One could say a lot of great pop music comes out of Europe. The variety that’s produced from this continent has influenced generations of musicians and continues to do so to this day. With that, not only has the music influenced a global audience, but artists located at home base. This is the case for the Norwegian synth-pop duo known as Röyksopp. Having formed in the late 90s and gained early success with their first offering “Melody A.M.” in the early 2000s, the partnership of Svein Berge and Torbjørn Brundtland have since released consistently ambitious projects throughout their career that would keep any midnight hour Euro-pop dance club bumping until dawn. Yet, for every track of that style, they have countered it by throwing in elements of art-pop, ambient dance, and trip-hop that would keep any audiophile on their toes. Their last project 2010’s “Senior” had been deemed by some critics as their best album since their first release in 2001. So of course, they had to switch up their style once more. They executed this with a full on collaborative mini-album with frequent music partner and international pop icon Robyn. The project would become “Do It Again,” and it would be a triumph for both parties involved. The mini-album brought out the skillful qualities that had made past endeavors of their pairing successful, and thus segues into their most recent album “The Inevitable End.” With such an ominous title one might ask, “Is this the actual END of Röyksopp?” Well, not exactly. From recent statements in the press it will be the end of them releasing conventional albums as they have in the past. This is not that shocking a power-move given this particular duos history with constant change. However, one should rejoice that this is NOT the inevitable end for these pop titans. One should be in fact be REJOICING that they are back with this new album and that they have once again embraced some new sounds and reveled in some of their classic ones as well.
This album starts off with a cut to the cranium not only sonically, but by name as well. The opening track “Skulls” is Röyksopp in classic form with repeated robotic vocal lines, punchy kick drum and synths, and a mid-tempo beat that gets things moving right away. On repeated listen, it starts to evoke sounds of 80s juggernauts like Front 242 and Kraftwerk. This blends nicely into the next track “Monument (The Inevitable End Version)” which is a remix of a song off the previously mentioned collab album “Do It Again.” It ditches the dreamy, breathable, drone of the original and instead attacks with glitchy keys, a club inspired dance beat, and a nice vocal re-work of Robyn’s subtle and sweet vocal track. The next two tracks take things down plenty of notches by coming in unobtrusive and unassuming. The track “Sordid Affair” (featuring vocal aid from Ryan James of Welsh duo ‘Man Without a Country’) keeps things distant and ambient with reverb heavy vocals and an overall melancholy vibe. James is a capable vocalist and after long exposure to this track, you can almost hear a slightly dancey-er “Owl City” vibe with this track. This then soars into one of my personal favorite songs and vocal features on this album. The track “You Know I Have to Go” (with Jamie Irrepressible aka Jamie McDermott of the art-pop collective The Irrepressibles) certainly uses the featured vocalist as inspiration for the track and its sound. With a swelling synth melody, chamber-pop vocal lines and an un-arbitrary intro, it provides a chill-out from the determined “norm” of what Röyksopp are typically known for. This is interrupted by the next couple of songs which I consider a lull in the album. The “radio-club-banger-pop” laced “Save Me” (featuring Susanne Sundfor) is cheesy with muddy composition and an immature vocal sound from the featured vocalist. It’s then proceeded by strange content in this middle section of the album. Another track featuring Jamie Irrepressible titled “I Had This Thing” that comes off like a Sam Smith demo (had he started doing house music) and an unfortunate throwaway mantra track featuring Robyn called “Rong.” The album regains it’s balance with yet another Jamie Irrepressible aided track called “Here She Comes Again.” This track is by far one of the best on the album merely from the intro alone. With lush production, a fantastic juxtaposing beat, and a haunting melodic key, it’s repetitive but captivating in the best ways possible. The last couple of tracks fumble and attempt to end the album on a high note but fall short of anything rousing enough for an album closer. This makes for an overall underwhelming second half of the album with one shining moment hidden amongst the decent ones.
Although I do not particularly think it was their best album to date, I do believe it is a step in the right direction as far as progression goes. They’ve had so many different sounds over the years and they’re all here. If someone was to ask me, “Hey, I wanna get into Röyksopp, which albums should I start with?” I would probably not hand them this. Though I’m sure when they started looking on their own, having listened to the rest of their catalogue, they might appreciate it or enjoy more parts of it more than I did. Yet I still think this album does have some of the best songs they’ve ever done in terms of breaking out of their style and trying out new tricks production and collaboration wise. With “Do It Again” and “The Inevitable End” laying the groundwork for Röyksopp’s next course of action, I will still always be interested in what they will do next.
♪♪1/2 out of 5
If you like Röyksopp, you might like: The Knife, Robyn, Swedish House Mafia, Massive Attack
File Under: Electronica, Trip-Hop, Ambient, DownTempo, Synth-Pop, Dance-Pop
By Trent Lira