It seems rare to find a successful electronic-classical-pop hybrid, especially one with strings that weren’t sampled from a centuries-old piece. But UK-based electronic-classical fusion band Clean Bandit has found a happy medium between dance beats and strings on their new album New Eyes. They avoid sounding gimmicky while using piano, violin and cello to add an organic feel to songs that pull from different electronic styles, including drum and bass, synthpop and even a little dubstep. The album, while not as wildly boundary-pushing as I’d expected, is really fun and features some sick party anthems.
Two tracks in, they hit you with the very poppy, “Extraordinary.” This track features vocals by Sharna Bass, simple beats, ravey piano chords, and proof that Clean Bandit can write a strong pop hit. It’s rivaled on the charts only by “Rather Be,” a well-deserved UK number 1 hit with vocals by Jess Glynne. This one is a glorious, upbeat pop anthem about long-distance love, with an on-point chorus that exclaims “if you gave me a chance I would take it, it’s a shot in the dark but I’ll make it.” It features a few really melodic violin hooks and more proof of Clean Bandit’s pop prowess.
The band strays from the totally mainstream and pushes the envelope on several songs, including “Come Over,” which features sweet strings-laced reggae love verses by Stylo G playing a man willing to change his ways for love. The lyrics aren’t deep, but very catchy; “girl come over, me want you closer, tired of the rainy days. You bring me sun sun sun sunshine.”
“A&E” also has reggae flair, and it even felt a little jazzy at points. Kandaka Moore and Nikki Cislyn’s vocals are smooth and their lyrics are simple; the song’s main point is pretty much that “you gotta get what you want, get what you want, get what you want.”
“New Eyes,” featuring sassy UK rapper Lizzo, is the absolute best track on the album thanks to Lizzo’s super sharp lyrics and old-school style over a mellow, stuttering synth beat. The lyrics take us through life’s ups and downs, from when Lizzo had “not a thing or a ring to my name,” to “now my feet in the game, knee deep, don’t speak, feelin’ like Gwen Stefani in this thing.”
Despite the many bright spots, parts of the album feel a little incoherent, like “Telephone Banking.” It features some kitchy lyrics from British rapper Love Ssega, including “I go check my clothes, I wear chinos, oh I’m such a lovely man.” Alright, Love Ssega, we believe you. “Mozart’s House” also features Love Ssega, along with a Mozart string quartet excerpt and the assertion that “You think electronic music is boring? You think it’s repetitive? Well, it is repetitive.” It’s a good sentiment for an album that puts a new spin on electronic music, but something just felt missing.
The album, though, is resurrected from its flops in the final track “Outro Movement III”. Showcasing a flawless ending, this track truly redeems any of the album’s mishaps by seamlessly mixing the classical and electronic elements in a beautifully unique arrangement.
Overall, New Eyes delivers with icy synths, impressive classical excerpts and some very chart-worthy pop hits. Although it was incredibly fun, the album felt a little soulless. I found myself waiting for songs to open up into something really powerful and exhilarating, but I didn’t quite have that moment. Regardless, it definitely scratches the surface of a new direction for dance music, and I’m excited to see what else this band comes out with. If you’re a music lover, it’s totally worth a listen, and its tracks will no doubt be featured on party playlists all summer.
Check their tour dates here. They’re only touring Europe right now, but are absolutely worth seeing if you’re lucky enough to be chillin' there this summer.
Edited by Valerie Reich
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