Best Albums of 2014: #14 ODESZA – In Return

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“Tasteful electronic.”  That’s what ODESZA’s Clay Knight half-jokingly called their sound when I spoke with them for Paste Magazine earlier this year. And while some people might think that sounds kinda snobby, I totally get it. It’s tasteful because ODESZA manages to have their finger on the pulse of modern electronica, but they’re not trying to replicate this dub-step, deep house sound that’s gotten so popular. In Return is an album I turned to when I needed to focus, when I needed a pick me up, when I’m getting ready to go out AND when I’m lounging with friends; it’s an all-encompassing experience.

This record represents a major accomplishment of the internet age. ODESZA themselves came up in the soundcloud/hype machine/youtube buzz world and this album is a credit to hard work in a modern landscape. The album’s first single and my song of the summer is “Say My Name” featuring Zyra. ODESZA first got connected with Zyra when she was singing hooks over their tracks and posting them on youtube. I can never get over how cool this story is: They dug her takes on their output, reached out and they worked on the track together via internet exchange. This kind of story is so common in today’s musical landscape that it might as well be the norm. Like when RJD2 and Aceyalone made an entire album via snail mail recordings (Magnificient City), or how Phonte and Nicolay collaborated via e-mail on the first album for aptly titled The Foreign Exchange (2004’s Connected.) Electronic music has increasingly adopted this model of creativity, but seldom does it sound as divine and just flat-out-right, as it does with ODESZA, Zyra and other vocalists that appear on the record.

Zyra is also featured on “It’s Only” and where “Say My Name” has a distinct high level of energy that makes it the most dance-floor-conducive track on the album, “It’s Only” is a more mellow and emotional track with the influence of Asian sounds and effects. On “Sun Models” with Madelyn Grant, ODESZA brings back the kind of epic vocals that made their first two releases resonate with a wide audience. It’s a really accessible sound for an electronic group and this is what sets ODESZA apart. In fact, they’re so accessible that UNICEF used “Sun Models” for a riveting video that was released on and themed around #WorldAIDSday:

This was one of my favorite purely electronic efforts of the year. The Seattle-production duo has a totally altruistic view on making music, in that they want to further up and coming artists in the same way that they were co-signed and supported coming up. There’s a lot to like about this group and here’s hoping they spawn other acts of the same spirit.

 

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