Dylan Tauber – The Lagoon – Album Review
The last time I reviewed Dylan’s music, was way back when I was still living in Ontario, can you believe that? Alright…I suppose it wasn’t that long ago…we moved back to British Columbia this summer, but it does already seem like a lifetime’s worth of events have happened in between the last time I was listening to Tauber’s music and now. It can be truly crazy how time flies, just like the old saying goes.
Anyhow! Last time around, he was loving on Carmen with the album He Loves Carmen – and for this record, called The Lagoon, he’s got Anastasia Derkach’s sensational vocals complementing his vibrant style of EDM. A stellar choice for sure, right from the very first moments we hear her voice on the opening track, “Please Stay,” I think all of our ears would agree – we’ll be in for a great experience with what these two have come up with in collaboration. I love it when you run into singers like Anastasia that don’t even need to technically sing WORDS to catch our attention & interest – a lot of what you’ll hear on “Please Stay” is sung with vocalizations as opposed to a dedicated set of lyrics, and right off the bat, Tauber & Derkach sound like a match made in heaven. The depths of The Lagoon get revealed instantly…catchy beat, sparkling EDM sound, stunning vocals…I mean, let’s be real here – this ain’t Dylan’s first rodeo, as they say – the dude’s a proven force within the EDM scene, and continually proves his merit with each release he makes. The Lagoon is simply another album in a string of many victories. In any event, if “Please Stay” is an indication of what we’re all in-store for, you’ll wanna dive right into The Lagoon, and chances are, you’ll wanna stay there forever…so stop by & say hello – I’ll be there too! After a whole bunch of spins through this record, I can say with confidence that Tauber’s latest record starts out with one of my very favorite songs in this lineup of twelve – check out “Please Stay” for yourself below!
Bringin’ in the low-end tones and serious groove to the start of “Dance For Me” – this second cut sounds like it could easily ramp up into something enormous from the moment it begins…but I think these two have something different planned this time around. Typical EDM would have something like this building and building and building until we’re all screamin’ and waiting for the DROP…but Tauber’s approached “Dance For Me” & The Lagoon with much more subtlety & a professional dose of patience. I’ll fully admit, I’m not gonna be the guy with the glow-sticks out dancing up a storm anyhow…so for myself personally, a low-key combination of sound like what you’ll experience on “Dance For Me” is much better suited for my own personal taste than I thought the title would imply – so right on! From the lefts to the rights, Tauber’s got this track mixed to perfection and giving you a great selection of sound through your speakers, and Anastasia is threaded cleverly into this vibe to give it all that extra something special, and a bit more of the human connection we all want alongside this digital creativity.
I think there’s a bit of risk in keeping the beat around the same pace between “Dance For Me” and “Cyber Spirit” to follow if I’m being truthful with ya…I dig the consistency, but it does seem like we’re still waiting on that majorly defining moment of The Lagoon to reveal itself early on, and start to wonder if perhaps we experienced it already with “Please Stay” right at the very beginning. It’s all highly professional stuff & expertly mixed & produced & all that…which I think anyone out there would appreciate for sure…but we’re still searching for that real spark of inspiration we know Tauber’s capable of early on in this set. “Cyber Spirit” might be a bit too laidback to follow “Dance For Me,” though it does possess a noticeable beat & pulse combination…it works, but it’s definitely still on the most mellow side of EDM that you’re familiar with. I suppose that’s the thing about the D in EDM…dancing can come in many forms…it doesn’t mean we gotta be bustin’ moves like our lives depend on it, sometimes it can be a lot more subtle than that…sometimes, honestly, we’re dancing on the inside, or simply’ feelin’ it. “Cyber Spirit” still has an impressively smooth groove to it…maybe almost too smooth for its own good!
