Known for drawing equally—and artfully—from bass, dance, and pop music, Denver DJ/producer Illenium (born Nicholas Miller) presents his third studio album, Ascend. Building off of the dreamy soundscapes established on his first two full-lengths—2016’s Ashes and 2017’s Awake, both heavy doses of billowing vocals, trap breaks, helium synths, and electronic rumbles—Ascend veers toward the mainstream, embracing traditional pop structures and heaps of featured guests (The Chainsmokers, Lennon Stella, X Ambassadors, and others). But the impressive thing about this album isn’t all the glitzy names—it’s Miller’s sophisticated production, which has never sounded more subtle or refined. There’s no competition for your attention here. By letting the melodies breathe and the vocalists shine, Miller helps us appreciate why he chose them in the first place. Listen to alt-pop duo Bahari coo-ooh-ooh over muted drums (“Crashing”), admire Annika Wells’ soprano paired with a strumming guitar (“Sad Songs”), and try not to tear up as the Portland group Echos sing over tinkering piano fit for a lullaby (“Every Piece of Me”).

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