Daft Punk so adore the purity of electronic music that they pretend to be robots, but the secret to the success of their exceptional 2013 comeback album, Random Access Memories, was their commitment to analog humanity, whether they were handing the microphone to Pharrell or letting Nile Rodgers get freaky on his guitar.
Calvin Harris comes from the same school of thought: the one that believes that no matter how well you twiddle the knobs, there should always be some blood on the dance floor. The best tracks on Motion, Harris’ fourth full-length—and first since his 2012 crossover smash, 18 Months— focus more on high-caliber vocals than on booty-blasting low end. On the Ellie Goulding-assisted ”Outside,” Harris finds the perfect balance between her vulnerable warble and the warping synths underneath, and he breezily takes the lead on the meticulously constructed driving-to-the-beach hit ”Summer.”
Those tunes are both more stylistically straightforward than bass-drop-centric outings like ”Slow Acid” and ”Overdrive,” a testament to Harris’ faith in his collaborators’ ability to provide the necessary disco drama. Neither the Gwen Stefani team-up ”Together” nor the Big Sean-aided ”Open Wide” ever gels—evidence that Harris hasn’t quite mastered the marriage of man and machine, especially with bigger personalities. His largely straight-ahead approach will rankle EDM devotees who are searching for boundary-busting beats, but he’s taking his chances with the most unpredictable technology of all: the human voice. B