I think once people realize that The Lagoon is built on a much more mellow version of EDM than most tend to associate with the genre itself – at least as it begins…and they give this record a second spin, they’ll be that much more into it…sometimes music works like that, we need to adjust our perception, and when we do, we can get that much more out of the experience. A lot of the time, our own assumptions and expectations can cloud our judgment – that’s why it’s truly crucial to spin ANY record more than just the one time, and will show you just how easy it is to spot any critic that’s only given an album a single solitary spin. Great music practically SHOULD have to win you over in some way…challenge you a bit somehow…and overall, I’d say the subtle design of The Lagoon is able to do that in many ways. “Walk With Me” is an excellent example to point to – you’ll notice a bigger difference in between “Cyber Spirit” and this fourth cut than you probably would have between the second & third songs on this record beat-wise – but the real truth is, Dylan actually dials back the energy even further! I dig it though…ethereal & transcendental vibes goin’ on…like I said, once you have a grip on what you’re in-store for, everything makes that much more sense. Subtle as it may be, the reality is that everything continually sounds so freakin’ good & radiantly clear, that it’s still highly addictive stuff to listen to by every conceivable definition, which is impressive.
Chances are, “Immortal” is much closer to what the majority of people would expect out of the EDM they’re listening to…though I’d probably be the first to argue that a more up-tempo beat doesn’t necessarily make for a better song. In fact, if I’m being completely real with ya, I’d have to be honest and say that “Immortal” kind of proves that it doesn’t…I felt like this track shot wide of the mark they were looking for. For the most part, it works fairly well…I think it’s the main hooks of the chorus in “Immortal” that seem like they’re actively searching for the right approach as opposed to going in with a definitive plan. Now…of course, they obviously DID go in with a plan, I’m sure they did – but the way it came out seemed like it was a bit less than confident that it was going to work, or it just might be as simple as that part of the song isn’t as strong as the rest of “Immortal” by comparison. No real fault of either Dylan or Anastasia when it comes right down to it…they tried something here, they gave it a decent shot…and some of it works – in my opinion, the hooks you’ll find in the verses are stronger than the ones you’ll find in the chorus. Sometimes that happens; sometimes we out-write ourselves in music.
I probably enjoyed “Don’t Let Go” a fraction or two more than I did “Immortal” – but I’m not so convinced this track doesn’t have a few quirks as well. With this second more up-tempo beat & song on The Lagoon, I think we probably end up leaning towards the more mellow vibes that the record started with…perhaps it’s the additional energy that seems to somehow throw this collaboration off a little bit by comparison. For the most part, again, I feel like there’s a lot that “Don’t Let Go” does right – all-in-all, I think the writing itself is stronger than what we just experienced in the song prior…this time, I think it’s much more of a mix issue if I’m tellin’ ya straight. The low-end beat comes through spectacularly well – but that’s about it! It becomes the real dominant trait in the music surrounding Anastasia…we can hear that there IS more to it, but everything is so distant in the mix, it felt like she was basically singing to a beat & not much more…and I think this track would have benefitted extremely well from bringing the rest involved in the mix right UP to the rafters to support her here. The vocal hooks in the chorus work really well this time around…the verses are strong too…I suppose I just feel like if they had raised the rest of the music surrounding her, the entire song would have come out stronger as a result overall.
Yeah…I’m gonna say that it’s probably the extra pulse & energy that’s taking a bit away from how special this collaboration sounded towards the very beginning of this record. “The Lagoon” has some parts that work wonders, and there are aspects of it that don’t come out quite as strong, creating a bit of an uneven vibe once again in the middle of this album. Like…the first part of the verses really nails it tight, then it’s followed by a second-half or pre-chorus that doesn’t quite measure up…and a chorus that…hmm…honestly, I don’t really know – I think it’s the kind of hook that may work for some and not for others. Such is the life of an artist though y’all…it’s hard to please everyone ALL of the time…but all I can do is be honest & straightforward about what I’m hearing. Personally, if you’re asking me – I like the chorus of “The Lagoon” – I’ll readily admit it took a spin or two for it to grow on me, and that I wasn’t sure about it at all on that first spin…but with a bit of time & experience in listening to it, I ended up liking it. For me, the song is actually at its strongest when heading back out from those main hooks and into that first part of the verses again…that’s where things really snap together in all the right ways between the music & vocals. Mix-wise, it was great to hear things restored back to what works in the levels…all-in-all, the music sounds solid…there’s potential to “The Lagoon” for sure…as to whether or not we all feel like they reached it to the maximum it had to offer, it’s possible that opinions may vary.
