|Album Review: Odesza - In Return|
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Sometimes an album amazes you because you've never heard anything like it. But the opposite can also happen; an album blows you away because it seems to draw from lots of music you've heard and love, and combines the influences so perfectly it manages to transcend them altogether. Such is the case with Seattle-based duo Odesza's jaw-dropping new LP, In Return, released last week by Ninja Tune imprint Counter Records. Odesza are hardly alone in terms of genre, but In Return really feels like a seminal work that no one is going to top anytime soon.
Odesza are working in a crowded field of producers making sunny electronic-pop fusion, and their last album -- 2012's Summer's Gone -- was very decent but hardly stood out. They've clearly traveled lightyears since. In Return seems to combine the sounds of many esteemed artists - Purity Ring's vocal manipulations, Tycho's cinematic beauty, Bonobo's sleek synth tones - and then adds a new ingredient, a hand-picked group of up-and-coming vocalists. This inclusion, along with a few more years of experience seem to be what's elevated Odesza from mere mortals to peddlers of something very rare.
For much of the album, Odesza employ a pattern of alternating vocal and instrumental tracks. It's an effective structure, displaying Odesza's striking improvement on their own as well as their newfound penchant for crafting collaborative pop tunes that could blow up on the radio (if they weren't too good for it). Tracks 1 & 3, "Always This Late" and "Bloom" are gorgeous, golden-hour soundscapes, while 2 & 4, "Say My Name" and "All We Need" are the best pop music I've heard all year, songs that will force a big smile onto your face time after time.
Elsewhere, Odesza use guest vocalists for less pop-oriented affairs. "Echoes" and "It's Only" combine the voices of Py and Zyra with vocal samples and more of Odesza's sky-sized production. These songs and the ones that follow feel much less like singles than "Say My Name" and "All We Need," instead inhabiting a more contemplative headspace.
So much electronic music today is enslaved by trends and an attempt at being cool. Odesza seem like they're having way too much fun here to care, the sound is almost celebratory throughout. Nowhere is this adjective more fitting than on "Memories That You Call" which sounds like the soundtrack to the day where we all finally hold hands and achieve world peace. Interestingly, this song and the one following, "Sun Models" both have guest vocalists listed, but the contributions are heavily modified. This serves as a reminder of how much control Odesza has here. In Return is collaboration-heavy, but everyone and everything serves the purpose of one aesthetic vision.
I could go on and on, but In Return speaks for itself pretty damn well, I'd say. How two young producers sat down and came up with this really kinda boggles the mind. There isn't anything to criticize here, I could've given it a 10 but I wanted to leave some room for improvement. Odesza is just getting started.