Eric Schackne

REVIEW: Zedd – ‘Clarity

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If I were to preview Zedd’s new record for a select group of well-informed grandfathers, I’m sure they would say things like, “this Zedd fellow is much less annoying than those other electronic noise-makers,” or “usually when I listen to electronic music I keep thinking that my pacemaker is acting up, and when I listened to this latest collection of Zedd’s I knew right away that I was, in fact, having a heart attack.”  ***Further hypothetical questioning revealed that he enjoyed the album dispite his cardiac arrest***

Clarity is a 10 piece puzzle, four of which are instrumentally-shaped solely by German, fresh-face Zedd.  The songs that have included vocals are beautiful and appropriately engineered for each of Zedd’s creations, which unfold to be as playful as they are ecclectic.

The album starts out as this “Love Save The Empty” Erin McCarley-esque female-fronted tune.  Then all of a sudden we’re booted into a Lights song, adding some inorganic aspects into the mix.  This is all pretty dark though, and her voice is angelically haunting, due in part to the ticking clock used percussively.  This is definitely a dance tune, but it’s not as bright as other “music” I find annoying.  Despite the noise, the vocals have found a direct path through the pulsating mix, delivering just enough for you to feel.  This is proving to be a pretty orchestral introduction and the build is disgustingly pretty.  Just gross.

This is an album you need to listen to start to finish.  There’s a story being told through  dancing bright melodies with patches of gloomy and synthetic counter-melodies.  The sporadic organic contributions to the composition gives my ears the breath I typically need when listening to electronic music.  The seamless interlude of “Shave It Up” is an interesting fit for the next track, and I’m glad the only lyrics are the title exclamations because it seems like it might have gone a little blue with a title like that.

Kicking off some more vocally-driven music, “Spectrum” features rising solo artist Matthew Koma.  The tones here have such momentum, and it feels like you’re standing in the middle of a war zone.  Also, anytime dub-step can put a little icing underneath a beat, I’m pleased.  This is a solid club track.

Hearing a male voice over minimal noise creates a disparate intro for “Lost At Sea,” featuring One Republic’s Ryan Tedder.  This is a killer chorus; my favorite so far.  The only downbeat is the kick drum with little bubbles of noises drifting past you.  While there is a rather present beat, this still feels like a ballad for the record.

The title track “Clarity” featuring Foxes(a band I’ll trust because my DJ friend ‘likes’ them on facebook) starts out equally subdued.  This proves to have a decent building instrumental, and it’s coupled with an emotionally-building vocal production that sends you soaring into a wild party.  This makes me feel like it’s spring break…but only the fun parts.  You know, jumping around a crowded club with music too loud to comprehend with your hands in the air ‘woo’-ing anytime it feels right, which is often when you’re drunk on frozen daquiris in Cancun?

In a very 80’s state-of-mind, “Codec” feels like a darker Chromeo song.  Back to instrumental, this song ebbs and flows with some interesting use of reverb.  My ears are the ball in that thumb-twiddler-of-a-paddle-game , the one with the elastic string connecting them.  This is followed by another solid album track, “Stache,” a song that shows some real range with each part.  Rhythms are sometimes abrupt and sometimes a seamless transition into a completely different genre.  You’ll sink into a massive groove for a mere moment and then get moved a different way.  All the while, the instrumentation and composition are fantastic and intricate.

With the theatrical ticking clock grounding us back at the start, “Epos” will feel like a conclusion; but it isn’t.  Zedd and Lucky Date team up with Ellie Goulding for what feels like a bonus track. Anyhow, with “Fall Into The Sky” Ellie Goulding lays a sweet glaze on an otherwise anxiously-intense track.  The accending riff makes me a little uneasy, and I’m not sure her vocals relax me any.

As far as house music is considered, the majority of Clarity hits me in a very tolerant spot.  I tend to get bored and over-stimulated by the lack of diversity and monotonous drive of that sub-genre specifically.  Though, Zedd’s tunes are catchy and pull you in instead of push you down.  I could listen to this in the morning to start my day as much as I could throw it on to wind down for sleep; I’m just crazy like that.

TRACK LIST:

  1. Hourglass (featuring LIZ)
  2. Shave It Up
  3. Spectrum (featuring Matthew Koma)
  4. Lost At Sea (featuring Ryan Tedder)
  5. Clarity (featuring Foxes)
  6. Codec
  7. Stache
  8. Follow You Down (featuring Bright Lights)
  9. Epos
  10. Fall Into The Sky (featuring Ellie Goulding)

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