- Within the narrow parameters it defined for itself, Art Department's The Drawing Board was an impressive debut album. Disciplined and cohesive, it contained devastatingly simple songs that, in their sparse fusion of Chicago house and '80s synth-pop, were the perfect mechanical foil to Kenny Glasgow's bereft vocals. This was pop-house, but pop-house that, in "I C U" or "Without You," plumbed the emotional depths. It was music with soul.
All of which makes Natural Selection deeply confusing. Having minted their sound, you might expect the Canadian duo to elaborate on it. Instead, they toss away their most appealing quality—the contrast between cold, emotionally-blank bleeps and Kenny Glasgow's voice—in either weak stylistic shifts (the watery piano house of "Catch You By Surprise") or by using Glasgow's mantra-like vocals so sparingly that he's more a texture than a defining feature. Of the tracks he appears on, "Walls" and "It's Through" recall Art Department's former glories, but they lack the irresistible hooks of their predecessors.
Elsewhere, the album is padded-out with banal collaborations (musically and lyrically, the Aquarius Heaven and Seth Troxler tracks are dismal) pointless interludes (street recordings of skateboarders, a roadie requesting a bottle of Jack Daniels) and, on "The Agent," that hoary old house music cliché: an extended sample of a spoken-word lecture on consciousness. Instrumental tracks like "The Hunt" and "In The Wake" flirt ineffectually with straight techno and tropical art-pop.
Where their first album felt like a definitive statement, Natural Selection sounds, as so many second albums do, like a diffuse bunch of half-realised ideas. Whatever the reason for that may be, Art Department need to go back to the drawing board.
01. Natural Selection Intro
02. It’s Through
03. The Agent
04. Kisses for Roses feat. Aquarius Heaven
05. JD 4 AD (Interlude)
06. These Eyes
07. The Hunt feat. BLUD
09. Cruel Intentions feat. Seth Troxler
10. Breathe Easy (Interlude)
12. MACBA (Interlude)
13. In the Wake
14. Catch You By Surprise