If you’ve listened to the radio or scoured Spotify at any point in the past few years, you’ve probably noticed a little disco revival rumbling in the spheres of pop and dance music. Acts ranging from Bruno Mars to Daft Punk are all taking the sounds of Barry Gibb and Donna Summer and adding to them the slick sounds of modern electronica. And if you’ve got two ears and any sense of rhythm, you can’t resist dancing.
But before JT was putting on that suit and tie, before Pharrell and Daft Punk were up all night for good fun, and before Arcade Fire was reflekting (or whatever it was talking about on that song), there was Todd Terje. Since the early 2000s, the Norwegian producer has been quietly making some of the best dance music on the market, releasing assorted singles and EPs every few months. But now, after months (if not years) of waiting, he’s finally ready to put out his debut LP, the cheekily titled It’s Album Time.
In doing so, Terje has taken on a genre-specific risk: the album format hasn’t always worked for electronic music. For every Disclosure out there, there’s a David Guetta: it’s all about crafting a singular vision while not seeming redundant over the 30-minute-plus runtime of an album. For the most part, however, Terje has sidestepped criticism by delivering a carefully crafted vision. It’s Album Time, despite all odds, is a fluorescent, colorful, and impossibly fun set of dance tracks that stand out amongst an oft-crowded field of electronic musicians.
From the outset, Terje is an artist who never takes himself too seriously, which serves as It’s Album Time’s greatest benefit. If the almost obnoxiously flippant title is any indication, this isn’t an album that’s aiming for your head, or even your heart. It’s an album engineered to make you shake, to make you relax, and to fill the room with sound and joy. This is what sets Terje apart from his other discotronic contemporaries: Daft Punk might be about nostalgic precision and Chromeo about sultry sexiness, but Terje is all about the spectacular.
Excess isn’t the right word for it; instead, it’s like an Alexander Calder painting exploded (that the gorgeous, cartoonish work of artist Bendik Kaltenborn adorns the album cover certainly helps), filled with eccentric characters and psychedelic visions. “Leisure Suit Preben” throws the listener into a thick, syrupy cocoon of bass. “Delorean Dynamite” wouldn’t be out of place in a film like “Drive,” with its pulsating, layered synthesizers. “Swing Star Part 1” (of a two-track piece) uses the same pulsation (albeit at a much higher octave) to build the auditory equivalent of Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road (pulling out the super-nerd here, I know). And “Johnny and Mary,” which features Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry on vocals, sputters in its sensuality, creating a thick, hazy beast of a song.
Everything here is refreshingly bold, never using its nostalgia as a crutch for unoriginality or redundancy. It’s campy, it’s bright, it’s poppy, but where modern indie darlings would fill that with infuriating irony, there’s an unconditional, refreshing sincerity to even the goofiest tracks. The aforementioned “Delorean Dynamite” springs forward, imbued with an inherent sense of energy. “Preben Goes To Acapulco” defogs the muffled electronica of the chillwave movement. “Svensk Sås” is one of the few dance tracks to realistically incorporate samba without making it seem like a shtick. Hell, in its wacky, bubbly glory, “Inspector Norse” is about as bright as the biggest, most colorful episode of “Adventure Time.” It’s this sense of joy and energy that ultimately links the seemingly disparate styles of music that Terje pulls out of his bag of tricks.
It’s Album Time probably won’t change your life. But that’s not what it’s designed to do. It’s not an album with a message, or even a thesis. It’s all emotion and energy and vibrancy. It’s all confection and no pretension.
It’s Album Time doesn’t suffer from the fatigue of other EDM debuts; instead, it’s an infectious thrill ride, everything united by a bold sense of confidence. For a different musician, naming their debut It’s Album Time would be a sarcastic jab. But for Todd Terje, it’s a battle cry.