A Different Kind of Human (Step II) - AURORA: Album Review
Updated: Jul 6, 2020
Okay. I'm the biggest Maggie Rogers and Billie Eilish fan ever. I think their music is genius and is going to make an impact that will last for generations.
But, AURORA just beat out both of them for best album of the year. This is pop music like you’ve never heard it before. Being the head writer, executive producer and artist on her third full-length album, the up-and-coming Norwegian star reaches out and grabs your ears, eyes, brain and heart and demands that her voice be heard. She explores themes such as political and social issues, love, heartbreak, hurt, isolation, science fiction, post-apocalyptic worlds, evolution and the human race, the intrinsic need of humans to keep moving forward, and more, all while being thoroughly supported by her own superb production and song-writing (When was the last time you heard one person write, produce AND perform an album?). This is an unprecedented work and needs to be shared to anyone who’s ever listened to music, because it is a masterpiece.
What’s amazing is that A DIFFERENT KIND OF HUMAN (STEP II) sounds completely different than her previous two LPs, her singles, and EPs, which fall more into the realm of folk and alternative. However, Aurora Aksnes is constantly evolving and it is evident from the opening track. We open with one of the best pop songs written in this century “The River”. Amazing melodic ideas, instrumentation that weaves in and out seamlessly, beautiful phrasing, incredibly evocative lyrics and an amazing ability to shift between a soft breathy tone, and hard-hitting bright sound very reminiscent of Dolores O’Riordan. We move to songs just as catchy, intriguing, stimulating, thought-provoking and “feels”-hitting like “Animal”, “Dance on the Moon”, “Hunger”, “Soulless Creatures”.
The album reaches a very special emotional moment with the title track “A Different Kind of Human” as she tells the story of an alien mothership arriving on Earth and saving a human too “pure” for the world. With a vocoder backing her “hellos” at the start in the form of A-flat2 chord, you feel that you are interacting with a higher form of life. As the chorus rolls around, the timpani rolls into each bar are production and instrumentation at its finest, also helping to tell the story as it evokes the feeling of propellers on a ship. It seems to me that the notes of the chord are trapped inside each timpani roll and weave out into their place as the timpani reaches the hit on the fourth beat, creating a perfect harmonious relationship between all life in this song and in the universe, as the narrative evokes.
Two things to especially watch out for:
i) THE VOCAL ARRANGEMENTS – There are some unbelievably intricate harmonies, intertwining parts, and beautiful embellishments such as use of Major 9 chords, 6/9 chords and more all in the vocals.
ii) THE USE OF PERCUSSION – If someone were to transcribe the percussion parts to this album, it would be insanely detailed. There is pretty much every percussion sound known to musicians used in this album, and each song uses a completely different tone and kit to support the song. (“In Bottles” is a percussion extravaganza).
I could go on and on about this album, because I can’t remember a time when I’ve been this passionate about a new release. If you are a lover of pop music, you’ll have a greater appreciation than most. But even if you don’t love pop music, AURORA may change your mind. Trust me, she’s that good…
HIGHLIGHTS: “The River”, “Animal”, “Dance on the Moon”, “Hunger”, “A Different Kind of Human”, “Apple Tree”
GRADE: 98 (A+)