It’s been an interesting career trajectory for Tim Bergling, known the world over as Avicii. From a fledgling Swedish producer making waves at WMC, to the iconic face behind Levels, to the most hated producer in EDM, to the most controversial, he’s seen it all. Now, with the release of his debut studio album, True, it seems he’s found his home: at the very edge of EDM, poised to take the leap.
First premiered to pretty wide disapproval by the main stage crowds at Ultra back in March, True marks one of the furthest departures from the world of EDM since its explosion. Ironically, that feat comes from the DJ who, just a year ago, was facing extinction amongst the dance music elite who cried “mainstream” and banished Avicii to the depths of frat-house hell (ironically, Avicii is a level of Buddhist hell. Go figure). Now, with this full-length premiere, the producer we all wrote off as a pop sensation comes back with an album rooted in everything from bluegrass to disco to classical music.
It wasn’t a shock, of course. Upon its release, “Wake Me Up” became a centerpiece song of summer, both on the radio and at any given festival. Haters continued to hate, but the world took notice of the new sound that was storming the Swede’s tracks. “You Make Me”and “Lay Me Down” kept the gossip going, displaying even more elements to the album’s mosaic (Nile Rogers of “Get Lucky” fame’s guitar riffing is unmistakable in the latter). Now, with the entire work finally on display, the patchwork grows even more.
Starting off deeply rooted in the Southern Rock everyone categorized his Ultra performance under (with the exception of “You Make Me”), the album only grows from there. “Dear Boy” is perhaps the most Avicii-esque track on the entire album. Piano chords turn to rhythmically driven synths that work up to the four-on-the-floor drop that everyone wants to hear. It may not be the best track, but it’s been killing in his sets.
Rogers’ two tracks, “Shame on Me” & “Lay Me Down,” appear midway through the CD, and are easily the strongest of the group. Relentless basslines, pounding drum work (on the former), and insane guitar riffing (on the latter) make for some of the funkiest house music we’ve seen in a while (think “Get Lucky” on steroids). But above it all, the hyper-melodic chord progressions of Avicii shine through. After all, let’s not forget what Rogers had to say about working with Tim.
And, reminiscent of a good DJ set, things start to get dark towards the end. “Hope There’s Someone” ebbs and flows with extraordinary restraint, taking us along with hypnotic vocals and fleeting, ominous chords until it finally erupts every so gently in a big room drone. “Heart On My Sleeve” fiddles around with melodic guitar and emotive piano, but is carried by dominating string arpeggios, waning in and out of power.
Things get lighter from there with the kazoo-happy “Long Road To Hell.” Pitting blues-centric vocals against funky piano, he blends the best of both worlds on the penultimate track. It’s almost a cap-off of the entire album, flaunting the masterful genre clash he accomplished with the album.
Topping it all off, “Edom,” the eight-minute, soundtrack-ready string-driven ballad, gives the album the feeling of a triumph. And maybe that’s the point? Whirring strings overlaid with the most emotional chord progressions on the album build for what seems like an eternity up to a symphonic climax.