Calvin Harris innovates on 18 Months

The world-renowned Scottish disc jockey Calvin Harris delivers his third studio album, 18 Months, in a somewhat dry season for the music industry. The album, released under Columbia Records, was released for public download and purchase on Oct. 30 and remains a highlight among fall album releases.

Diverse DJ · Calvin Harris experiments with new sounds, including hip-hop and soul beats, on his latest release, 18 Months. The DJ is also joined by popular artists such as Ellie Goulding and Tinie Tempeh who benefit from Harris’ poppy and heavily synthesized setting in stellar songs like “I Need Your Love” and “Drinking from the Bottle.” – | Photo credit RUKES, courtesy of Mitch Schneider Organization

The majority of 18 Months should not be a surprise for avid Harris fans, or even for those merely familiar with the Billboard Top 100 chart. Multiple tracks have made impressive appearances on the chart and have achieved great mainstream success. “We Found Love,” a collaboration with Rihanna, has been a radio staple for a year. Other singles from this album dropped throughout the year, including “Feel So Close,” “Bounce,” “Awooga,” “I Need Your Love,” “Let’s Go,” “We’ll Be Coming Back” and “Sweet Nothing.”

As far as the whole album goes, it’s meant to be listened to as if it’s a continuous mix, not just a series of singles. Harris cleverly designed the album so that songs are able to cross fade with each other seamlessly. But many tracks do feel more “highlight-worthy” than others.

“Feel So Close” has been a kickback favorite for more than a year now because of its electro-mellow nature. And the incredibly smooth vocals of Harris are surprising for a DJ — people don’t often think a disc jockey can actually sing. The song transitions into a tuneful electro cadence with Harris singing that “[he feels] so close to you right now” — quite the comforting feeling knowing that a world-class DJ is feeling so close to you.

“We Found Love,” which features Rihanna, was praised by popular music critics and charted first on Billboard in Nov. 2011. It is quite the club anthem, and radio stations last year seemed to be aggressively force-feeding listeners the tale of Rihanna finding love in a hopeless place. It is, however, still a solid listen, and this song is truly the epitome of Harris’ musical maturation. The blend and hybrid of sounds he mixes and  the different styles that emerge in the song are upgrades from his hits from yesterday.

It is still apparent, however, that Harris is a huge fan of synthesizers, and the familiar old Harris feel is still dominant on this album.

“We’ll Be Coming Back” is one such example. British rapper Example starts the song with soulful vocals, but those famous Harris synthesizers remain present. Still, the buildup and the drop of this song is also one of the more thrilling moments of this album. The whole track becomes a soulful party anthem that’s recognizably Harris, yet different from what he’s provided before.

Other artists also show new sides of themselves on this album, Ellie Goulding among them. She brings out her vocals in perfection in “I Need Your Love.” It is fascinating and kind of weird to think that Goulding’s voice, soft and high-pitched, can fit so well with hard-knocking house music.

Tinie Tempah also gets an impressive showcase, greatly aided by Harris. In “Drinking From the Bottle,” Harris brings out the dramatic tone changes of Tempah’s rapping with a backdrop crescendo that descends to a solid rhythm as Tempah deepens his voice. On tracks like this one, it’s clear Harris knows how to underline and emphasize the emotions of other artists.

The album’s later songs,  though not as notable, continue to show a maturation and evolution in Harris music. Now an established DJ and producer, Harris showcases more flexibility in his production. “Here 2 China,” which features Dizzee Rascal and Dillon Francis, displays sounds previously not heard  from Harris, such as a very low and thumping bass with a very hip-hop orientated scoring style. This might also be the influence of Dillon Francis, a special fan of 808 and room-shaking bass.

Harris’ new album stands as a very solid effort with lots of current favorites as well as new dance anthems that one should expect to hear relatively soon at many parties; the party playing vibe is strong with this one.

Let’s rage on.

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