By Gregory Hicks, Daily Arts Writer
Published October 31, 2012
The average listener may assume that 18 Months is Calvin Harris’s debut album, but it will actually be his third studio album — and he’s going stronger than ever. As the lead producer of Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” Harris gained the attention needed to become an even bigger international sensation than he was in his Ready for the Weekend days.
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Harris may not be the same lighthearted, nu-disco style DJ he was on his first two albums, but fans are still getting a fair share of ’80s throwback with a modern twist. “School” is a brief flashback to the simple, quirky sounds that listeners should expect from Harris. The production quality sandwiches the song with cheap synth instrumentation, but becomes flooded with soothing reverb combined with vocal “Oooo’s” and “Ahhh’s” at midpoint.
To keep up with the times, 18 Months has harder-hitting synthpop, particularly in its collaborative songs like “Let’s Go” with Ne-Yo and “Drinking from the Bottle” with Tinie Tempah. Clearly, Harris wanted to expand on the sound (and success) of his past hits “You Used to Hold Me” and “I’m Not Alone.”
It wouldn’t be a true electro-house album without a few lyric-less tracks repetitive enough to use as a CIA torture devices. “Awooga” begins as a relatively musical piece but becomes two-and-a-half-minutes of (what sounds like) a semi-automatic laser gun.
“Iron” is Harris’s experiment with heavy dubstep. With any luck, it will be left as an experiment. The intro track, “Green Valley,” would be a simple, successful lead into the record if it weren’t for the female vocalist, who contributes no singing and merely an “Oh” every seven seconds. Perhaps Calvin Harris has some grudge against this woman and wants his listeners to feel compelled to loathe her monotonous annoyance.
Promotionally speaking, however, the collaborations are not America-friendly. Harris found success in American hits with “Feel So Close,” “We Found Love” and “Let’s Go” thanks to the U.S. familiarity of the singers, but America’s xenophobic musical tendencies will do Harris no favors.
Around these parts, Florence Welch is the “Dog Days” lady, Ellie Goulding is the “Lights” girl and Kelis is the one that likes to sing about her milkshakes — despite having nine Top-10 singles in the United Kingdom and two Grammys. Good luck finding someone who has even heard of Example and Dizzee Rascal. Unfortunately, Europe’s hit-makers are America’s one-hit wonders, and their names aren’t the best method to grab attention.
With few exceptions, Harris continually displays significant talent in the field of composition, proving that he isn’t merely a sound junkie. Also, nearly every featured artist is widely regarded as a powerful lyricist — perfect to compensate for the writing aspect that Harris is known to be least skilled with. The teamwork with these artists is what makes 18 Months a quality piece of work and a guaranteed hit — at least in Europe.
The record might be too radio-friendly for his die-hard fans, but his nu-disco sound still works its way into the music, if not everywhere. Calvin Harris — the singer, songwriter, producer and DJ — is no one-trick pony.