Stories is the sophomore album you would expect from Avicii. It’s a mixture of straight pop-EDM songs with his unmistakable country-house songs mixed in, covering some other genres in between across 15 tracks. While this was initially worrying, in practice it’s more conflicting than horrific: There are some true electronic gems to be found on Stories, better than anything that was on True. It’s a shame, then, that the rest of the album fails to match these dizzying highs.
The biggest problem on Stories is the specific mixture of genres tackles on the album. The pop, EDM and house songs would all be fine by themselves, but in context lose some of their charm. While the mediocre country-infused songs leave much to be desired, the reggae flow of Can’t Catch Me is even more out of place, almost sounding like a song that was placed here by accident. It also encompasses the other beast that weighs Stories down: The drops are largely lacking any force or hook that makes them worth paying attention to. Even the pop songs are likely to be left with something half-baked, turning what could have been an amazing song into something hardly worth your time.
When Avicii gets it right, though, he knocks it out of the park. The prominent piano riff in the drop of Sunset Jesus is particularly enjoyable, and the song itself is solid and fits in the album’s context. City Lights, one of the album’s only true house song, almost feels too good for Stories: The heavily altered vocals, the piano melodies and the sparkling drop all work together to make something of such quality that it feels out of place. Even then, it’s trumped by one of the album’s earliest songs: Talk To Myself is a rumbling, robotic love letter to the 80s, with its synth strings and constant beeps channeling the best parts of the era’s music. It almost would have been enough to carry the song without a drop; the understated but enthralling xylophone-style of said drop is just the icing on top of the cake.
In hindsight, the issues of Stories can all be summarised by saying that the album needed some editing. It tackles a lot over the course of fourteen tracks, and would have benefited a lot more from focusing on one of its two halves: Either limiting it to the album’s pop tracks, which would ultimately have led to a better album; or limiting it to the country half, which wouldn’t have been as good but would have been a preferable end result. The mediocrity of a lot of the tracks is just exacerbated by the swinging between genres, giving the illusion of Stories being two albums smashed into one. The scope of the album’s style was just too broad, which ultimately caused the album to stumble to the point that it couldn’t be saved.