Review Summary: Summer is coming closer than you think.
Summer is on the horizon once more, with the thoughts of bustling summer festivals lingering on, the coronation of high school/college graduations, and hot, sunny days on the rise. The urge and desire to get out and bask in the sun is more than ever, especially after the winters that came whisking in. With time springing forward to everyone's delight, if you haven't heard of the NY-centered EDM-pop duo The Knocks, you will soon enough by the time the long sleeves are swapped for shorts and tank tops. Being one of those producer-and-DJ EDM duos that co-exist within the electric realm, they've catapulted into the stratosphere outright with their remixes that varied with Katy Perry's "Hot N' Cold" and others, which over time would evolve and materialize into their own original sound, resulting with their biggest hit to date being the sassy and clique "Classic" with Powers and Fetty Wap. After stringing together a couple of brightening EPs, they come into their flashy debut "55" with a shifty, seasonal approach than per usual - iced in solid only to melt into an infectious, warm and bright confection at the end like shaved ice.
For a producer/DJ duo that flourished via YouTube and other indie streams, you wouldn't expect to come into their debut album with a star-studded roster of features. Except the thing is that surprisingly, it does, which isn't typical for a debut from a duo that hasn't risen to the likes of more streamlined, manufactured producers like David Guetta or DJ Snake. It blasts off with an otherwise icy, beautiful introduction with the sublime "New York City", an awe-filled, emotive ode to post 9/11 NYC-life with a slow, cold-to-the-touch piano mixed with sparkling synths, singing to the winter-esque atmosphere the tribute sends into immersion. It's only further magnified by the blunt and emotionally-evocative lyricism from fellow New York rapper Cam'ron, one of the more underrated crafters of the genre - enhancing with that last layer of dreaminess to the ode amidst the few lines he brings to light. It's really the only odd man out in the entire record, as the rest don't oscillate and are suppressed in otherwise infectious, poppy and up-pace tones, like the silky and romantic "Love Me Like That". Smacking in glossy synths and funky violins that are reminiscent of Clean Bandit's "Rather Be", but more aesthetic and cooler to the touch with pop star Carly Rae Jepsen's resonating, powerful vocals, it's a primary showcase of their musical formula at play. The lyricism isn't also as horrendous as you would expect from per the usual producers in EDM, with Madeon in "Adventure" being its mirror image, minus a couple misses that co-exist with the hits in the inflated record. This is another one of these albums where the pair of both lyricism and vocals place themselves in the right place, at the right time.
If you hoped for the Knocks "to knock it out of the ballpark" with their mainstream, positive EDM production, you have been given a diverse basket here in this stratosphere of treats. It's a blend of seasonal compositions fitted with catchy, infectious hooks that are on-point, showing a consistent musical identity while shooting one hit after another. The retro, tropical flavor in "Kiss The Sky" is further enticed with a hint of peachiness from R&B superstar Wyclef Jean, giving it a Latino-esque vibe that rings instant fiesta in the ears of those who come across it. All these bright and warm vibes, consistent in the record, then suddenly change course for a cool refresher with the darker, neon "Dancing With Myself", with its colorful, pulsing synths that glisten in the background, crashing with its ominous, artificial vocals that fit the urban, bustling presence that it yearns. While dark and cold, it also feels like a warm, lit-up neon billboard flashing right in your face as you cruise across the city. Then finally, the party leaves us with a uplifting farewell, truly saving the best for last with the futuristic, intense "Best For Last", that meshes up powdery, sprinkled synths to warm, flowery vocals by Walk The Moon - culminating to an irresistible send-off to the sunset.
Brushing the sizzling heat aside, the intensity freezes up with some corny, repetitive 'album filler' like the carnival "Tied To You", which feels like a bungled, fragmented song meant for being played at an Abercrombie & Fitch, or more less, a state fair even. Fortunately, moments like those don't do enough to kick in the door on the whole party or to dilute, as there is enough gauging, glowing vibes that will not cease to let the joy go to waste. If anything, the Knocks' debut "55" is one of those build-up albums that set up excitement and hope for the incoming summer ahead, one to turn up to anywhere at anytime and awaiting to be on your upcoming summer playlist. This gives some well-deserved attention to a duo that hasn't garnered much reception up until this point, and truly they deserve to relish in the moment after delivering a promising set. If you haven't heard of them before, well now you know what the fuss is all about. This also screams road trip and beach party vibes, and culminating in the set-up for another incredible summer ahead - with memories waiting to be made and to be immersed in the set of festivals/concerts that come then. Fortunately for all of us, summer is coming closer than you think.