Digitalism has never recorded under false pretenses. It’s always been about sounding like the French house music that recklessly emphasizes funk and hip-hop. They have also never been shy about transcending the commonplace in a live setting, leaving much of what they did in the studio behind for a bigger, bolder sound. So, it should come as no surprise that on their sophomore LP the sounds are exponentially more voluminous, far beyond that of their previous studio output.
In their earlier days, the German duo was often flatly romanticized as being “the next Daft Punk” or “the next Justice,” but I find it hard to believe that they wanted to be “the next” anything. Digitalism was crafting a different soundscape, one that certainly involved elements of Justice or Daft Punk–the heavy bass-trodden beats, the cleverly placed samples–but one that was about creating a picture-perfect house sound that they could splatter all over the walls of every club, tent, and venue they visited.
Unfortunately, to a certain degree, their debut LP, Idealism, was too small to fit the grandeur it so desperately hoped to achieve. There were certainly moments on the album that glistened hopefully at what someday could be, but due to some failed sonic experimenting and perhaps the funding to do exactly what they sought out to do, they never quite reached their destination. They were, for the time being, going to have to keep working for that perfect house sound.
Enter I Love You Dude, the follow-up to Idealism. Jens Moelle and Ismail Tuefekci have effectively reached their destination, but perhaps not in the way they had intended. The grandeur is only slightly greater than it was before, but they’ve discovered a certain pop sensibility that was previously absent. And not only have they discovered this attribute about themselves, but they have honed in on that particular trait and made it the focus of the entire album.
Take the lead single, “2 Hearts”, as an outstanding example. The production on this track (and really 4/5ths of the album) is more precise. There are no weak points like there were in days past. And they’ve added more to their game, most noticeably highly potent vocals. From the moment Moelle sings, “A touch too much, too soon” on this track, it’s obvious that filling the shoes of yet another Justice look-alike is not in the cards for Digitalism. This album is as electronic as it is pure pop. The album hinges on its vocal arrangements and at times its verse/chorus mentality.
Don’t believe that they could have combined their signature experimental electronics with pop smarts? Take just the fact that the album’s climactic track, “Forrest Gump”, was co-written by Strokes man Julian Casablancas (via email, apparently) as your proof. Casablancas lives for the simplicity of the verse/chorus aesthetic, and here he is helping Digitalism along their way.
Digitalism soars in this newly entered electro-pop realm. From the heroin-level addicting chorus of “Circles” to the Airy (capitalization intentional) “Just Gazin’”, the band is reminiscent of a younger Cut Copy. The vocals are clean, the sampling is impeccable, and the music is catchy as hell. And really, what more can you ask of a duo who set out to create picture-perfect soundscapes? Truly, Digitalism has taken a step in the right direction.