By Drew LaCouture
After years of paying dues and performing, electronic duo Zeds Dead finally release a full-length album that is top-heavy but enjoyable enough to match up against other albums in the EDM genre. DJs Dylan Mamid and Zachary Rovan combine dubstep, hip-hop, house and pop to create a familiar sound with clever delivery.
While these two are not contributing anything revolutionary to their respective genre, they make sure none of their songs overstay their welcome. However, “This is Me” and “Symphony” should have been bonus tracks to give the main album a tighter feel.
Among all of the producer/singer partnerships in music business today, Zeds Dead and alternative master Twin Shadow could and should make an album together because the opener “Stardust” and the enticing “Loneliness” are fantastic. A full album of songs like those two could make for a brilliant and artistic project.
Maybe this is not what Zeds Dead is aiming for, however. The album is pretty simple with “Too Young” and “DNA” being the only songs with clear-cut meanings. Hearing Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo on a track with Pusha T alone is worth paying for, even though the track itself is pretty flavorless. “DNA,” though it borrows from countless other electronic and hip-hop colorations, is a bold banger with some great head-bopping choruses.
Speaking of bangers, the only drum and bass track “Me No Care” is the only track that can carry itself without guest features. “Dimensions” and “Where Did That Go” is where the album starts to slow down in terms of creativity, for it sounds like other groups like NERO and Pendulum could have made them in their sleep.
Dedicated fans of dubstep will appreciate “Already Gone” where abrasive rapper Ghetts is featured perfectly on the equally abrasive track. Diplo’s stadium instincts also make an appearance on “Blame,” which should be their opening track in a live set list. For those looking for something more subtle, Jenna Pemkowski brings her gorgeous vocals on the closer “Slow Down.”
If it is not clear by now, this album is all over the place—however, a minor connection can be traced throughout the album. The music in many ways is mysterious and moody, but the guest vocalists bring a bright and clean sensibility to the songs just like how the Northern Lights on the cover shine through the night sky.
This theme is embodied most significantly in “Lights Out” and “Neck and Neck,” and both will sound solid live. This night sky-themed album could have used more bass overall. Perhaps not so much deep, like the sub-bass that many electronic artists rely on, but more vibrant and thicker bass lines would have made “Frontlines” even better.
Zeds Dead’s smorgasbord of an album demonstrates their talent in blending styles. What the album needed most to be great is more prevalent bass, and for the forgettable tracks to be scratched. At the same time, with good features, a good presence with synths and an ear for pop, Zeds Dead will fare well with their debut. In the meantime, we will be waiting for a Twin Shadow/Zeds Dead album in the future.
The Flyer gives “Northern Lights” a 7/10