AVICII’S STORIES HAS FINALLY ARRIVED, BUT IS IT ALL THAT I HOPED IT WOULD BE?
Stories is, without a doubt, my most anticipated album of 2015. Avicii has long been a huge source of creative inspiration for me, as well as one of my favorite musicians, so it’s fair to say that this, his sophomore album release, might very well be one of my favorite albums of all time – regardless of genre.
Let’s find out…
To start, the Sweden leads with his incredibly evocative “Waiting For Love” which was co-produced by another one of my favorites, the deserved prince of EDM, Martin Garrix. It’s without a doubt one of the best tracks from the album, and you can check out my more detailed review of the single if you’re interested in reading more.
Next up is the previously unheard “Talk To Myself.” It begins with an enthralling retro synth melody and familiar percussion line before quickly transgressing into an complex four-minute groove featuring a remarkably unique vocal. The reverberated pluck drop is soft enough to fit the rest of the song, yet powerful enough to encourage me to get down like there’s no tomorrow – and I simply can’t get enough. Already setting the stage for one of the best albums of the year, this beauty of a track makes me want to boogie like the disco-days are still alive and strong. Check it out.
Avicii’s “Touch Me” is third up to bat, and effectively slows down the vibe for an intimate respite from the quick start. Focusing on a soulful female top line and mellow melodic intermissions, this song neither impresses nor disappoints. And although it is certainly not my favorite from the 14-track project, there is no doubt that the three-minute progression serves its purpose in continuing the journey and maintaining the flow throughout Stories.
At 4 is one of the early releases from Stories, entitled “Ten More Days.” Coming from “Touch Me” and moving to this quaint, genre-less affair, it becomes exceedingly obvious that the evolution of this album was curated very carefully by the Swede and his team. Enjoy my full review of “Ten More Days” as Avicii delves once more into an amalgam of folk and pop influences for this incredible acoustically powered jam.
“For A Better Day” needs no introduction. One of the two songs made available for immediate download with pre-order of this impressive project, it has already received a festival-worthy overhaul by one of the best producers of our generation, KSHMR. It also inherently astounds on its own, featuring a truly stunning music video which tells a mysteriously enchanting tale in collaboration with the uplifting original.
Lucky number 6, and what will probably the most popular song of the album, is the highly anticipated collaborative effort with the esteemed Zac Brown Band, “Broken Arrows.” A more typically “Avicii” song, this track combines folk and country influences with a typical structure and 116 bpm house percussion line akin to “Wake Me Up” or “Hey Brother.” The pounding beat and alluring melody join with Zac Brown Band’s characteristic vocals for a heavy-hitting radio anthem. To read more about the track, click here.
“True Believer” signals the halfway mark for Stories in remarkable fashion. Pulsing beneath a strong kick/clap combination emerges a bubbling, blissful synthetic melody to kick “True Believer” off in quaint fashion. Next enters an oddly catchy top line and equally quirky distorted riff that encapsulates a nostalgic, old-school vibe while simultaneously presenting modern production techniques, unique structuring and pitch-perfect mixing. This one is a pleasant surprise, no doubt.
Number 8 is easily my favorite track on the LP so far: “City Lights.” It’s a song that instantly feels familiar in the best way possible. Charming vocals and intricate melodies swell to an overtone of joyous jubilation before a pulsating percussion line enters signaling the trance-inducing “drop.” All in all, this six minute anthem manages to evoke a reminiscent introspection and the clarifying emotion of pure, unadulterated wonder at the same damn time – and I just can’t stop listening.
Enjoy it in full below.
9, and definitely the most left-of-field from Avicii, is the other pre-order download, “Pure Grinding.” Although the music video is intrinsically interesting and the looped hook catchy beyond belief, “Pure Grinding” fails to impart its magic upon me. Similar to “Touch Me,” however, the trapped out original appears vital to maintaining the flow of the album throughout its incredible breadth.
“Sunset Jesus” is tenth on the tracklist. The name bewilders me prior to setting my ears to the tune, but I think that’s what the intention is here. For this four-minute jam, the vocals finally take a backseat to the gorgeously constructed melodies, which is exactly what I’ve been waiting for from the Swedish maestro. However, that’s not to say that the lyricism is anything less than incredible; but more to hint at the wondrously catchy chords which serve to remind me of (haters, elate) “old Avicii.”
You know how I said “City Lights” was my favorite? Well, it didn’t last long. I’ve had “Can’t Catch Me” on repeat since it was ripped from Avicii’s LE7ELS Podcast. With few changes made since then, I’m happy to say that this is absolutely my favorite track on the album – don’t worry, that won’t change again down below. Matisyahu offers up provocative vocals over perfectly simple acoustic guitar before ascending into the most exuberant melody of today, which I only wish lasted eight more bars. It’s rumored that Wyclef Jean had a hand in this one, too, and it’s no wonder. This is truly one of the biggest hits of our time. Turn up your best speakers and revel in its glory below.
“Somewhere In Stockholm,” the 12th addition to Stories, is no doubt an ode to Tim Bergling’s home city. I can imagine this song gives him chills and emits an incredible sense of nostalgia for the electronic producer. Although this track doesn’t quite provoke the emotions some preceding ones have, I am happy to recognize it as yet another solid addition to this already astounding experience. The strings prevalent through “Somewhere In Stockholm”‘s expanse are redolent in themselves, and the snare-march keeps consummate time for spectacular lyrics laid down at an unprecedented pace to round out a captivating three-somethin’ minute ballad.
With two left to finish, I was eagerly looking forward to “Trouble” during my entire review. Unheard prior to now, the brief bluegrass-meets-European-folk tune serves as the quintessential ‘end before the end.’ It retains an energetic presence while presenting a very different, albeit refreshing flair from Avicii. It’s a perfect introduction to “Gonna Love Ya,” and a perfectly chosen addition to this truly transcendent album.
I said it was my favorite yet upon release yesterday, and it still is placing within the top three for me upon full unveil. In what has been a cherished 14-track journey, “Gonna Love Ya” swirls elements of the best influences in this album as a quintessential closer to Avicii’s Stories. With a slowed-down tempo and impassioned lyrics, the baby-makin’ vibes are strong in “Gonna Love Ya.” Read my full review of this song here, and continue on below for a full synopsis and scoring.
Phew. What an experience. I think that’s really the best way to describe this blissful LP: an experience. Avicii took me places I’ve never been, as well as touching on some that are all too familiar, but the complexity and variance heard throughout is truly unparalleled in music today. I won’t go so far as giving this a perfect 10/10, as I do believe that Stories is lacking in true “hits,” and even misses the mark a time or three. But the 14-track masterpiece of an assemblage was at least a solid 9. Between his clear evolution as an artist, presentation of various genres and diversification of production techniques – from acoustical to EDM to electronica and back again – there’s no knocking the Swedish maestro. Therefore, to label him as a house act, or even EDM, might be something to reconsider as we move forward.
Do I miss the Avicii of old, when “Silhouettes” and “Seek Bromance” were the hits of the time? Of course I do… But, I mean, who doesn’t? Artists evolve, and their audiences do, too – and thankfully, after a year of waiting, I can finally say that Stories was everything I hoped it would be and more. So in parting, all I have left to say is: Bravo.