After teasing fans with sold-out pop-up shows at LA Historic Park and Melrose Avenue to celebrate the release of his sophomore album, American EDM artist Gryffin delighted fans on Nov. 4 by dropping the highly anticipated Alive.
The record’s first track sets the scene with a twinkling tune, before diving straight into its titular song. “I’m nothin’ without our love alive,” featured vocalist Calle Lehmann laments, remaining authentic to Gryffin’s trademark lovestruck lyrics. Beneath multifaceted layers of synth pop and drumming are feverish expressions of love, collectively inviting listeners to continue exploring the remaining 15 tracks, boasting features with prevalent artists such as Tinashe, One Republic and Olivia O’Brien.
Rising to prominence after remixing hit pop songs such as Tove Lo’s “Talking Body” and Maroon 5’s “Animals,” Gryffin first gained critical acclaim from his debut album, Gravity, which highlighted his charming melodies and saccharine lyrics. Similar to the album rollout for Gravity, many tracks on Alive were released as singles preceding the album drop. Listeners are reunited with familiar guest features from popular Gravity songs, including the aforementioned Lehmann, Maia Wright, and Elley Duhé. Although these artists’ returns are more than welcome, their features fall short of their predecessors due to some repetitive verses and generic lyricism.
On “Safe With Me,” the album’s most played track, collaborator Audrey Mika croons that “I want somebody to say to me/ ‘Come lay with me, you’re safe with me,’” while blazingly accompanied by strumming guitar melodies and upbeat pop dynamics. Originally released during the pandemic, “Safe With Me” explores themes of vulnerability, trust and companionship, encouraging listeners to cherish the feeling of safety between loved ones during the disorderly time. Tackling similar topics of belonging and intimacy, featured singer Au/Ra captures an introspective, nostalgic aura on “Evergreen,” marking it as one of the best songs on Alive.
Alive has countless star features that offer staunch, effervescent vocals for the backbones of the tracklist. However, while numerous tracks captivate listeners effortlessly with alluring rhythms, fans expecting fresh tunes will likely be disappointed as most songs were previously released as singles months, if not years ago. As a result, Alive feels less like an album and more like a compilation of familiar songs, culminating from a span of three years ago.
Unlike Gryffin’s debut album, Alive proves to be less cohesive thematically. Songs on Gravity gear heavily toward reminiscent, sentimental love, but Alive lacks a central theme to tie the tracks together. A more upbeat and less intimate listen, Alive may present a set of solid, memorable tracks, but it misses that special touch from Gravity that originally drew fans to Gryffin.
“Colors,” however, is one of few songs in his sophomore album that is evocative of Gravity. Gryffin paints delicate nighttime imagery of two lovers driving on the I-405 highway, as the singer is engulfed within the “blue horizon” and the “heaven-like” appeal of her lover. “I see a purple sky/ Between your lips and mine,” vocalist Eyelar sings as the melody erupts into a burst of colors that especially entrances listeners in the second verse and outro.
Having successfully demonstrated his dynamic capabilities on his two distinct yet intersecting albums, it’s thrilling to see the journey Gryffin has made since his debut days. From experimenting with electronic dance music in his college dorm room to playing at sold-out Coachella shows with an orchestra set, Gryffin’s strides within the EDM scene have been striking and gratifying. Ultimately, Alive marks another milestone for Gryffin, capturing energetic dance pop with drum and bass melodies that encapsulate the passionate energy present in his vibrant fanbase.