Review Summary: Inspired, creative, but not quite up to the impossible task set before it
"...the thing with 'Worlds' for me is that it’s ultimately about this idea of the worlds that exist online."
That's Porter Robinson (in an interview with Mixmag) defining the concept behind Worlds
to us. Did he succeed? Does it live up to the hype? Ultimately, yes. Not without flaws, but yes. Although it is a concept album at heart, it doesn't really sound much like one. What it does sound like is a heavily inspired, simultaneously glossy and glitchy, semi-symphonic electropop collection with a decent balance of "art" and "hit." Some albums try too hard for musical creativity and integrity, and some albumstry too hard for popularity or ease of listening. Porter has a little trouble figuring out what he wants but ultimately strikes a decent middle ground by the end. It's a great album for going outside and looking at the sky and dreaming to - catchy, inspiring, uplifting, transporting - but not as good as it could be.
is obviously very inspired by various artists. Porter is not ashamed of admitting this - he has a Spotify playlist dedicated to music he likes, which includes Jon Hopkins, Daft Punk, Kanye West, Chrome Sparks, and CHVRCHES. All of these are clearly heard in his album, but there are various other influences as well that are even more easily identifiable, which is usually a bad thing. The overlly clear M83 inspiration behind "Sea Of Voices" kind of ruins an otherwise great song. But the overall combination of influences, when combined with a dash of creativity, can create something much more interesting. "Flicker" is a great example - Daft Punk-like repetition of samples plus funk, an early Giraffage-like segment, Flume-like subtlety, and a chiptune style combine to create something totally unheard of in EDM. Of course, if we're being honest, Worlds
really isn't the EDM killer that it was prophesied to be, or even an EDM album at all. Just like Random Access Memories
(Daft Punk) before it, it was overly and falsely hyped as an EDM album that would blow the minds of all its listeners, when, in reality, it is simply another genre of music entirely. Maybe it will help diversify the market some. But M83, Passion Pit, and Daft Punk have each made similar albums with Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
, and Discovery
. That's not to say that this isn't it a good and creative album - it's just that it's not as innovative as many hoped.
Some of the moments really spark like nothing else out there right now - for examples, the intense contrast in "Fellow Feeling," the perfectly timed development of elements in "Divinity," the crescendo at the end of "Fresh Static Snow" - but the album feels a bit stale some of the time. There's an unfortunately repetitive "dramatic synthesizer-laden chorus, dramatic piano-style synth note finale" electropop formula to some of the songs (particularly "Years Of War," "Polygon Dust," and "Hear The Bells.") It's clear that Porter tries to stop this from happening, with mixed results. "Natural Light" is a good try at a Flume-style interlude of sorts, but it feels out of place, which is unfortunate because the album definitely could have used the variety. The sequence between "Lionhearted," "Sea Of Voices," and "Fellow Feeling," on the other hand, works extremely well, despite or perhaps because of the drastic differences between the three. This shows an extraordinary level of promise which would have been fantastic had it been translated to the entire album.
That's the real problem with Worlds
- it's hit or miss. It combines songs ranging from good to fantastic, and doesn't quite combine them right. Overall, it's an incredible collection of songs. But it's not an incredible album. Porter obviously could
get it right, but he so unfortunately doesn't. Ultimately, he successfully captures the "idea of the worlds that exist online," but not without capturing their fatal flaw as well - the listener/player begins to eventually get a sense that they're hearing/doing the same thing over and over again. If only there were a few well-placed interludes, if only some songs were a little less repetitive, if only some were placed differently - if only we could get out of the world and into Worlds
like Porter so clearly wants us to.
"Sea Of Voices"