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Album Review: The Aston Shuffle – Photographs

3 min read

The second studio album by Australian electro-house duo The Aston Shuffle shows why the band was good enough to have its own support act slot for one of Swedish House Mafia’s 2013 farewell shows.

AstonShuffle-PhotographsThe duo’s popularity has been on a steady incline since their 2011 debut, and with a string of singles being offered to us over the last few months including Tear It Down and most recent single, No Place Like Home, expectations are sitting fairly high for the outfits new record. Thankfully the wait is over and The Aston Shuffle’s latest collection sees its release this week in the shape of Photographs.

Tear It Down starts with a quiet electric piano, subdued yet soulful vocals and tempered percussion that suggest the calm before the storm. It then erupts into euphoric house with contagious hooks and cleverly sequenced synths that compel listeners to surrender to the beat. This, in combination with some creative vocal manipulation, allows the track to soar into a warm and powerful album opener.

Kaelyn Behr (better known under his pseudonym, Styalz Fuego) lends his vocals on the more atmospheric tracks like the slow, occasionally campy No Place Like Home and the hypnotic Can’t Stop Now. The latter track was an obvious lead single last year, as its generic drum beat is supplemented by oriental synths that conjure a convincing other-worldly atmosphere. This spaced-out, supersonic vibe is also apparent on You Really Got Me, as well as the appropriately-titled babymaking-in-space anthem Astronaut (featuring British R&B artist Joel Compass). Both feature some jaw-dropping vocal production that remind listeners of 10CC’s breathy classic I’m Not in Love.

The rest of Photographs has collaborations that highlight the great potential of the crossover of genres. Never Take It Away instantly transports listeners to a relaxing tropical sunset quenched with tequila and cocktails thanks to Mayer Hawthorne’s chilled guest vocals. The track then transforms into an ode about the strength of forbidden love designed for the dancefloor. Hawthorne’s harmonies and falsettos elevate the song even further into a captivating hybrid of soul and synth-pop.

Restart, with vocals from Lila Gold (the daughter of American-born Australian musician Diesel), is chilled house at its best: some brilliantly unpredictable chords, Gold’s soothing vocals and a cacophony of synths that itches to explode.

Imagine young Stevie Nicks being passed through a synth-pop filter (specifically Confessions-era Madonna). You get Ordinary Love featuring Alice Katz from Youngblood Hawke (best known for We Come Running), urgent keyboard riffs, euphoric drums and ‘ooh-ooh’ harmonies that soar.

Even the filler songs like Comfortable and Back & Forth (a feminine, trippy disco ditty featuring Australian electronic producer Elizabeth Rose) have memorable production and vocal performances. The album ends on a high with a vibrant Tommy Trash remix of Won’t Get Lost called Sunrise.

The Aston Shuffle should be applauded for their strong musicianship whilst remaining accessible to listeners. Unlike most dance music producers, the duo actually pull-off the build-ups on most tracks instead of allowing them to limp to the finish line. Overall, Photographs is a rewarding effort.