Axwell, Ingrosso and Angello, otherwise known as Swedish House Mafia, are calling it quits, as most people have heard by now. Since making the announcement, the trio released its second and final full-length album, titled Until Now on Oct. 22 with EMI Records. The group’s first album, called Until One, was released in 2010.
If you’re expecting entirely new tracks from the world famous trio, this is not the album for you. This “soundtrack,” as Swedish House Mafia calls it, is more of a collection of the group’s favorite songs. Taking inspiration from live mixes and a wide range of collaborative artists, the tracks are built upon existing songs and feature each artist as an individual for a good portion of the album. Though many fans might be disappointed with the lack of new material, the album is a solid comprehensive piece that flows well from one track to another.
The deluxe version of the album includes handpicked original tracks from Until One. The album’s hard-hitting beats are best heard on a sound system with proper bass, and many of the tracks are definitely club-ready.
The album heavily relies on mashups and collaborations with other artists’ works, from Steve Aoki, Dirty South and Ivan Gough to Coldplay, Florence + The Machine and Usher. All bring their own flavor to the tracks, and this adds diversity to the final album, which otherwise doesn’t look much different from what the group previously released.
The lyrics on the tracks take the listener on a journey, as the songs hit melodic notes that probe the emotional depths of its listeners. The wide appeal of hope and wonder about the unknown are common themes that take the listener on a ride through the peaks and valleys of each song, while still making the album easy to dance to, with plenty of punchy bass.
“Calling (Lose My Mind),” featuring Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic is a prime example, as Tedder sings, “Can we freeze karma and surrender our rights and wrongs / Can we just for a night let the stars decide where we belong.” The addition of Tedder’s vocals to the original, already-outstanding track, “Calling,” gives the revamped song more depth and meaning.
Many tracks also have a common thread of a feeling of hopefulness regarding love, a positive outlook and a wonder of the unknown. In “Calling,” the lyrics “I will find you / I will reach you / or I will lose my mind” also reflect this theme, as do the lyrics from the track “Don’t You Worry Child,” featuring John Martin.
Martin sings, “There was a time, I met a girl of a different kind / We ruled the world / Thought I’ll never lose her out of sight / We were so young, I think of her now and then / I still hear the songs reminding me of when.” There is a sense of sadness, yet hopefulness to the song, as the singer’s father assures him, “See heaven’s got a plan for you.”
The album’s entirety features dream-laden lyrics, heavy on fantasy and nostalgia, often tapping into the darker emotions of its listeners, then bringing them back up to feel as though, with music, everything is going to be alright.
By focusing on broad, universal topics, the trio achieves a level of relatability that touches a wide audience and ultimately led to the group’s mainstream appeal when it began releasing music. The meaning behind the song lyrics in general can often be interpreted in different ways depending on the listener’s perception, even more so in Swedish House Mafia’s songs because they cover broader themes. This, along with melodic delivery, rounds out the sound of the varied parts of each song. There are mellow, melodic segments that ramp up to a harder-hitting bass that uplifts the listener and makes him or her forget about the trivial matters of this world in favor of journeying to the dreamy world Swedish House Mafia has created. In other words, Until Now creates the perfect escape from everyday life.
Though the final album is a solid recording from the group, it feels incomplete without new additions to the group’s repertoire. It seems as though they had already finished producing new tracks, and thus opted to use existing songs to create remixes and mashups instead of creating fresh ones. The album gets kudos for its depth, variety and thematic concept, but new material would have been ideal for the final album, as fans would have undoubtedly liked to have one more set of new tracks by which to remember the iconic yet short-lived group.
Since their careers took off a few years ago, the members of Swedish House Mafia have become the poster children of mainstream progressive house music. On occasion, music fans crossing over into electronic music have tended to like Swedish House Mafia’s music before getting into other niche sub-genres.
The group’s popular dance music has carved its place into a wide range of parties, and its hits can be heard in dance clubs all over the world. The group hit a milestone when it sold out all the seats in Madison Square Garden in record time for a show in 2011.
Formed in 2008, the group has become one of the most recognizable house trios in the world, playing at top venues and sold-out shows globally. What started as a chance meeting between members became an international music sensation. As of July, however, the group announced via its website that it would no longer be making music together after its final tour, aptly named “One Last Tour.”
“We just decided that we reached a point where we didn’t know what the next move would be,” Angello told Rolling Stone magazine. “We’ve had (success) beyond our dreams and we’ve come very, very far.”
It is almost certain that each member will make the most of their solo time to work on their individual projects and passions. Angello has also previously stated that he plans on further developing his own label, Size Records, in the near future.
Fans have had many questions since hearing the unexpected news of the still-rising stars ending their careers as part of the legendary electronic music group. Are they trying to end at their peak? Or is it too early? Perhaps they will come out of retirement in a few years? Maybe they are doing this in part for the publicity and to capitalize on the jaw-dropping proportions of sales for their One Last Tour tickets.
The one thing that’s certain is that Swedish House Mafia will be missed, and though the group will cease to exist, its music and footprint on the electronic and mainstream music scene won’t fade away anytime soon, if at all. In the meantime, the trio leaves us with a new album to enjoy, and one last pair of L.A. concerts in March.