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DJDS - Big Wave More Fire Music Album Reviews

DJDS - Big Wave More Fire Music Album Reviews
The LA-based electronic duo that gave Kanye’s The Life of Pablo its gospel-house sheen embraces pop on an album featuring guest vocals by Amber Mark, Khalid, and The-Dream.

Last year, Los Angeles electronic duo DJDS shared a sprawling playlist titled “BIG WAVE MORE FIRE,” which they described as a “soundtrack to a TV show that doesn’t exist.” The semi-regularly updated, genre-agnostic collection of songs highlights Jerome LOL and Samo Sound Boy’s curatorial abilities, imagining a pool party where Arthur Russell rubs shoulders with dancehall dons and Lana Del Rey alike. Given their discerning taste and ear for cherry-picking vintage sounds, it’s no wonder Kanye West recruited DJDS to help give The Life of Pablo a gospel-house sheen.

On the pair’s third album, which shares the playlist’s title, it’s clear that their all-night studio sessions with West, as well as subsequent production work for artists like Khalid, The-Dream, and Kacy Hill, have brought their creative goals into sharper focus. Big Wave More Fire is not only their most pop-oriented and guest-packed effort to date—it’s also their most ambitious. While 2016’s Stand Up and Speak saw the duo move away from their sample-based early material, going so far as to hire anonymous, uncredited vocalists off Craigslist, here the tracklist is stacked with big-name veterans and new talents alike. DJDS frequently document their creative process by sharing photos and videos of their guests in the studio, and there’s an intimacy to these 14 songs that couldn’t have been achieved solely by bouncing stems back and forth to artists over email.

Many of these collaborations look puzzling on paper, but the producers’ pristine melodies and uncluttered beats reveal how inspired the pairings really are. Canadian indie mainstays Broken Social Scene and Brooklyn alt-R&B trio Wet don’t have much in common stylistically, yet “New Grave,” a ghostly duet between the group’s respective leaders, Kevin Drew and Kelly Zutrau, works by digitally altering both singers’ voices until they echo one another. Two-part suite “I Heard” and “I Heard (Pt. 2)” places rumbling basslines and organ swells underneath The-Dream and newcomer Vory’s lovesick tales, before passing the baton to West’s G.O.O.D. Music affiliate Hill. The most ambitious crossover event is “No Pain,” which assembles Khalid, Charlotte Day Wilson, and Charlie Wilson (who previously appeared on the duo’s 2016 song “You Don’t Have To Be Alone”) into an unlikely R&B group, fusing each artist’s brand of gravitas into a deeply soulful lament.

Although DJDS cut their teeth playing underground warehouse parties, several tracks on Big Wave feel built for peak-time festival sets. The horn-heavy “Pick Me Up” and “Why Don’t You Come On” are feel-good, hands-in-the-air dance-pop jams, both capable of knocking off all flower crowns in their immediate radius. With two contributions, the springy “I Get By” and the dark-horse “song of the summer” contender “Trees on Fire,” Amber Mark narrowly takes the title of the album’s most valuable vocalist. On the latter track, a euphoric anthem about desire, her husky voice perfectly complements rookie Marco McKinnis’ butter-smooth crooning.

As if to underline the duo’s new embrace of pop, Big Wave More Fire includes DJDS and Empress Of’s uptempo cover of Lana Del Rey’s Lust for Life standout “Love.” It’s easy to see what drew them to the single’s Beach Boys-indebted noir: Like the best songs that have come out of this new phase of the pair’s career, it’s romantic, nostalgic without being cloying, and feels equally suited to sing-alongs in the car and the amphitheater.

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