Labeled as one of the most eagerly anticipated albums of this year, Stories from Swedish artist Tim Bergling—better known as Avicii—was finally released this past Friday. Following up on 2013’s True, Avicii’s sophomore album further solidifies the DJ’s successful progression into the pop arena. The album presents an energetic yet rather hollow compilation overall.
Avicii’s debut album True was a fresh, bluegrass tinged blast of electronic dance music coated with sprinkles of sugary pop that propelled it and Avicii himself into international fame. Stories, however, falls somewhat short of transcending the banality of general pop music and ultimately lands somewhere in the middle of the jolting yet emotionally meaningful beats of electronic dance music and the loud, sentimentally vacant beaches of Ibiza.
“Waiting for Love,” the lead single off the album, is co-produced with Martin Garrix and employs Garrix’s signature xylophone-like synthesizer arrangement. The song is certainly catchy and features an energetic hook, but ultimately lacks the lyrical substance and musical eloquence that made some of True great. The second song off the album, “Talk to Myself,” is breezier and reminiscent of tropical house music, with the sound of both violins and steels pans dancing across the background. The tune is a refreshing and modern take on the groove of disco nights, the sounds that just seem to carry you to the dance floor.
Later in the album, we return to the classic dance arena in “True Believer.” The vocals, which commence late in the song, provided by Avicii himself, begin with a somewhat eerie, robot voice and transition into the voice of Chris Martin in the chorus. It is an entertaining piece and its twists and turns are quite enjoyable to listen to. The song truly makes you want to stand up and dance, which is a very commendable feat. The piano riff at the end provides closure for the track, as though a curtain is being pulled across the wild party, leaving nothing but vivid memories.
The third track, “Touch Me,” is sensual, upbeat, and features soulful female vocals from Audra Mae. The three-minute track is by far the most repetitive in the line up and leaves the impression of indifference. The rather lackluster “Touch Me” is followed by what one of the best tracks on the album, “Ten More Days.” The humming of folk guitars, which adorned Avicii’s smash-hit “Wake Me Up,” appear once again along with wonderfully haunting and stirring vocals. The song also highlights Avicii’s unmatched ability fuse folk and electronic music, with a pinch of indie. The acoustic undertones of the ballad further intensify the already moving, powerful vocals. The impassioned lyrics, raised up by an amplifying bass, give the track its evocative and inherently appealing sound.
Halfway through the record, “Broken Arrows” is another classic Avicii rendition of folk intermingling with electronic music. “Broken Arrows,” features the vocals from Zac Brown and is an exciting collaboration. Although reminiscent of tunes like “Hey Brother,” and “Wake Me Up,” the track misses the peak set by Avicii’s previous ballads and drifts too far into the realm of swinging country. However, the distinguishable vocals of Zac Brown provide the song with a notability of its own along with the pulsing beat throughout.
But aside from some shading of folk and disco, the album still leans heavily on generic pop sounds. The eighth track, “City Lights,” is somewhat charming and begins in the subliminally sensual manner of moans repeating continuously. Then, there is a swift transition into uplifting, echoing female vocals and a gliding piano tune. The track is very reminiscent of a younger Avicii, prior to his True fame, as techno-dance music icon. There is once again another transition as we bounce back to an electronic backdrop. It is pulsating, fun, and leaves the listener with a resounding sense of wonder.
Two tracks later in the album—“Can’t Catch Me” and “Somewhere in Stockholm”—are both unoriginal, fun, and catchy yet remain undistinguished. “Can’t Catch Me” is a change in scene with reggae rhythms while “Somewhere in Stockholm” is a not groundbreaking in its electronic pop sound, but is a catchy tune and features an exhilarating marching band drumming sequence.
Avicii’s Stories is a fun album, filled with some great tracks. However, the Swedish DJ also seems to be drifting further away from his foundational electronic dance music into an unpleasant purgatory of pulsating pop. Stories is ultimately an electronic, pop album with some good beats but just not enough EDM.