Review Summary: Inconsistent house producer fails to live up to even his own mediocre standards.
It's interesting that the powers that be in the electronic dance music (EDM) world have chosen Zedd, of all people, to be the chosen one of sorts, especially with a whole ocean of talent to choose from. One of the few producers to be signed by a major label (Interscope Records), Zedd, also known as Anton Zaslavsky, has been pumping out material ever since he started receiving big-name attention back in 2011. Skrillex endorsed him, Dim Mak Recordings signed him, and he's been playing huge venues around the world and selling his singles at the top of the electronic charts. Which is interesting, because Zedd is one of the most inconsistent producers out there. Alternating between fun, quasi-breaky electro along the lines of "Slam The Door" and "Shave It" and generic, stadium-filling progressive drivel like "Spectrum" that seems to have been made simply to please the same kinds of people that poppy DJs like David Guetta and Afrojack cater to, Zaslavsky simply hasn't consistently come out with a string of good releases. He's at his best when he's making wobbly electro house with interesting beats; unfortunately he's at his worst when he tries to step away from it.
With that being said, Zedd's debut album Clarity
unfortunately doesn't even live up to his own inconsistent standards. The electro is unoriginal and uninspired, taking a little more than is necessary from the sounds of today's EDM kingpins. There aren't really best or worst wobbly tunes on the release because they all essentially sound like rehashes of his earlier material and even other songs on the album. "Stache" uses the 16th note distorted pattern from "Shave It" and the almost-dutch-house breakdown from "Codec," and tosses them carelessly over a standard 4x4 house beat. It's a little sad to note that Zaslavsky's trademark brand of breaky house is barely present on the album, and it really doesn't bode well for the music within. "Codec" takes more than a page out of the books of deadmau5 and Skrillex with the mau5's techno-like 4-on-the-floor, drivingly repetitive standard beat and the brostep mastermind's chopped vocal samples (the way they're chopped almost sounds like something Skrillex would do himself, and in Zedd's case that isn't a good thing). While it's one of the better songs on the album simply by virtue of a nice, almost-subtle-but-not-quite second half, the tune as a whole sounds a tad too stale to propel the album upwards. And "Shave It Up" takes "Shave It," which was a very fun track, and only minimally alters it with a strings section in the middle that feels out of place in the wobbly atmosphere surrounding it.
The progressive house on this album is far, far worse than the electro. Instead of having mildly redeeming qualities like Zedd's fusion of electro and trance elements on the progressive house smasher that was "Stars Come Out," it's instead utterly generic, forgettable, and most of all sounds like uninteresting radio pop. "Clarity" is probably the best example of this, with an stereotypical verse and an sing-along, boring, and honestly terrible chorus usually seen among the likes of David Guetta and the producers that pump out Katy Perry single after Katy Perry single. It would be right at home overplayed on the local Top 40 station (and, in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it eventually is), and that doesn't help its case at all. "Lost At Sea" is similar, with a nondescript melody and boring vocals that make the song feel like an faceless tune in a sea of faceless tunes, instead of a cog in the grand scheme of a comprehensive album. And although "Follow You Down" has a nice progressive synth sound, it's really not enough to carry the song through a boring house beat (even by house beat standards) and vocals that sound like they could have been ripped from almost any pop/house/trance tune from the last 5 years or so.
The redeeming qualities of Clarity
exist, but they're minor and not enough to keep the album's head above water. On "Fall Into The Sky," Zedd's trademark beats finally come into effect under some passable Ellie Goulding vocals, and a slowly climbing synth lead goes into a drop that will doubtless cause mayhem at festivals around the world - which isn't really a bad thing, considering what the song could have been. And album closer "Epos" takes its time with a full 2-and-a-half minute buildup with a light, springy lead that eventually turns into a standard progressive house synth and then into a wobbly, low-register line that's timed perfectly. Unfortunately, those two songs alone aren't able to support a fully forgettable album that doesn't even come close to surpassing already inconsistent standards. As much as this album might be played over and over again in venues far and wide, it's just not worth the playtime it will doubtless be getting. As much as people wanted to believe that Zedd had a chance at succeeding with a full-length release, it was a belief held in vain that will most probably make house critics much more cynical towards Zaslawski's music in days to come.