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Album Review: Major Lazer – Free the Universe

For someone who has never really bought into that whole ‘Sean-de-Paul and Blue Cantrell’, faux-Jamaican thing, Major Lazer have repeatedly surpassed expectations. Take their 2009 smash ‘Pon De Floor’ for instance, which still gets even the most rigid of movers to lose their shit on the dance floor to this day. But, just what is it about Diplo’s dancehall side project that enthrals even the most cynical amongst us to shamelessly bop along to just about anything they put out?

Think back to 2009’s Guns Don’t Kill People…Lazers Do, a record that put Major Lazer on the map in a big way, attracting the attention of Snoop Dogg (sorry Snoop Lion), Beyoncé and No Doubt. Whilst Major Lazer as a collective rose to the lofty heights of A* notoriety, one half of the outfit, Switch, decided to do just that and quit, citing “creative differences” – that old chestnut – leaving Diplo holding the reigns.

Did this deter him from putting out another record under the guise of Major Lazer? Of course it didn’t. One can’t help but wonder though, how the outfit would fare without it’s other half? ‘Get Free’, Free the Universe’s lead single was an absolute summer smash last year, with its gentle thudding and dreamy, low-fi sound. Opener ‘You’re No Good’ lends vocals from the magnificent Santigold, and albeit repetitive, is what any Major Lazer fan would no doubt have been striving to hear.

The album boasts an eclectic list of collaborators, including Ezra Koenig from Vampire Weekend on track ‘Jessica’, an unexpected union that somehow works. There are also appearances from Shaggy and Wynter Gordon on ‘Keep Cool’ and Laidback Luke and Ms. Dynamite on ‘Sweat’.

It has been one very long winter, but who’s first in line to provide a string of summer jams to accompany this welcomed and greatly needed shift in season? Why it’s Major Lazer, of course. Working just as well solo, Diplo has efficiently served up another dose of beguiling and genre-colourful dance floor bangers.

- Catherine Elliott

Major Lazer’s Free the Universe is out now on Because. You can order it here.

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