Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Album Review: Adventure


Adventure is the first full-length album from French house artist Hugo Pierre Leclercq, better known by his stage name Madeon. The album was released on March 31, 2015 and was preceded by singles "Imperium", "You're On", "Pay No Mind", and "Home".

1. Isometric (Intro)
The album starts out with "Isometric", which acts as an introduction to the album. As such, it's pretty short. Most of the song centers around a four-note motive of rising notes, which also speeds up and slows down throughout the short song. Even though it's purely an intro track, "Isometric" still sets the album off on the right foot with a teaser of the hard-hitting chords Madeon is known for, similar to his previous single "Icarus".
Rating: 4/5

2. You're On
 "Isometric" segues directly into the album's "real" first track, "You're On", which features vocals by Kyan. "You're On" has a moderate tempo and features broken vocal samples as well as the repeated lyric "Tell me whose side you're on" throughout most of the song. The verses feature sincere vocals from Kyan on top of lightly played chords. Overall, "You're On" is a fantastic first full song to start off Adventure, reminding me of a slightly mellower version of "The City".
Rating: 4.5/5

3. OK
After the final chord of "You're On", the next track, "OK", starts almost right away. "OK" is basically an instrumental track, save for some vocal samples, most prominently the letters OK - it's not just a clever title. The tempo is almost exactly the same as "You're On", giving a feeling of continuity. The main melody is very light and almost comedic, with short notes dancing around in a melancholy manner. However, something about "OK" just doesn't sound quite as energetic as "You're On".
Rating: 3.5/5

4. La Lune
"La Lune" features Dan Smith, the lead singer of the band Bastille. It starts out with soft chords before drums accompany Smith's vocals into the track. Inevitably, I will compare this track to "Pompeii", and the drums here sound somewhat similar. Smith's vocals also sound pretty similar, save for the end of the chorus where he uses a falsetto to sing the lyric "It doesn't feel the same". This isn't a bad thing - I really like "Pompeii". "La Lune" is much slower, giving a more sentimental feeling to the track. Given 'la lune' is French for 'the moon', this fits quite well.
Rating: 4.5/5

5. Pay No Mind 
The next track, "Pay No Mind", features Passion Pit. The song, again, has a moderate tempo. Passion Pit adds their 'indietronic' sound through clean guitars and very indie-sounding vocals. The beat of this song is especially notable; between the electronic chords and the guitar, the song has a really fun, swung feel. After the second chorus, there is a Daft Punk-esque solo before going into a stripped-down bridge heavily featuring multiple layers of vocals. Overall, "Pay No Mind" is one of the best songs off of Adventure.
Rating: 4.5/5

6. Beings
"Beings" starts out mellow with soft chords before the beat enters. This appears to be one of the few songs on Adventure in which Madeon sings himself. "Beings" varies between softer sections and the more upbeat sections featuring louder drums. The second verse is one of the softer sections, and it reminds me a bit of Coldplay. While Madeon's vocals are surprisingly good, the song overall lacks a bit of energy, the same problem that "OK" had for me.
Rating: 3.5/5

7. Imperium
Similarly to "OK", "Imperium" is an instrumental track. The song starts out with a repeated broken vocal sample before the bassline enters. The bass sounds like it was ripped straight off of a Sega Genesis game, and I love it. Despite being an instrumental, "Imperium" is one of my favorite songs off of Adventure. The driving bassline really carries the song, along with phenomenal chord progressions and melody lines throughout. It's also varied enough to keep it interesting, including what I can only describe as a "scratch-line" break about halfway through that builds back into another chorus.
Rating: 5/5

8. Zephyr
"Zephyr" is another track that Madeon provides vocals for. The song is notably a bit quicker than most of the other songs off of Adventure, and frequently features off-rhythm breaks and quickly inserted samples on top of a driving beat and chord progression. Madeon's voice sounds very different on this track than it did on "Beings"; most likely some manipulation took place for this to happen. "Zephyr" is kind of just an average song for me in the context of this album; it's not very memorable.
Rating: 4/5

9. Nonsense
"Nonsense" features vocals by Mark Foster, the lead singer of Foster the People. The beat is a bit slower, but Foster's vocals use the slower beat to his advantage to give the song a pseudo-hip-hop feel, similar to The Script. This comparison is most evident in the chorus, featuring vocals that aren't really rapped but are very quick and rhythmic. The instrumentation is pretty restrained, allowing Foster's vocals to take the lead on this track. Between the rhythm and vocals, "Nonsense" is another great track off of Adventure.
Rating: 5/5

10. Innocence
The album's next track, "Innocence", features English electropop duo Aquilo. "Innocence" is very ambient and atmospheric, reminding me of "Midnight" by Coldplay. Even the chorus, which usually features extremely energetic chords and drums, is subdued, adding to the song's atmospheric feel. After the energetic "Nonsense", "Innocence" is a very welcome change of pace, showing a different side of Madeon's instrumentation while allowing Aquilo's heartfelt vocals to drive the track.
Rating: 4.5/5

11. Pixel Empire
"Pixel Empire" is an instrumental and one of the few tracks on the album to prominently feature guitar. The song starts out very soft and subdued, reminding me of "Isometric", the album's intro track. The soft chords and light guitar keep the song moving through its first section before the instrumentation builds and the beat enters. The chorus is a back-and-forth of full-on chords and staccato, syncopated ones. After another build, the song breaks into almost a trap-style breakdown with slower drums and longer chords. "Pixel Empire" is a nice change of pace from the album and, along with "Innocence", helps to wind the album down.
Rating: 3.5/5

12. Home 
The final track off of Adventure, "Home" very prominently features Madeon's vocals one last time. The lyrics are very sensitive, and Madeon's vocals compliment the song's tone very nicely. In the verses, a light, slightly distorted melody line carries the beat in the background, reminding me of Owl City. When the song opens up in the chorus, Madeon's vocals soar to sing "I will come home". Overall, "Home" is an excellent track and a phenomenal end to this album.
Rating: 5/5

I was a fan of Madeon ever since my friend Louis introduced me to "Icarus", and I later discovered the excellent tracks "Finale" and "The City". That's why I am very pleased to say that Adventure is an excellent debut album. There are several featured vocalists, and Madeon himself even contributes vocals to a few tracks. Really, there aren't many tracks that I would consider even 'just alright'. The majority of the tracks off of Adventure are really good, and I'm very pleased that Madeon put out a debut album of such quality. I'm very excited to see where Madeon goes from here.

Best Songs: "Imperium", "Nonsense", "Home"
Listen If You Like: Passion Pit, "Icarus" (Madeon), hard-driving French house

Final Rating: 9/10

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