Swedish producer/DJ. American country/two-step. Black vocalist. Any two of those shouldn’t work together, let alone three, but there they all are in the first seconds of Avicii’s debut album. “Wake Me Up” is less an opening track than a proclamation: I won’t be pigeonholed by EDM. And for most of the next nine songs, Avicii stays on point. And even when he slips into electro-house cruise control, or indulges in ham-fisted or copycat vocalists—or nearly rips off an older song, as “Hope There’s Someone” (sung by Imagine Dragons’ Dan Reynolds) seems to do from Brainbug’s stringed rave chestnut “Nightmare”—the wunderkind’s got an ace melody he pulls, or someone like Nile Rodgers for real-instrumentation bragging rights. Ambition and tunefulness abound on this pop surprise.
Holy Ghost!, Dynamics
The current generation of musicians clearly isn’t finished reappropriating 1980s synth-pop or recycling the decade’s touchy-feely, soft rock chord progressions. Those nostalgic crutches slow down this Brooklyn duo’s artistic progression—also see Cut Copy and Yeasayer. However, like those other acts—and maybe more so—Holy Ghost!’s disco-fied post-punk worms its way into your head, heart and feet. The best track on this uniformly well-crafted record, “Dumb Disco Ideas,” is as tuneful and evolutionary as nearly any LCD Soundsystem track. “Bridge and Tunnel” is validated Sound Factory/Pet Shop Boys homage. And “Okay” would be dismissed as pure retread if not for its melodic and technical lure—two strengths that (mostly) justify Dynamics’ throwback glee.
Factory Floor, Factory Floor
Tension can serve music well, just not by itself. It must be paired, even contrasted with other elements—but London’s Factory Floor rejects any such mandate. On its debut record, it would seem to be angling for a happy medium between a rhythmic, early post-punk act like New Order and synthesizer-friendly noise acts such as Health and Liars. And yet, it ultimately strips away what’s most interesting and tangible about those approaches/bands for the sake of tautness and hypnosis. This being a DFA release, there’s some movement to feel here, despite the faintest traces of groove. “Two Different Ways” ekes out a modicum of ebullience and dynamic. And rigidity gives way to the welcome ascending arpeggios of “Here Again.” Otherwise, this is a largely strained collection with a bloodless heartbeat.