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"These Days"

M+A – These Days
25 September 2013, 12:30 Written by Chris Tapley

M+A might not be a household name but the Italian duo, Michele Ducci and Alessandro Degli Angioli, have just produced one of the smartest and smoothest pop records of 2013. In a year which has seen new albums from Daft Punk, Justin Timberlake and Janelle Monáe that is not an achievement to be sniffed at. On These Days, the duo combine sunny European dance-pop with breezy electronic soul vibes to stirring effect.

Lead single and opening track ‘When’ is a perfect distillation of their talents; a hook-laden summer dance pop track which is turned on its head with an unexpected rap verse spliced in-between chorus’. That is followed by the lurching alt-pop groove of ‘B Song’ where the initial almost certainly refers to Beck, given how much it cribs from his groovy alt-pop stylings. Throughout this, their second album, they make a habit of mixing things up and keeping listener on their toes; exploring a myriad of ideas with a real deftness of touch which never interferes with the coherence of the album.

The placid jazz chords of ‘Lemonade’ and closer ‘Midnight Radio’ show a band as comfortable with crafting atmospherics as they are with dropping beats. The deep voiced warbling and finger snapping of those two tracks in particular pay debt to the blues, mixing a rare electronic soulfulness with saccharine disjointed melodies. The variation in vocal styles is one of the factors which makes These Days so consistently interesting, mixing it up between stoned syllabics, soulful crooning and irregular rap verses. There is a fluidity to the songs though, a warmth which is a million miles away from the cut and paste feeling of some dance peers.

There are plenty of striking melodies in here, but if anything the weakness of the album might be its lack of a real stand-out track – a mainstream calling card which could take them stratospheric like M83, with whom they do share some DNA even if their sound is far less maximalist The other nagging feeling which crops up is that it’s an album out of time, as a summer release would certainly have been more fitting; its gentle upbeat vibes don’t sit all that well with the winter climate.

While it is not perfect, These Days is a thoroughly impressive account of the duo’s sophisticated approach to dance pop, marking them out as well worth keeping an eye on, and is a record which warrants repeated spins. It may not quite be breakout quality, but given time M+A might just become big news.

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