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Milky Chance - Blossom

Milky Chance - Blossom
Rating: 7/10

Trying to infiltrate the American market has been the ruin of many brilliant European pop acts over the years. You can either be Depeche Mode, stomping around the globe selling out arena's and charting top 10 in the US with every record, or you can be Stereophonics, chasing the American dream for 25 years with ruinous results. 

Milky Chance exploded on the scene in 2013 thanks to "Stolen Dance", their all-conquering debut single that flew to number one all over Europe and snuck into the hearts of American indie fans who helped it go double platinum. A slew of North American tour dates were booked, as the duo capitalised on their new-found but tenuous grip on the continent. Their album snuck into the top 20, and they appeared on Jimmy Kimmel's late night show, and participated in America's greatest music festival, Coachella. They even filmed the video for single "Doing Good" in San Francisco! 

Blossom sounds like a slightly more mature, more organic version of just about every single pop song on the radio right now. This flowery, tropical type of synth treatment, notably found in "Sorry" by Justin Bieber, "Shape of You" by Ed Sheeran, "Run Up" by Major Lazer, and hundreds upon hundreds of anonymous producers who might as well be computer programs set up by cynical record executives to trawl through pop music, identify tropes, and double down on them until everything else sounds dated or irrelevant. There's even a Spotify playlist for it. 

But let's just quickly sneak back to "Stolen Dance" by Milky Chance. Released in April of 2013, it came during the tail-end of the EDM wave ridden by Flume, Rufus, Bauuer, Avicii, and those anonymous acts like Zedd. Notice the floral, tropical elements to "Stolen Dance", the light touches, the simple computer-like bass line and percussion. Did they, maybe, just slightly, influence the sound that Billboard so craves in 2017? Or did they just predict the next direction pop music would take? The trend is typically attributed to Kygo, who it's argued helped propel the "tropical house" genre into the stratosphere with "Let Her Go (Kygo Remix)" which dropped in January 2014, a full 6 months after "Stolen Dance"...

Well then. Blossom arrives with the shiny, popular single "Cocoon", a song with no specific meaning or emotion, rather a feeling or a vibe designed to be malleable enough for the listener to apply the words and sounds to the infinite life experiences they may tackle. That sounds generic. In fact, the duo is cagey when it comes to meaning, preferring to attribute lyrics to wide-open themes like rebirth and "deeper problems or issues". Titles like "Clouds" and "Cold Blue Rain" hint at malaise, but both tracks sound like Club Med theme songs, platitudes abound. "Stay" might be a bit deeper, a grungy acoustic number that could be an early 90s Seattle-based demo. That's as low as the album gets. Even the ominous "Heartless" sounds like an Avicii off-cut, a promise of retribution for the unscrupulous and heartless people in this world. Ironic, considering the lack of palpable emotion on the rest of the album. "Piano Song" hammers the point home even harder, it's as if we're trawling through Deadmau5's hard-drive. 

It's unfair to criticise Blossom for being generic, though. Not only is this the kind of thing America loves, it's the kind of music the German charts eat up too. No-one is criticising Kygo for not branching out, so Milky Chance deserve the same treatment. Blossom is pop music with a bit more meat behind it. Similar to Ed Sheeran, although Milky Chance seem less likely to bend their process to incorporate focus-group lyrics. There are few indie acts that can maintain momentum for an entire LP, and while Blossom may skate too close to promised land of billboard charts on many occasions, each song is interesting enough to grab your attention and just unique enough to keep the ball rolling. The piano riff on "Firebird" settles into a delicious groove, while "Cold Blue Steel" takes us to the Carribean with a laid-back attitude to BPM. "Bad Things" could be a Moby track, minus the Xanax, and "Peripeteia" has a harmonica. You read that right. 

It's a fun summer album, designed for medium-length road trips to beaches where pretty people hang out and pretend they can surf. 

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