Steve Angello’s ‘Wild Youth’ is an uninhibited and rebellious autobiography [Album Review]
Steve Angello’s debut album Wild Youth has experienced a tumultuous coming of age. The first full length production from the Swedish house pioneer since the disbandment of what is arguably the most influential electronic act of the millennial boom, Swedish House Mafia, Angello’s foray into the album circuit has been marked with its fair share of drama, seemingly perpetual delays, and a healthy dose of hype.
After ditching Columbia to regain control of his creative vision, Angello’s album faced some uncertainty, marred by a major label tug-of-war and the possibility of the 13-track album being trapped in purgatory. Thankfully, the bull-headed producer and creative mind behind one of electronic music’s most consistent labels, Size, took his music back from the grips of the establishment and moved forward in long-awaited independence.
That uninhibited creative freedom has proven itself a valuable ally on an album that presents itself as a statement piece for the last three years of his career and his newfound focus in life. A battle-cry for rebellion in an industry (and a world) that rewards the status quo, Angello matches his production wit with the name on the album sleeve.
Now a father who has left the party life behind him, Wild Youth is as nostalgic for his past as it is optimistic for his future. It’s a more matured take on the sound and style that he helped pioneer, all bookended with a sense of youthful rebellion that his tattoo’d sleeves and backward caps have represented since the words “Swedish House Mafia” were just a phrase used in jest between himself and a few friends.
The album chugs forward with a pointed focus, driven by his own desire for rebellion against everything he knows to be true: love, music, expectations and himself. Wild Youth opens with the Andrew Watt-lead “Rebel Nation,” a classic progressive club cut that feels like quintessential Angello. From there, the album shape shifts and changes genres at every turn. “Children of the Wild” is arena-rock with an electronic top coat while “Wasted Love,” with its driven basslines and Doug Mandagi’s soaring vocals, drum up nostalgia for the 2011 Swedish house explosion.
Playing out as an autobiographical album, Steve matches the overt, rockstar-era phases with more intimate chapters. “And though the ocean looks infinite, from the far side, it breaks here, it dies, like you and I” bookends the chorus on “The Ocean,” a signature production that exposes his maturation while showing signs of life from the Mescal Kid within. Perhaps the most Angello-esque record of the 13, “Tiger” is the album’s muscle, meticulously brewing with the force, attitude and presence that the house icon is known for.
Big boisterous top lines from a laundry list of features — The Presets, Gary Go, Julia Spada and more — are perfectly matched with the eclectic pallet of frequencies explored throughout the album, but Wild Youth‘s most powerful moment comes at its terminus. Angello closes out his opus with a heartfelt monologue, an honest divulgence about the murder of his father and death of his stepfather. It’s a moving and poignant moment that crosses the T’s and dots the I’s on the album’s overarching theme — a call to arms to rebel against the greatest enemy of the known world: hate and injustice.
Must listens: “Tiger,” “Wasted Love,” “The Ocean”