Paradise Again

Paradise Again

For the years between their 2008 formation and their 2013 breakup, Swedish House Mafia ruled the global dance music scene. The supergroup of producers/DJs Axwell, Steve Angello, and Sebastian Ingrosso brought progressive and electro house—which had long been the provenance of clubs and dance music festivals—to a massive mainstream audience, essentially ushering in the EDM boom of the 2010s. When they announced they were calling it quits in 2012, they were at the absolute pinnacle of their game—and spun it into the genre's first-ever (and maybe only) farewell arena tour. While they reunited as a live act in 2018, SHM didn’t release any new music until 2021: a couple of singles which appear here on Paradise Again, technically their debut studio LP. But what’s most interesting isn’t that they waited so long, but rather what waiting so long sounds like: an entirely new Swedish House Mafia. Gone (mostly) are the trancey builds and drops heard on “Don’t You Worry Child” featuring John Martin and “Save the World” a decade prior in favor of something far more subtle, inward-looking, and wide-ranging. “It Gets Better,” the first new track to show up, in 2021, opens with a crunchy rock guitar and primal drumbeat before jumping into an off-kilter groove, a distorted vocal, and a clipped break that nods to ’90s big beat. Its title is a mantra-like refrain for anyone who lived through the pandemic: “We soundtracked the imagination of seeing our fans again,” Angello told Apple Music when the track was first released. “Lifetime” featuring Ty Dolla $ign and 070 Shake—which mixes bits of dance, R&B, hip-hop, and pop—followed soon after: “It's like Swedish House Mafia in a blender,” he said. “It’s 100% feel. We sat down and we were just throwing ideas at each other of what kind of music we like, and this is boiling everything down to, like, ‘What did we feel?’” That muse led the trio in all sorts of different directions: sleek, soulful synth-pop with The Weeknd (“Moth to a Flame”); a squelchy, low-slung riff on The Police’s “Roxanne” with Sting himself reprising his vocals (“Redlight”); straight-up hip-hop with A$AP Rocky (“Frankenstein”). But probably the most important turn was back to house music itself, which anchors so much of the album. It’s in tracks like the gospel-inspired “Calling On,” “Time” featuring Mapei, “Don’t Go Mad” featuring Seinabo Sey, and the Mr. Fingers-referencing “Can U Feel It,” where the group shows its sense of reflection and a deep reverence for the music that inspired them in the first place.

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