Major Lazer - Free The Universe

By Mohamed Hassan

Released April 16th 2013 - Secretly Canadian

Free The Universe is the highly anticipated sophomore release from the hypnotic dancehall revival that is Major Lazer. Rich in finesse, the return of the Major is laced together with an enviable collection of guest musicians that give the ride much character, but it's really the silky-smooth production that will be left ringing in your head for weeks.

Over the last few years, Major Lazer has become quite a domineering force in the music industry. The mindchild of legendary producers Diplo and Swift, the hypnotic dancehall revival fast became a household name, making tracks for Beyonce, No Doubt, La Roux and Rita Ora. More recently, Diplo served as executive producer for Snoop Dogg's Reincarnated as Rastafarian reggae singer Snoop Lion.

After half of the duo, producer Swift, left after creative differences, the future of the project was uncertain. Fortunately, Diplo recruited some of his friends to keep the Major alive, and he sounds as strong and as defiant as ever.

The album kicks off with the cool You're No Good, which eases you into the roller-coaster groove of the rest of the tracks, and hearing Santigold on anything is always welcome. Jet Blue Jet jumps straight into the familiar high pitched squeals and unrelenting snare hits that have become associated with Lazer's sound. There's been way too much already said about the lead single Get Free, but it still remains defiantly one of the highlights of the record, driven by Amber's cool vocals and an excellently restrained production that still manages to keep the down-tempo from upsetting the danceheads.

Jah No Partial, Scare Me and Sweat are back to business. By business, we're talking the sweat dripping grime-fest that gave Lazer the deserved status in the Jamaican Dancehall revival game.

The rest of the record remains strongly in the percussion jungle-fiasco department, the two exceptions beingJessica and Reach For The Stars. The appearances by Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig and Wyclef Jeanrespectively are not as promising as they sound, but strong production on both songs manages to save the day in the end.

The one (minor) let-down of the album is that it comes across sounding more like a mixtape than a full-fledged studio release. While it is not short on variety, the album feels somewhat disjointed. That, and the continued vocal reminders throughout most songs that you are, in fact, listening to a Major Lazer album.

Now take that last paragraph, rip it up and run it through a garbage disposal, because it really doesn't matter. This album is deliciously good, and its songs' almost too-good-to-be-true remix-ability will surely cement its place on DJ lists for some time to come.

Overall the second release from Diplo's pet project is as rewarding as the hype around it. Let's hope this isn't the last we hear from the Major.

4.5 / 5