Review: Major Lazer

Los Angeles based DJ and producer Diplo has been busy since the release of his first album under the Major Lazer pseudonym. 2009’s ‘Guns Don’t Kill People…Lazers do’ saw the producer doing what he does best, taking elements of lesser known genres (in this case dancehall and reggaeton) and fusing them with energetic mainstream electronica. One of the keys to the success of his debut was the participation of some of reggae and dancehall’s biggest players, such as Vybz Kartel and Turbulance. Diplo is known to have said that the genre is a bit of a member’s club, but with a Jamaican artist on every track, Major Lazer’s first album was clearly a legitimate crossover.

Diplo’s first album going under the guise of Major Lazer made him one of the world’s most sought after producers. The single ‘Pon De Floor’ became a staple in clubs around the world and went onto be used as the basis of Beyoncé’s ‘Run the World (Girls)’. Since then he’s been busy running his record company ‘Mad Decent ‘and doing production work for a broad spectrum of musicians, from experimental hip hop group Das Racist to British mathcore band Rolo Tomassi.

Before his 2009 album, Diplo’s biggest claim to fame was his work on MIA’s first two albums, which he co-produced with ex Major Lazer member, DJ Switch. This set-up then changed due to creative differences, and saw the start of the current trio who now make up the project: Diplo and producers Walshy Killa and Trinidad born Jillionaire.

The trio’s second album initially seems to take off in the same direction as the first. Vybs Kartel featues on the first track, ‘You’re No Good’, as does Santigold, it’s a comparatively minimalistic track, with isolated drum rolls, highlighting the verses of other accompanying artists, Yasmin and Danielle Haim. Throughout the rest of the album though, there appears to be a desire for more of a roots sound than the last, with legends like Wyclef Jean bringing his anecdotal lyrics to the uplifting ‘Reach for the Stars’. On top of this, there are a handful of attention-grabbing names like Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend, whose cryptic lyrics make ‘Jessica’ a lovely, contemplative track.

Flux Pavilion, whose token dubstep take on ‘Jah No Partial’ makes for a track that is unnecessarily intense, while Amber of the Dirty Projectors puts her mellow voice to work on the beautiful and politically charged ‘Get Free’. If you’re looking for something in the vein of the first album to jump up and twerk to all summer, ‘Mashup the Dance’, ‘Sweat’, ‘Bubble Butt’, and ‘Jet Blue Jet’ are the ones for you.

This mixed palette of tastes is an ambitious attempt at a second album, which begs to be more versatile than the last, but which ends up simply being a compilation of sparsely linked songs. The only thing every track has in common is its quality of production, which, at the end of the day is expected from someone as accomplished as Diplo.

Words: Ian Treanor