Friday, 4 December 2015

Troye Sivan - Blue Neighbourhood Review

With a career in theatre and film alongside titans such as Ian McKellen and John Cleese, and a consistently run Youtube channel forged in late 2012 - it’s hard to claim that Troye Sivan is inexperienced. This being said, singing as part of musicals and penning novelty songs to post on the internet are a long stretch from crafting a thoughtful, emotional and personal album; a creation that gives a rare glimpse into the soul of an artist often denied in popular music due to public demand centralising on catchy hooks and dancefloor beats.

The angel-faced Australian’s debut album was always bound to be picked up on the pop scene after the success of the pre-ceding EP ‘Wild’ which hit number 1 in his homeland while breaking top 5 in four other countries including the UK and US. The majority of the EP re-appears on the album and it appears in its entirety (along with other bonus tracks) on the deluxe edition. With the recycling of so much material the risk was run that the album wouldn’t be worth a standalone purchase, that it would have that ‘seen it all before’ cloud hanging over its head. However, Blue Neighbourhood brings to the table an array of musical accomplishments. It is as brutally personal as any I’ve heard – a theme raised in the EP and simply expanded on and deepened in the album - an album unafraid to venture off of the beaten track and experiment, as is the fundamental duty of any electronic or electropop based music.

First thing I need to highlight right off the bat is that ‘Cool’ is one of – if not ‘the’ – ‘shoulda been a single’s of 2015. It begins reminiscent of Troye’s ‘TRXYE’ EP of last year and matures into the more complex style he’s adopted as it moves into the full on danceable, sing-alongable chorus establishing it, in my eyes, as the flagship tune of ‘Blue Neighbourhood’. The memorable choruses appearing throughout this album across songs such as ‘Wild’, ‘Fools’, ‘Youth’ and ‘Heaven’ would normally be comfortably asserted as the ‘defining feature’ but this album has too many genuinely good parts. I struggle to pick a defining feature not as a negative observation but because it would be akin to asserting the Eiffel tower as the defining feature of Paris and simply skimming over the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame and Sacre Coeure without giving them the credence they so deserve.

After the songs we’ve already heard from ‘Wild’ the track list leads us through ‘Cool’, ‘Heaven’ and ‘Youth’, with ‘Heaven’ really bringing back the intense emotions we’ve already followed Troye through. This isn’t emotion as in generic break-up songs putrefying the charts. This is emotion as in a philosophical quandary weighing down the soul of someone who shouldn’t have to understand it never mind live it. Self-critique of the soul doesn’t usually scream ‘successful pop song’ but that’s the beauty of this album – everything screams successful. As is life, this album has a mixture of emotional focuses, next up is ‘Youth’. ‘Youth’ presents a hopeful attitude of the possibilities of giving yourself completely to another person, and does so to what would be a clichéd bubble-gum pop soundtrack if it wasn’t for the immaculate trademark that is the ‘sound in wave-motion’ that Troye has pioneered in songs such as this and ‘Fools’. The overlapping and crashing of different layers to a pop setting is a notable pillar of what holds this album up on its well-earned pedestal and refuses to even grace simplicity with a look in.

At this point I must admit most of my favourite tracks have past – we must have favourites. However, this doesn’t mean the remaining material is empty or derived. Far from it. Anthems like ‘Lost Boy’ with its high pitched synth gives the song an unexpected dance element. One that usually appears with a remix of a song that sacrifices other elements this track combines an effective hybrid of the two, one of the reasons I can see this album reaching high commercial success. Other songs like ‘Suburbia’ use more traditional methods of beefing out the track with strings in the background which while complimenting the light percussion and waves of piano in the foreground don’t take away from the style Troye is going for. It’s expertly produced to not let any instrumentation impose itself and simply let the entire effect carry you away as a whole.

The only things I can really pick at in this entire album is the odd clichéd lyric – which is more than repented for with lines such as ‘we make shades of purple out of red and blue’ and ‘All my time is wasted, feeling like my hearts mistaken’ – and the curiously similar vocalisations in the choruses of ‘Cool’ and ‘For him’. Other than that this album is an incredible progression in modern pop music and uses electronic elements to bring more emotion to the surface than most genres could hope to elicit from its audience.

Released in an infuriatingly short standard version and a deluxe version that doesn’t even make the hour mark, Blue Neighbourhood is ‘still’ a must buy album. The deluxe version includes all the tracks from the ‘Wild’ EP and even if you’ve already got that it’s still worth buying to experience the song ‘Blue’ in which co-writer and producer Alex Hope lends vocals just kind of rounding off the feeling that everyone involved in this album had the same goals and really worked to produce a flawless joint effort. If you want a run-down of some prominent tracks I omitted in this review have a read of my ‘Blue Neighborhood Trilogy’ review where I covered ‘Wild’ ‘Fools’ and ‘Talk me Down’ and then go buy this album or wait and get it on vinyl January 19th.

Nathan Beck

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