Most of the time when I hear about a good band who's come out overseas, I simply wait a little while and make up my mind that I'll purchase their release when it's available in the United States for a reasonable price. Even though there's a lot of good music out there, I still have a hard time spending 25 dollars for a compact disc, no matter what I've heard about the group. After hearing a ton of press (and a couple tracks) about Röyksopp, I finally decided to bite the bullet and drop the money. As fate would have it, Melody A.M. is a pretty damn good disc. Probably not as groundbreaking as some of the reviews would lead you to believe, but fine nonetheless.
Hailing from Norway, the duo creates slightly off-kilter midtempo soundscapes that fit right into my rotation as early morning warming-up music or even late-night winding down music. The album moves along with a very effervescent feel, buoyed by keen beat programming, hummable melodies, and smart sampling. They also manage to keep songs at a fairly short length (given the genre), and never really lets things linger on too long (although at some points I wish they would have taken things even further).
The album starts out with "So Easy," and many of the above elements that I mention make the track into an enjoyable opener. Turning an old Bacharach track into almost heavenly vocals, the track twinkles along like the northern lights and drifts right into the amazing "Elpe" (which is probably one of my top 10 favorite tracks of last year). Cranking up the beat a little, the crux of the track is a chiming melody that slips and slides back and forth while other atmospherics fill up the empty spaces.
It's at this point, though, where the tempo slows and the group drops one of the less-enjoyable tracks on the disc. "Sparks" is one of those tracks that would have sounded great as an instrumental (albeit a bit cheeseball), but with the added female vocals, it gets turned into R&B lite. Of course, one of the things about the group is that they do manage to put elements in their tracks that are traditionally silly sounding and still get away with it, and they follow up things with the synth strings and harps on "In Space" before dropping the downright clubby beats and vocodored vocals of "Poor Leno" (which comes at a huge high point in the middle of the disc).
From there, though, the group again drops off and adds some whimpering vocals in "A Higher Place" before the awesome cinematic sounds of "Röyksopp's Night Out." The group walks a fine line on the final three tracks of the album again, but mainly comes out unscathed despite the disjointed closer of "40 Years Back/Come." In the end, there are definitely some amazing tracks on the disc, but there are also ones that feel so out-of-place that I find myself skipping past them every time they come on. For a debut, the release is definitely a great one, but I'm going to have to wait to see what they do next before crowning them the next big thing.