Sick Boy

by: The Chainsmokers

Compared to their 2017 official debut, the Chainsmokers' sophomore album, Sick Boy, is more introspective, thoughtful, and emotional. It's also a vast improvement on the often precious (and, frankly, boring) EDM-pop of Memories...Do Not Open. For Sick Boy -- which was slowly rolled out in monthly installments throughout 2018 -- the duo of Alex Pall and Andrew Taggart digs a little deeper, addressing their post-breakthrough critical and popular backlash and delivering something akin to substance. Everything is relative here, so while they're trying harder and shooting for more artistry, listeners should not expect Jon Hopkins or SOPHIE. Instead, consider this the Chainsmokers' attempt at emo-EDM. Hitting those self-pitying notes on contemplative moments such as "Somebody" with Drew Love, "Sick Boy" (which is unlike anything in their prior catalog), and the confessional "Everybody Hates Me," Taggart flexes his lyrical muscle and laments with clunky but vulnerable lyrics like "I'm so defeated/I just want this shit to end." Elsewhere, fans of indie pop acts such as Lauv, LANY, and the 1975 should find kindred appeal here, especially on pop-friendly highlights like "This Feeling" with Kelsea Ballerini and the delicately bright "Hope" with Winona Oak. For those in search of something heavier, the Chainsmokers deliver a pair of cacophonous floor-shakers with "Siren" and "Save Yourself," which include crashing dubstep drops and sonic stabs fit for dancefloor mosh pits. Finally, album standout "Side Effects" with frequent collaborator and co-writer Emily Warren is the deep soul of the album and also its best track. At the heart of it all, this set is dark, sometimes exciting, and a step in the right direction for the immensely popular but critically maligned duo. World-weariness and a troubled heart suit them well and managed to do some good on Sick Boy. ~ Neil Z. Yeung

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