2016 is already shaping up to be quite the interesting year for electronic music, and by the looks of things, Steve Angello is getting a head start on playing a vital role in the movement’s transition. His first full-length album since the Swedish House Mafia split has arrived in the form of Wild Youth – and while we were thoroughly impressed enough with what he delivered for Chapter 1 of the effort, Chapter 2 ties it together with an additional layer of conceptual depth.
Angello was somewhat cryptic when he discussed with us his reasons for splitting Wild Youth into two chapters – nor did he provide any insight as to why the tracklist of Chapter 2 didn’t follow that of Chapter 1 chronologically on the full album. By what can be gleaned from what remarks he made, the decision had more to do with the visual content tied to the album than anything else.
Nonetheless, what additions he made solidified the album’s bold departure from traditional dance music by incorporating a more lyrical, almost operatic element that tells more of a cohesive story than much of what comes out of the genre. For starters, “Rebel Nation” would sound like something from Pink Floyd’s The Wall if not for its almost ‘80s-reminiscent fusion of pad synths and plucks.
“Last Dance” takes a markedly indie pop turn, deriving its appeal from a lighthearted dichotomy between borderline blog house vocals and a stripped-down guitar chord progression. “Revolution” offers up much of the same, although it returns to decidedly dancier waters with a driving groove that wouldn’t sound altogether out of place in an intimate after hours gathering. In this track, Angello manages to ride a fine line between his new sound and a classic style without making his effort to do so obvious to the untrained ear – and for that, it’s the strongest of the Chapter 2 additions.
Another composition that hints at elements of ‘80s nostalgia is “Someone Else,” whose infectious croonings are complemented by Tangerine Dream-like pad synths before a sawtooth-heavy bass line kicks it into high gear. Similar to some of what Alesso put out on his own debut album, it makes for a decidedly rock-inspired iteration of electronic music laced with the sort of testosterone that speaks to something primal in the listener.
Alas, Chapter 2 features one song that simply fails to impress: The 12th and final track, “Stay.” It’s not a full-on affront to everything that matters to music by any means, but when held up against the rest of the album it comes across as the type of Clear Channel-friendly stylistic vaguery that only serves as album filler. While some amount of what Angello threw together for “Stay” is to be expected in an effort from an artist of his stature, it just doesn’t seem right to leave such an otherwise impressive body of work on that note.
Otherwise,Wild Youth: Chapter 2 sees Steve Angello succeed in building on the themes of Chapter 1 without coming across as forced or disingenuous. Upon listening to the album in its entirety, an informed electronic music fan will recognize that the progressive house innovator did not simply rest on his laurels (as he’s been accused in years past), instead taking the time to forge his own creative path as a true artist. Seeing as how his work as one third of Swedish House Mafia contributed in no small part to the sound of an entire electronic music era, you can’t help but wonder what impact this album will have on DJ/producers the world over as they resign themselves to their studios to whittle away at new tracks in preparation for festival season.
With one minor exception, Chapter 2 of Steve Angello's Wild Youth manages to build on what he accomplished with Chapter 1 by incorporating elements of nostalgia that, while not coming across as forced, tell a story in a manner uncommon to electronic music.