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Music Review: ILLENIUM – ‘Ascend’

Music is one of the few things in my life that can take me to places I’d forgotten how to get to. Listening to Ascend by ILLENIUM (aka Nick Miller) was like getting a booklet of free frequent flyer miles and an upgrade to first class. From power-pop-laced ballads to pounding EDM techno tracks, Ascend will put ILLENIUM’s name on playlists around the world.

People are sometimes hesitant to try listening to new EDM music, and rightfully so. With the prevalence of digital music creation tools on everything from your laptop to your phone, more people than ever before can toss a hook and a loop together and call themselves a DJ or producer. It takes more than that to make an excellent track, and it takes a lot of excellent tracks to make a breakout album. I believe Ascend is worthy of such a designation.

“Hold On (feat. Georgia Ku)” leads off, setting an electric, emotional tone. It’s a bass-drop ballad about life after love. Following that is “Good Things Fall Apart (with Jon Bellion),” arguably the most radio-single-primed track on the album. It could be an instant Top 20 standard with its folk/pop infusion and an insanely catchy chorus about coming to grips with unplanned endings.

From that point on, Ascend relentlessly delivers high-quality song after song, building an album deserving of repeated playback.

Photo Credit: Alexandra Gavillet

On this album ILLENIUM crafts a musical experience that should reach fans from a wide variety of genres, especially those who’ve never given EDM or techno a second glance. He also enlists a bevy of collaborators, ranging from X Ambassadors on “In Your Arms” to Foy Vance on “Blood.” The latter is already a genre-breaking dance-floor clarion call racking up massive views on YouTube.

One of the hardest things about reviewing this album is picking which songs to spend my time raving about. “Crashing (feat. Bahari)” can go toe-to-toe with any Taylor Swift #1 single, and I mean that with the highest respect for the reigning Queen of Pop. I can also visualize the entire crowd singing and clapping along to his team-up with The Chainsmokers on “Takeaway (feat. Lennon Stella),” an upbeat admission about the fear of heartbreak. ILLENIUM manages to infuse every song with emotion and electricity in a way that keeps listeners saying, “No wait, this one’s my favorite.”

Ascend by ILLENIUM is more than worthy of being on your permanent playlist. It also exists as an incredibly enjoyable example of how one artist can cross genres without changing a single thing about who they are.

About Luke Goldstein

People send me stuff. If I like it, I tell you all about it. There is always a story to be told.

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