Sunday, November 2, 2014

Motion | Calvin Harris


★★★☆☆

Calvin Harris has quickly become one of the biggest names in electronic dance music. While he achieved great success across the pond with his first two albums, his 2011 solo hit "Feel So Close" and collaborations with Tinie Tempah, Florence Welch, Ellie Goulding, and Rihanna on his third album, 18 Months, shot Harris into international stardom. This year, he and British singer Rita Ora were the topic of discussion as they ended their relationship before Harris infamously snatched away Ora's control over the music they made together for her second album. Harris effectively (and perhaps reasonably) crippled Ora's career for the moment, but uninterruptedly progressed with his own career by releasing his top ten single, "Summer," and his fourth studio, Motion.

The aforementioned single, "Summer," allows Harris to return as a self-sufficient singing, songwriting, and producing machine. "Summer" joins the Cedric Gervais remix of Lana Del Rey's "Summertime Sadness" on the list of "jams appropriately titled for the season," but that does not stop either of them from being just as amazing in mid-November. Harris' raspy voice creaks over the sprawling electronic synthesizers as he reminisces of his summertime lover: "When I met you in the summer, to my heartbeat sound / We fell in love as the leaves turned brown." He also places his own vocals over the album's opener, "Faith." The song sounds fresh sonically, but turns into a dirge lyrically, as Harris continually beats "I need a little, I need a little faith / Is that too much to ask for?" into the ground.

The dream team of Harris and Ellie Goulding reunited for "Outside," after the success of "I Need Your Love" from 18 Months. On this new cut, Goulding brings it home with subtle harmonies and her signature vocal tactics. Which other female powerhouses are featured on this album, you may ask? Gwen Stefani, who is currently undergoing a solo image revival, gets a credit on "Together" as her vocals drip with autotune effects and she sings, "We're going to wake up together / You won't want to go home / We'll find love here forever / As we wake up together." Up-and-coming artist Tinashe has also nabbed a feature on this album follow the release of her album, Aquarius. On "Dollar Signs," Tinashe channels a hybrid of Rihanna and Ariana Grande, while Harris finds his production style rooted in a heavy, trap-style beat. Another newbie wildcard, English trio All About She, slide into Motion for the track "Love Now," which incorporates some organic strings under the shiny electronics and the undistinguished vocals from All About She's lead singer, Vanya Taylor.

Harris managed to score a seemingly-unlikely feature from the three sisters of indie-rock band Haim, with results that are even more surprising on the track "Pray To God." While it opens with some eerie synths that channel Haim's own "My Song 5," the song expands and resolves into a traditional electronic dance style. Harris took away most of the Haim sisters' guitars and natural instruments (spare one running guitar stem), yet they vocally managed to make it seem as if they had never left their comfort zone. Other notable features on this album include John Newman on "Blame," which contains one of my favorite electronic dance breaks on the album, and two separate songs from pop duo Hurts. The first song to feature vocals from Hurts, "Under Control," was released a year ago in collaboration with fellow producer Alesso, and is a steady-moving cut that is perfect for the club scene. On the other hand, both the production and the vocal delivery on "Ecstacy" do not live up to that of "Under Control," as the team fails to create a moving electronic ballad they were yearning for.

Whether you're an in-the-car rockstar or a flamboyant club dancer, Motion will get you moving in one way or another. Harris is able to display a radio-friendly side on Motion ("Summer," "Together"), but doesn't forget the monstrous club scene in electronic dance music with some completely-instrumental tracks that are sure to get everyone bouncing ("Burnin'," "Overdrive"). While still not revolutionary, Harris manages to bring some killer tracks to the table. Minus the degrading oral sex references on the Big Sean collaboration on "Open Wide" and the sonic catastrophe on "Ecstacy," the album is right in line with 18 Months. With fellow producer David Guetta aiming for an album release date at the end of this month with a relatively uninteresting line-up, Harris' Motion may easily still end up on top of the electronic dance game this year despite the lack of musical growth thanks to his quality features and catchy beats.

Motion will be released on November 4, 2014 under Sony Music Entertainment.

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