Armin Van Buuren, the world’s #1 DJ, is a lot of things, but mostly he is busy. In addition to his DJ sets, his weekly radio show, heading up his own record label and publishing house, and doing remixes for other artists, he somehow still finds time to make records.
Not just the token one-off artist album either, but several. And they’ve been getting better with each release.
On Imagine, his third artist album, Armin has definitely upped the overall quality from a start-to-finish perspective. Although elements of both 76 and Shivers perhaps showcased more diversity, the tracks on Imagine are just as strong throughout.
The style for Imagine is straight trance. It’s what he does; it’s what he champions. It’s not horribly progressive, and it’s not very techy. What it is though, is peak-time, hands-in-the-air tunes of the caliber that highlight his sets every week. With the exception of three tracks, it’s all of the vocal variety. And while you probably shouldn’t scrutinize some of the structure too much (even the best of vocal trance tracks tend to be a mile wide with melody, but only an inch deep in lyrical content), you would be hard pressed to not enjoy the entire ride of the album.
Things open up with a bit of a puzzler: an electric guitar solo. And not texture or rhythm, but full-on solos complete with whammy bar. Sure, it will make you do a double take, but it’s a solid track, and you’ll eventually just roll with it. This is followed by the album’s lead single, a collaboration with DJ Shah called “Going Wrong.” It’s the only male vocal of the bunch, and while not a stunner (it has a bit of “samey” trance anthem familiarity to it), it also doesn’t disappoint.
In fact, it’s next to impossible to find a lame duck in the set, but there are still some standouts. “Hold On To Me” is addictive, with both a great vocal and swelling production. It’s followed by the equally catchy “In And Out Of Love.” It’s interesting that although he chose lots of different female vocalists, the style for each is very compatible and doesn’t give the album a disjointed feel. Tracks go from one to the next with natural ease.
If you’re looking for any downtempo breathers, however, you’re pretty much out of luck. The energy is kept high and the beats persistent. In fact, the closing track, which is generally the token spot for something at a slower pace, is one of the most frenetic with “Intricacy.” If the album weren’t (mostly) unmixed, it would actually be a right proper DJ set. And I can’t imagine that Armin was going for anything less.
Imagine is easily Armin’s most consistently solid artist effort, and is a great introduction to both his productions and his particular brand of highly melodic and accessible trance. This album is going to provide ample material throughout the next year for not only Armin’s sets, but countless other DJs as well.
This one is a no-brainer.