Rule of Thirds, the debut album from Azure Blue, is the perfect example of why indie music is often more impressive than its mainstream counterpart.
Lately, the electro and dance music scenes in America have been dominated by few artists and even fewer styles.
Skrillex, David Guetta, Deadmau5 and Bassnectar are some of the big names that may come to mind when thinking of the genre.
Interestingly, there is far more depth to dance than dubstep. It can be more conventional, emotional and lyrically rich, as evidenced by Azure Blue.
The solo act of singer/songwriter Tobias Isaksson, this debut album was released in Isaksson’s native Sweden a month before it hit U.S. shores on Dec. 20. For those wary of foreign music, never fear: the lyrics are entirely in English.
The album starts out with “Fingers,” a foray into a more ambient sound for the usually pop-oriented Isaksson. This track might have been better placed somewhere else in the album. While it starts out with enormous potential, it frustratingly deteriorates into lyrical and musical repetition.
Fortunately, the mood is saved by the following track and first single, “Catcher in the Rye,” which combines elements of dance floor pop and 80s-era synthesizers.
This pattern continues throughout the album; for instance, the stunning “Dreamy Eyes” is preceded by the instantly forgettable “Long Way Down.” The album ends on a positive note with enjoyable “Chesil Beach.” The combination of vocal harmonies and an echoing beat put it on the opposite spectrum of the far dreamier opener.
It is a saving grace that the vast majority of the more mediocre songs are not that bad; their only real flaws are that they seem to be nothing more than filler synthesizer melodies in between the “real” songs. Considering that, Isaksson might have fared better releasing his masterpiece tracks condensed into a shorter extended-play release.
Overall, Rule of Thirds is a wonderful mixture of ambience, background music and synthesizers. Isaksson’s voice provides ethereal narration to the wide range of sounds he creates, although on occasion some of his more insistent beats and melodies drown him out.
The prudent music consumer might want to consider buying songs individually in order to better enjoy the truly standout tracks.
However, for the passionate dance enthusiast, Rule of Thirds is a pleasantly constructed gateway into the larger sea of indie pop.