Skrillex – “Recess”

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Grade: C

Key Tracks: “Try It Out” “Dirty Vibe”

Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.

Alright, that’s a slogan for a kid’s toy, but it kind of applies here too. “Recess,” Skrillex’s first official full-length (long delayed after all his work was stolen a few years back), has all the wobbles, but it never falls – there’s no bass drops. The EDM/dubstep mastermind practically invented a new form of music on his ubiquitous EP’s, but he levels out here and settles for more commercial dance music. Sometimes it works, usually it doesn’t. Too many songs on “Recess” fall victim to repetition, and could really benefit from some insanity.

“C,” in grade school terms, comes out to “average.” This is a very average album. The songs are catchy, easy to dance to, and forgotten the second they end. And it’s a shame, because Skrillex, aka former From First to Last singer Sonny Moore, was the leader of an EDM revolution only three years ago. “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” won Best Dance Recording at the Grammy’s, despite being one of the most chaotic releases of the year (and despite the voters of the Grammy’s not wanting to know what drugs their (grand)children were taking to his music). But this album feels safe, like a step back. It’s understandable to think that a full album version of the head-pounding and riot-ensuing music on his EP’s would cause seizures, but there’s a common ground that is almost never found.

There’s really only two great songs on the album – “Try It Out” and “Dirty Vibe.” The former is the leadoff single, and it’s a bridge between standard dance music and the typical Skrillex chaos. It resembles what dubstep has become – high pitches, inexplicably dancy, and shrill, just to the point of annoyance. The latter is the only song that tips on the side of chaos, maybe because of a Diplo guest spot. It’s the only song reminiscent of old Skrillex. It’s also worth noting two other great guest spots – Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos on the otherwise overlong and forgettable title track, and Chance the Rapper on “Coast Is Clear,” one of the more decent tracks.

Although “Recess” is a wholly listenable album, it is disappointing. Skrillex seems to have fallen victim to his own creations. It’s entirely possible that his early releases set a bar too high, one that, if matched again, would only induce violence. It’s also possible that Skrillex wanted to make a more conventional, dance club record. Either way, it’s a turn in a different direction, and one that his fans may not be overly excited to grasp for. Songs from this album – especially single “Try It Out” – will surely be played in clubs. But there isn’t much more here. “Recess” gets a little boring, and it becomes kind of a chore to finish each song. Fans of dance music in general might enjoy the album, but fans honed in more on Skrillex might not feel the same.

-By Andrew McNally

Disclosure – “Settle”

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Grade: B+

Key Tracks: “When A Fire Starts to Burn,” “F For You”

A debut from a European dance band coming only weeks after Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” burned up the charts might not seem like a good decision. It worked. Perhaps it was unintentional, but Disclosure might be on to something. The British duo – two brothers of ages 21 and 18 – have perfected an album harking back to dance music of the 90’s, not unlike the aforementioned French duo. Americanized house and dance music (the abrasively loud forms of EDM and dubstep I embraced in college) is still very popular, but has a definite expiration date, and that date might be coming soon. As “Get Lucky” climbs the charts, Boards of Canada release a comeback and Disclosure release a well-anticipated debut on the same day, all signaling a potential return to more controlled forms of dance music.

There is really nothing new on this record. It greatly succeeds, however, as an exploration and combination of many different forms of dance and house music. The combined opening tracks of “Intro” and “When A Fire Starts to Burn” present an almost Prodigy-type of heavy, hip-hop influenced type of electronica. This doesn’t stick around, as the album shifts through various volumes and tempos, and with a whole and welcomed line-up of up-and-coming British singers.

“Settle” is, at its core, exactly what it wants to be, and that is an effective dance record. It even flows well as an album, something nearly every dance band seems to struggle with. It might be very long, but if it’s put on at a party, that will no longer be a complaint. The beats are cooled and controlled, with little invention going on. In a world now filled with Skrillexs and Diplos, that might be just what we need.

-By Andrew McNally

Daft Punk – “Random Access Memories”

Daft Punk

Grade: B+

I’m one of those rare people that’s never really been onboard with Daft Punk. I’ve rarely found their music as entrancing and intriguing as most. The robot suits, to me, have seemed like an act more than an output of the music, which I’d already seen (better) in Kraftwerk. And I never cared for the repetitive rhythms and lyrics of their hits, and of club music in general. “One More Time” will grab me every now and then, but I see nothing in it beyond catchiness. “Around the World” has for years been a throwaway song to me, totally pointless and obnoxiously repetitive.

But “Random Access Memories,” admittedly, sucked me in. The first two tracks – “Give Life Back to Music” and “The Game of Love” did little for me, and were perhaps not the most momentous songs to open an album with. But the album’s third and longest track, “Giorgio by Moroder” roped me in more than any other dance song ever has. The song is winding and experimental, incorporating many instruments in a building rhythm. After the epic ends, the album twists into a peak of very danceable songs that never stretch into unnecessary lengths, and feature some great collaborations with Julian Casablancas (The Strokes), Pharrell Williams and legendary songwriter Paul Williams, all of whom contribute to some genuinely funky rhythms.

The album continues to flow in segments, as the last few tracks feature just the duo more prominently, largely devoid of collaborators and focusing more on a stripped-down, electronica sound. “Beyond” is the most traditionally Daft Punk track on the record, with the typical repetitive, faint robot vocals, and is one of the album’s weak points. But the largely instrumental tracks “Motherboard” and “Contact,” the closer, bring the album to a momentous end, and allow the group to experiment with their music and break out of their repetitive habits.

The duo stray further away from EDM and electronica on this record, their fourth. The danceable tracks actually feature funky guitar rhythms over electronica, at points. At moments on this record, Daft Punk sound like more than a duo, incorporating many instruments into their swooping songs. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’ve already heard the album and have formed an opinion of it. When the band streamed it on Pitchfork, the world went crazy. People are down with whatever Daft Punk has to offer and, on this album, it’s a whole helping of everything. I do believe that I am a converted fan, at least for now.

Key Tracks: “Giorgio by Moroder,” “Contact”

-Andrew McNally