country pop but once the beat kicked the true nature of the beast came with an uplifting electro melody. It became clear, True was going to be unique
Avicii is someone who produces dance music for people who like some more subject matter with their electric grooves. The lyrics found throughout this latest album are some of the most powerful in house. In tracks like “Addicted to You” and “Shame On Me” the lyrics really progress, telling a story rather than simply repeating the same verse over and over again.
Now, not every track is a winner. “Hey Brother” is a bit perplexing with it’s use bluegrass and vocals from Dan Tyminski, featuring his southern drawl. It takes several listens to really appreciate its message and musical stylings. Still the track “Hope There Is Some One” is difficult to understand. It’s definitely one that must have had a deep significance to Avicii; otherwise it is hard to understand why he wouldn’t revert to some of his better known sounds and use vintage effects to emphasize the lyrics–lyrics that made several references to death and purgatory. The track is one of the most somber sounding tracks on the album.
There are a few tracks that fell back on a similar pattern found in EDM: simple verses, climax and anticlimax, and of course a large usage of synths! “You Make Me” is a track that bangs out from the start with heavy keys, high pitch male vocals and a general theme of “love found,” a staple of EDM since the Happy Hardcore days in the 90’s. The female vocal counterpart track on this album, “Dear Boy”, which doesn’t take on as much momentum as it leads to an anticlimax as the first verse helps build up to an electrifying climax. The track that takes it’s time to drop some sweet melodies.
Now it would be unfair to go on without mentioning Nile Rodgers’ heavy involvement in the production of this album. After all Nile Rodgers did write many songs that Avicii himself was very fond of, not knowing himself that Nile Rodgers’ had written them. You can hear his prominent, masterful funk in the intro of “Lay Me Down” featuring Adam Lambert on vocals which tied the whole funk sound together. “Shame On Me” is also another song where you really hear Nile Rodgers influence: just listen to that guitar plucking and bass! The jazzy electro track jams at a fast pace and usage of that funky Talkbox really brought this groove alive that will force your legs to move!
To really get a feel for Avicii’s experimentation for jazz and blues there are two tracks to mention in particular. The track “Long Road To Hell” with an awesome piano progression, then introduces Audra Mae’s beautiful voice. Finally a saxaphone establishes the hard jazz in the climax! The track moves along fast just like “Shame On Me”. Lastly the song “Liar Liar”–well I can’t really pin one prominent style; maybe a over all base of blues with a hint of neo-soul and, then a bit of a throwback to early rock and roll? All I know is Ray Manzarek is calling from Heaven: he says he wants his electric organ back. (Rest in peace good sir!)
Before I let you fine readers off–yes I know how hard it is to read this review while you have tracks from this album blasting on your computer–I would be remiss to not bring up the two most powerful tracks on True, the only instrumentals on the record. “Heart Upon My Sleeve” features an acoustic intro when all of the sudden the songs starts to progress quickly and next thing you know you have an earful of deep cello before a hard beat drops. The tone changes instantly and now you’re immersed in an intense ecology of sound. The progression keeps its momentum at this point until finally slowing down until there is an aggressive LFO, cutoff! (No children, that sound you are hearing is not dubstep.) Now the track, “Edom”, plays with an extended intro of cello. If played back to back with “Heart Upon My Sleeve” you will hear that this is like a sister track. It progresses in much the same way but with a more theatrical and electro feel. These two tracks have a less-is-more quality without the lyrics. The tracks are still really expressive.
Well hot damn, there was really a lot to say about Avicii’s True. The reason being: it’s different, it’s excellent, and it will have listeners dancing to a myriad of musical styles. Both fans and casual listeners of Avicii’s work will find themselves a little out of their comfort zone at times, but that after all is what make us grow as people and appreciators of fine compositions, such as this album, True.