Third only to Calvin Harris and Tiësto as the world’s richest DJ, few have done more for the EDM cause than baby-faced Swede Tim Bergling, aka Avicii. But his second studio effort, Stories, suggests the 26-year-old is getting ready to leave the world of epic drops behind.
The follow-up to 2013’s hit-packed #TRUE is still very much a floor-filling affair with ventures into everything from tropical house (“Gonna Love Ya”) to bubbling Moroder-esque electro (“Talk To Myself”) and diva-voiced disco (“Touch Me”).
But apart from the formulaic opener “Waiting For Love,” shouty trap anthem “Pure Grinding” and drunken sing-along of “The Nights,” the much more playful and song-oriented Stories isn’t really concerned with placating the Las Vegas superclub crowd.
“For A Better Day” sees Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros’ Alex Ebert deliver a soulful turn on a gospel-tinged stomper. Newcomer Zak Abel continues to build on his early promise with a gutsy vocal on the slow-motion electro-folk of “Ten More Days,” while the Gavin DeGraw-fronted “Sunset Jesus” hints that Avicii may have been an unlikely fan of late 90s alt-rock.
“Somewhere in Stockholm,” a bittersweet tribute to his hometown (“I’m from a place where we never openly show our emotions/We drown our sorrows in bottomless bottles and leave them to float in the ocean”) is just as much of a departure, recallin the chart-topping theatrics of New York trio Fun. But the most startling reinvention appears courtesy of “Can’t Catch Me,” a laid-back reggae jam featuring the unmistakeable tones of former Fugee Wyclef Jean and rapper Matisyahu.
Not all the star names are given their chance to shine. The Zac Brown-featuring “Broken Arrows,” and the big beat hoedown of “Trouble” are lazy attempts to replicate the country house sound of signature hit “Wake Me Up,” while Coldplay’s Chris Martin is wasted on the heavily AutoTuned “City Lights.”
Stories’ eclectic nature will undoubtedly deter some of the more hardened clubbers, but it’s an encouraging progression which shows that unlike many of his peers, Avicii isn’t afraid to move outside his comfort zone.
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