By: Dino Ljubijankic
One of my favorite meals that my mom makes for my family whenever we’re all under one house is a Bosnian dish called kljukusa. I can say that it is easily one of my favorite things to eat, while being one of the least creative things ever made. It’s literally flour, eggs, water, and potatoes with some salt and pepper. Mix it in a bowl, pour it in a pan, bake it, cut it up into a bunch of bite sized pieces, and drown it in butter and farmer’s cheese. Boom, dinner. It honestly shouldn’t be as good as it is, but that’s how it is. There is no science behind it, it just tastes good.
I couldn’t help but think of my favorite potato based meal when listening to Avicii’s newest album, Stories. It’s basic, it’s plain, and it’s kind of uncreative. But it’s not supposed to be a complex album that’s destined to change music forever. It’s an Avicii album – relatively normal music made by a relatively normal guy. He gets his paychecks by making music that he’s happy with, and that’s what he does. He’s not going to be winning any awards anytime soon, but this record is going to be the background of many a college-aged situation. “Waiting for Love,” for example, sounds like it’s going to be part of every ‘pre-game before the pre-game’ playlist for the next couple summers. Granted, I did roll my eyes at the stereotypical countdown of the weekdays throughout the song. I get that Avicii isn’t Shakespeare, but a teensy bit of lyrical substance would be appreciated. With “Talk to Myself,” Avicii brings back some old school sounding synths to decorate the party melody he paints alongside a pretty recognizable chord progression from his handy dandy keyboard. He also adds in a xylophone to bring a sort of childish excitement to the song, which will definitely be a hit with the Kidz Bop crowd.
“Touch Me” sees Avicii goes into his ‘supporting producer’ role, playing a funky back up to the soulful yet slightly distorted vocals ringing throughout the track. The streak of decent tracks ends with “10 More Days,” where Avicii begins a bit too typical and predictable. That’s the thing with an album like this: average quality can only be sustained for so long. There needs to be a peak, or an uplifting point of the record to bring some light to the listen. “For a Better Day” does a good job of perking up the spirits, delivering a keyboard melody that can definitely sway some hips. The next three tracks, “Broken Arrows,” “True Believers,” and “City Lights,” however, sink back into a pretty basic pop song structure. Not to say they’re all misses: “City Lights” is actually one of the higher points of the entire album, if not the highest point. It would’ve been nice if Avicii polished up his rhyming schemes with the vocals, but, other than that, the song is fantastic. There is a vast openness that the album desperately needed, and Avicii managed to mix it in with a party hit that delivers a gratifying punch.
I’m going to pretend “Pure Grinding” isn’t on the album for a quick second. It’s sandwiched between two of the best songs on the album, so I’m just going to suggest skipping it. Trust me, it won’t be missed. “Sunset Jesus” rides into the listener’s ear next, creating images of convertibles riding down a California coastline at peak sunset hours. Think light beer commercials featuring college students and a bright red Jeep. Yeah, that sounds about right. While this brings a casual and friendly tone to the album, “Can’t Catch Me” doesn’t offer much of the same. There’s a lot more of lyrical depth, with a story being told with traditionally reggae delivery from- wait a second. Wyclef Jean! Wyclef Jean is on this song! Yeah, that Wyclef Jean! Fugees and speaking Spanish on the Shakira song! Good on him, still getting those checks.
“Somewhere in Stockholm” has an inspiring tone to it, being the clear ‘anthem’ song of the album. Good on it, as it’s the last song on the album worth a listen. The last two, “Trouble” and “Gonna Love Ya,” recede to typical pop song formulas once again. But that’s the crazy thing: remove those two tracks, “Pure Grinding,” and “10 More Days.” If that was the case, there would not be a single bad song on this album. Avicii was that close. But that’s the case with Avicii: he’s not exactly close to much. It’s not like he was just a smidge away from making a groundbreaking record. He was a smidge away from making a quality dance pop album. It’s not like the music industry is desperate for more of those nowadays. But, in this case, it still is fine for what it is, potatoes, flour, and all. Now, if I can be excused, this review made me hungry.