Swedish DJ Avicii exploded onto the mainstream pop world in 2012 with his instrumental song ‘Levels‘ and then in 2013 with the melancholic banger destined for graduation ceremonies and bittersweet summer hangouts, ‘Wake Me Up‘. Since then, he’s produced albums of his own work, released one-off singles, and has even scored major kudos in engineering some club creations for Queen of Pop Madonna (his demo of her album’s namesake song ‘Rebel Heart‘ remains infinitely stronger than the final version).
In 2015, with electronic music on the decline as it evolved and changed from its big beats and dubstep drops highs of old, Avicii chose to release his latest LP Stories, a concentrated effort to show a wider spectrum of music, similar to efforts from fellow DJs and producers David Guetta, Zedd, and Porter Robinson, to name but a few prolific performers. For the most part, Stories seems to achieve this, if somewhat uneasily.
Avicii seems determined to upcycle his own niche of adaptive EDM – lead single ‘Waiting For Love’ is brimful of Nineties piano chords that are all the rage at the moment, while ‘Trouble’, an admittedly catchy and enjoyable song, is effectively ‘Wake Me Up 2.0’ with its folk-country leanings and its big-hearted, stadium-sized electronica chorus.
Avicii even seems to be learning from his fellow EDM contemporaries when it comes to sonic experimentation – gone are the days of cookie-cutter dance music when one song repeated twelve times with slight variations could be seen as a record. Instead, Avicii grants us some variations at the very least – ‘Pure Grinding’ is a trap and hip-hop-based number while the sumptuous ‘Touch Me’ has a delicious nu-disco pulse running throughout to make a sultry slow jam.
This isn’t to say that Avicii has sacrificed the adrenaline thrill of fist-pumping dance bangers in lieu of navel-gazing electronic bangers – at least not wholly. ‘Somewhere in Stockholm’, a partial love letter to his native capital, is a rousing and emotional stadium-filler of a song, while current single ‘For A Better Day’ with its Eighties flourishes, ‘Broken Arrows’ with its glitchy pop goodness, and the dancehall-infused closer ‘Gonna Love Ya’ are all solid, semi-anthemic songs warm enough to beat back the cold winter nights ahead.
While not all of it is good – ‘Can’t Catch Me’ is leaden and slows the entire album down, as does the 90s ballad ‘Ten More Days’ which trades in big beats for a forlorn atmosphere – ‘Stories’ is a solid enough collection of EDM-pop tracks to continue Avicii’s upward trajectory, and to keep him an artist of note in the electronic music world. He’s already managed to crack America, and it’ll be interesting if nothing else, to see where he goes from here.