by: Calvin Harris

Calvin Harris became one of EDM-pop's most successful architects with 18 Months, which fused the dance style's drops and fizzy highs with radio-friendly hooks. He doubles down on that approach on Motion, which features even more stylized songs and cameos from A-list singers. However, the album's finest moment belongs to Harris alone: on the former hit single "Summer," he uses EDM's dramatic peaks and valleys to convey the fleeting high of a summer fling, while the craggy warmth of his voice -- the last remnant of his more idiosyncratic electro-indie days -- adds some much-needed humanity and personality. As on 18 Months, which was anchored by mega-hit partnerships with Rihanna ("We Found Love") and Ellie Goulding ("I Need Your Love"), many of this album's other highlights feature female vocalists. Harris' reunion with Goulding, "Outside," doesn't quite recapture the magic of their previous work but also makes the most of her deceptively powerful soprano, this time in a more upbeat setting. Likewise, "Pray to God" showcases HAIM's fetish for mainstream '80s sounds, channeling Stevie Nicks' "Edge of Seventeen" with its lavish harmonies, chugging guitars, and sizzling hi-hats, while "Together" dresses Gwen Stefani's playful, confident pop in EDM drag. Moments like these prove that Harris' formula doesn't have to be formulaic. ~ Heather Phares

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