Sunday, July 27, 2014

Album Review: "A Town Called Paradise" by Tiësto

Normally, there is one dance album a year that really gets you moving while also achieving success outside of the EDM Beatport world. Heavyweight DJs like David Guetta and Calvin Harris have taken that honor in years past based on their mixing of harder hitting EDM beats with pop hooks and vocals from prolific singers like Rihanna and Ellie Goulding. Often times, these type of dance albums veer too far towards the pop-centric side and lose the infectious qualities that makes dance music the right type of bonkers to keep Electric Daisy Carnival people coming.

So when 2014 rolled around, it seemed that another album of more pop than dance would take over the airwaves and charts. However, Tiësto decided to come in and take dance music back where it started. Having been on the trance and NRG dance scene for what seems like forever, Tiësto has showed his ability to take pop music and filter it into the dance community magically. His remixes of "Somebody That I Used To Know" and "I Love It" accurately display his expertise at doing so, which made the promise of a new album of original music extremely exciting. Thankfully, Tiësto delivered like the Dutch equivalent of Domino's!

Tiësto's newest album has been the best example of a real dance album since Kaskade's Fire & Ice album. Not really trance and not really pop, Paradise veers from the icy feel of Tiësto's last brilliant album Kaleidoscope by embracing warmer sounds thanks to an acoustic guitar and piano here and there amongst the pulsing synths. Opening track and first single "Red Lights" should not be considered an indication of what A Town Called Paradise sounds like. Unfortunately, Tiësto appears to have fallen into the acoustic-EDM trap that has been deemed "trendy" these days (I can't stand it to be honest). While Red Lights is his most popular single, it fails to live up to every other song on the album. 

Built for a night out at the dance festivals, tracks like "Footprints" and "Light Years Away" show exactly why Tiësto is arguably the most famous DJ in the world. The production value in each song shows how well the DJ understands how to create a dreamy yet danceable atmosphere. Softer songs like "Written In Reverse" and "Shimmer" would cater very well to the Armin Van Buuren trance lovers while instrumental collaborations like "Rocky" with Kaaze and "Can't Forget" with Dzeko & Torres make for great head banging anthems. Lyrically, the album tells various stories of freedom: whether it's running away, getting drunk and turnt, or just expressing yourself, this is a feel good moment for the world. Tiësto also isn't afraid to put older gems of his onto the album as he included his amazing collaboration with Kyler England "Take Me" as the album's closing track.

The key to why Paradise works so well is because Tiësto has taken the route of using lesser-known yet amazingly talented pop writers to help him out. He's got two songs with vox du jour among the dance community Matthew Koma as well as collaborating with one of my favorite producers Fred Falke for the brilliant "Calling On Angels (feat. Elan Lea)." But let's get real, I literally freaked out when I saw Icona Pop and Ladyhawke were on the album! Both tracks are immediate standouts on the album. "Let's Go" perfectly captures the angry rebellion that make Icona Pop so addictive and the girls don't fail to live up to the hype. And "Last Train" with New Zealand legend Ladyhawke is probably the best song on the record to cater to mainstream audiences and hopefully signals a welcome return to music for Ladyhawke. 

The album gets really good when you can tell that Tiësto is taking risks. Second single "Wasted" with Matthew Koma doesn't really fall into any category of music out there. And really, who doesn't like wasted people? The anthemic quality of Tiesto's other songs really shines here and Koma's vocals are probably the best ever. Another example of brilliant weirdness occurs on "Echoes" with Andreas Moe, where Tiësto seems to want everyone to lose their mind to the hardest hitting beats I've heard in a long time. He even managed to get Ou Est le Swimming Pool to come and collaborate on "The Feeling" (I thought the band had broken up in 2011 but oh well). 

While the album can fall into a rut every now and then, overall Tiesto has made a strong collection of crowd pleasing floor fillers. With both dance and pop music going through a house phase right now, it's refreshing to have an album that represents true EDM and gets you hyped for any occasion. It is the perfect album for EDM junkies as well as any driver listening to the radio. Though each song on A Town Called Paradise could be a great song for any of the artists that helped write the album, they all do have Tiësto's stamp of trance pulses and in-your-face synths. It looks like Tiësto has done the impossible and created the year's best Tomorrowland album that actually would actually be played at Tomorrowland!

Best listened to: In the club or at Electric Daisy Carnival-esque festivals
Standout tracks: "Wasted (feat. Matthew Koma)" "Let's Go (feat. Icona Pop)" "Last Train (feat. Ladyhawke)" "Echoes (feat. Andreas Moe)"

NSOTP Rating: 9.2/10

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