EXCLUSIVE: Avicii “Stories” Album Review

It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for… it’s well below 60º in Chicago! Just kidding–not that moment, even though I’m already freezing (lol @ me in January)– Avicii’s highly-anticipated new album Stories dropped today. Since getting my hands on it as of late last night, I’ve had a chance to listen to all of the songs (some more than others) and am happy to report that the high expectations I (and I’m sure most of you) had set for this EDM-God’s new set have not only been met, but surpassed.

Much like Zac Brown’s venture in to the mix of the country-pop world with Jekyll + Hyde, Avicii in Stories seems to have departed from his solely heart-thumping track record set forth (most notably in his last release, True). That being said, not one song in the new set lacks the strong and vibrant bass repetition that we’ve all come to crave in his music. And neither are we missing the catchy-yet-not-annoying and acoustically-fueled melodies that first brought Avicii to fame with Levels in 2011.

What we have with Stories, however, is classic perfectly-balanced bass and melody mix that the Swede is known for, coupled with styles of music that previously would seem to never mix well with an EDM backbone. Pair this ambitious blend of old and new with vocalists that are pioneers in their own field, and we have some tracks that I’m positive will ebb and flow on the top of the charts for months and months to come… and take over the entire output of my headphones for the next few weeks.

There are fourteen (14… one-four) tracks total on the new album, and thus a lot of jammin’ to choose from. For the purpose of brevity, and because I’ve already covered a few of the tracks that have been pre-released from this album (see my reviews of Broken Arrows, Pure Grinding, and For a Better Day), I’ll focus on my absolute favorites from Avicii’s new set in this review, but I welcome commentary below on what you guys think as well!

Track 3: Touch Me. This song is a combo of some epic piano progressions that Avicii’s slowly expanding upon and becoming known for (Waiting for Love and For a Better Day both feature prominent 88-patterns), a sweet, grungy, and expansive bass line, and a soft synth fade-in for the chorus and drop. Oh, and lest we forget the real soul of the song: the gospel-infused lyrics and vocal range. Combine this with the classic heart-thumping beat we get throughout, and we have a solid homey-feeling pump up for any occasion.

Track 7: True Believer. I will admit, this song takes a while to heat up, but when it does… well, we get a weird British child talking about being a loser. But that’s okay! Because the synth then picks up and reveals none other than . . . Chris Martin! This dude has some pipes, especially on the higher range, which are matched perfectly with the fast-paced descending melody at the foreground of this track. While I do love the pre-chorus with CM and the drop with the cool synth textures, I must say I do wish Avicii utilized the Brit’s voice a bit more and that the semi-boring space between drop and verse was either cut in half or eliminated… there’s not too much going on there, so it just feels like we’re waiting for the lyrics to kick in again. That being said, the song as a whole is definitely fun to listen to, and seriously, who can deny a track with the Coldplay frontman at the helm?! Not me. I love Coldplay.

Track 8: City Lights. A powerful, heart-thumping song that has (I think) the best contrast of volume and pattern on the entire album. We start with a slow build up (which is a bit long… like True Believer), but then eventually get to the Galantis-esque verse (high female voices paired with 2 or 3 harmonies both above and below the melody… good, good stuff) that brings us into the oddly-chromatic-yet-extremely-pleasing prechorus. This is where my favorite part of the song begins: we have a really firm and resonant bassline that changes only with the chords, removing the sense of urgency that we feel with most of the other tracks on the album. Then, all of the sudden, we have a synth build and then the percussion kicks in and we’re in the drop with the full orchestra of synths, piano, drums, and robot/alien voices. It’s quite the combination, and quite invigorating, if you ask me.

Track 10: Sunset Jesus. Other than Broken Arrows, probably my favorite track on the album. It has a bit of a swung feel played on some jazz-based instruments (shout out to my jazz guitar and bass peeps out there), supplemented by a really great vocal part that doubles the melody on the drop and chorus. We’re also affirmed throughout by the powerful combination of short, reverb-y synth, piano, electric guitar, and *acoustic drumset* (I’m biased, but like, come on. Acoustic drums are the best instrument out there). I also love how in this song, the melody is completely harmonic–that is, it’s played through chords and by multiple instruments, rather than by one measly synth or piano line. This adds a lot of texture that we don’t see with a lot of the other songs on this album… a great contrast, for sure.

Track 11: Can’t Catch Me. I’m starting to fall into the trap of reviewing every track, so I’ll keep this one short. Listen to it. It’s SO chill, based on a reggae feel with Wyclef Jean behind the mic. Love it.

Track 13: Trouble. Trouble honestly reminds me a bit of the hit “Wake Me Up”, with the guitar intro and familiar chord progression. But even though it’s reminiscent, the song proves to be completely different. Its lyrics are a nice narrative of the classic struggle-and-overcome dilemma and are complemented by the simplistic yet invigorating chorus (which, listen closely, features a great little atonal chord out of the blue) and melody. It’s a short song, but can serve a wide range of activities and moods due to its acoustic soul with a strong EDM backbone (as with most of Avicii’s stuff).

Track 14: Gonna Love Ya. Another chill track to close out the album with a variety of vocal and percussive techniques used to supplement the ever-prominent synth melody. This song is definitely more on the drop-heavy side, so turn to this if you want a slower-moving jam song that doesn’t have too many lyrics to remember (like… if you’re drunk!)

Although I’ve already reviewed it previously, I must say that my favorite song on the entire album is definitely Broken Arrows. And yes, that’s because I love Zac Brown. And Avicii. And it combines both. Into a country-fueled, EDM-inspired jam that has a light melody coupled with a deep bass for some excellent listening (even on repeat… for two hours… while doing chemistry homework…).

Well, there you have it! My suuuuuper long-winded YET (hopefully) very informative and comprehensive review of Avicii’s new album, Stories. Be sure to listen to it on Spotify or YouTube or Apple Music or iTunes or whatever you use because I promise that soon the radio will be bombarded with tons of these soon-to-be-hits (which will inevitably start being overplayed… sigh).

Happy listening, and go ‘cats!

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