Major Lazer Peace Is the Mission
One could call Major Lazer’s style open-format, though that might be reducing its particular aesthetic, if third full-length Peace Is the Mission is any indication. The trio led by dance-culture Renaissance man (and Wynn/Encore resident DJ) Diplo paints its kitchen-sink production with a dancehall brush. But the ragga jams and Moombahton bangers aren’t the most noteworthy inclusions here, especially when promising rave-ups like “Blaze Up the Fire” are thwarted by cheap drops and twerky breakdowns. (Squawking Dutch house synths do the same elsewhere.) The Mark Ronson-like “Powerful” (sung by Ellie Goulding) might sound a little corny and derivative, but it also shows versatility and seasoned craftsmanship. “Lean On,” which still boasts a stuttering Caribbean rhythm, represents another melodic coup from collaborator DJ Snake. And swooning opener “Be Together” confirms Major Lazer’s growing pop smarts and evolving strain of dance music.
New dance-pop sensation Galantis does little to differentiate itself from the EDM radio-baiters at the onset of its debut full-length, Pharmacy. “Forever Tonight” evokes the house-lite of Kaskade, the duo’s frequent remixer and collaborator, and the following track, “Gold Dust,” is aural MDMA with its drum-rolled builds, dramatic releases and syrupy, over-sung refrains. So why the hype for this blueprint-deferring act? Christian Karlsson (member of Miike Snow, co-writer of Britney Spears’ “Toxic”) and Linus Eklöw (co-writer/producer of Icona Pop’s “I Love It”) are the latest Swedes to crack and effortlessly exploit the pop songwriting code. Even if the idiophonic synth melody of “Call If You Need Me” smacks of megaclub tropical house, it’s still going to imbed itself into your cranium. And, to be fair, deviations like nu-disco novelty “Peanut Butter Jelly” give the Galantis a bit of distinction—but only a bit.
Giorgio Moroder Deja-Vu
The only reason we’re talking about a Giorgio Moroder album in 2015 is because Daft Punk paid homage to the Italian disco/pop producer on 2013’s Random Access Memories. Cue second-coming hype, DJ gigs and an album more loaded with namedrop-geared collaborators than the mirrorball grandeur and Moog utopia that defines both his catalog and late-1970s/early-1980s pop. Those latter trademarks are integrated here fleetingly, perfunctorily and at the expense of commercial dance trends. “Tempted,” with go-to EDM vocalist Matthew Koma, is characteristic of most of the album: muted Moroder keyboards wasted on half-baked, overwritten radio bait. And Moroder’s solo instrumentals fare just as poorly; “4 U With Love”—who does he think he is, Prince?—has his cascading synth beats giving way to a trance arpeggio. In a bewildering move, he covers Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” and saps the character right out of it—partly by employing Britney Spears to sing it. By the time we get to the one track that’s genuinely Giorgio—closer “La Disco”—it’s too little, too late.