Album Review: Awake by Alison Wonderland
Alison Wonderland, Australian DJ and producer, has been making waves in the electronic scene and traveling the world to play shows since her debut album, Run, was released in 2015. Her talent and authenticity was immediately recognized, as well as her importance as an up-and-coming female artist in the male-dominated electronic genre. Cultivating a loyal fan base over the years, new music has been much anticipated. Wonderland satisfied fans by releasing remixes, such as her popular remix of Dua Lipa’s “New Rules,” . Additionally, prior to its release, she leaked some singles from Awake. Singles, such as “Church” and “Happy Place” gave fans a taste of what was to come with her new album, feeding even more into its anticipation. Her live sets have also gained attention. With many sold out shows across the world and high bookings on festival lineups, Wonderland’s skills as a DJ have shined through with her ability to make a crowd feel every beat and emotion that comes with her music. Notably, with only one album out, Wonderland won an award for New Artist of the Year in 2017 at the Electronic Music Awards.
Finally, after endless promotion and teasing, Wonderland and her label released Awake last week, April 6, 2018. It has received incredible feedback, topping both U.S. and Australian electronic charts for days. It has also gained traction on Spotify, having over 2 million plays within the first two days of its release. In many ways, the album diverges from her established sound. For example, there is a more pop and rap influence and it has many more features and vocals. The album has some notable features from Trippie Redd and Chief Keef, to fellow Australian artists, Slumberjack. These features definitely contribute to her expanding her sound and taking her music across many genres. With more features and different stylistic/cross-genre sampling, Wonderland shows impressive versatility and diversity in her production and artistic skills. It’s always nice to hear an electronic album that isn’t all about huge builds and drops. Although the album definitely has some of those, it also has more nuance, more vocals, and is more personal than the typical EDM album. Wonderland has noted many times on social media how personal this album is for her, and how difficult it was for her in creating it. In knowing her and her music, I absolutely felt that when listening to the album.
The album begins with “Good Enough,” an intense intro with a sample of Wonderland playing the cello, and a brilliant blast of a bass that takes us into a new dimension. She often starts her live sets with this intro and it’s just so her. Arguably, this is my favorite track on the album for its uniqueness and authenticity. She continues hitting us with the bass, and brings her classic electronic sound, that she’s known and loved for, on tracks like, “Here 4 U,” “Okay,” “Sometimes Love,” and “Happy Place,” satisfying her handbanging, bass-loving fans. There are some great bangers on the album. Her growth as a producer shows because her quality has definitely improved, reflecting her personal growth and maturation as an artist. However, she also creates incredible balance and nuance in the album with songs like “No,” “Cry,” “Church,” and “Awake,” which have more pop-structured sounds, simple but catchy beats, and more of her own vocals. She diverges from her typical sound with these lighter, catchier, more vibrant beats. At first I was hesitant with the direction she was going with these songs, but they’ve really grown on me as I’ve listened to the album as a whole. These particular songs also add a personal and feminine feeling to the album, which make it stand out from a typical electronic album. Her album has themes of dealing with mental illness and relationships, adding more depth to the album, as Wonderland has even referred to the Awake as her “diary.”
Whether you like electronic music or not, Awake is definitely worth a listen. Alison Wonderland really stepped it up with this much-anticipated album. Her growth as a producer, an artist, and a person can be seen through her work on this album. It’s really impressive to see these types of features and cross-genre production on an electronic album. Wonderland is easily one of the most talented artists in the EDM scene today. Her fan-base, already massive and loyal, is growing even more and many of her shows for her upcoming tour are already selling out. Especially with so few women in EDM, and so few doing what she is, it’s no wonder fans are drawn to her and her unique sound. I haven’t been able to stop listening to Awake since it came out, and I am thankful that there are brilliant women like her doing what she is. She steps outside the box. She’s fearless. She’s badass, and she just dropped what could easily be the best electronic album of 2018 so far.