“I Am Your Angel” seems to hit the same snags as “Immortal” did earlier on, where the main hook seems to drift wide of the mark. Stretching out words when singing can be a tough thing to accomplish at times…in my opinion, if it ever seems like you’re struggling to fill the space, or the idea itself is becoming a bit thin, the best option is a redesign, and probably a few more lyrics to help things feel more full. I felt like the strongest aspects of “I Am Your Angel” were definitely there within the verses again…and to be truthful, I felt like that was a genuine highlight for Anastasia’s vocals in that part of the song. She’s got a great voice when it comes right down to it…it’s the material itself that seems to fall just a bit short at times…the music is as well mixed & produced as we know Dylan to be capable of – it’s a beat-driven tune once again with just a bit of subtle sound to go along with it, but “I Am Your Angel” seemed like it has everything it needed to succeed. Much like the rest of the mid-section of The Lagoon, the potential is certainly there…I feel like they just needed to be a bit more objective in separating themselves from the music, having a listen & an open & honest discussion about what’s working and what might not be – and then getting back into the studio to polish up whatever they could truly make even better than it is.
In terms of the up-tempo material, which has by this point actually become the dominant trait on The Lagoon in comparison to where it all began – I felt like “Heaven On Earth” was right up there with “Don’t Let Go” as a better representation of what these two artists are able to accomplish together. I love the sleek design of the verses, I felt like the main hooks of the chorus hit the mark too…the music is good – but with respect to that, I still think Dylan’s got more room than he realizes to turn up the other elements of the music to match the beat, and to be honest, that’s a lot of what we’re all listening for. We’ve heard beats – we all know what those are – in my opinion, it’s usually just about everything else that ends up becoming the real reasons we like or love what we’re listening to, and a beat is usually going to have no problem still being present in the mix…so turn up the rest Dylan! This type of thing can happen in collaborations sometimes…where people are working together for the first or second time still, and one part of the duo is afraid to take too much of the spotlight away from their guest, in this case, Dylan giving Anastasia a bit more room than perhaps she really needs. When she’s at her best like she is here on “Heaven On Earth,” believe me, she’s gonna stand out no matter what…so supporting her with a bit more volume from the rest, would serve to strengthen the entire song as a whole in the mix.
“The Mermaid” dips brilliantly back into the pool of sonic & artistic depths that The Lagoon was offering from the start…and once it comes through your speakers, I think you can genuinely hear the magic these two share together when slowed down, and focused on the melody. It could potentially be a structural thing as well…Anastasia ends up leading the way in a lot of the mid-section on this record, whereas how it begins & on songs like “The Mermaid,” she’s playing a much more complementary role that really suits the material. It provides us with a more balanced attack from this duo, where both of their strengths are able to shine & make their maximum impact on us. All-in-all, I’d have no problem putting “The Mermaid” right up there with the very best on The Lagoon…it might be one of the shortest tracks at just over two-minutes in length, but there’s zero doubt about the FACT that this song has come out perfectly from start to finish. On the very bright side of things, it completely snaps the string of semi-unevenness in the lineup and sets this album back on a path to a strong finale – which of course, in turn, gets us excited to repeat it. “The Mermaid” is executed flawlessly by both Anastasia and Dylan – it’s beautiful.
One way to tell whether or not a beat becomes too dominant in a song, is to turn the whole thing down lower when you listen, to see what sounds remain at the end. If you’re still at a reasonable volume and the only thing left is the beat itself, you’re probably being a bit too heavy-handed with it. In the case of “Hold My Hand,” I felt like this was another great representation of these two combined into a more up-tempo vibe, but the beat-dominant mix on this particular track ended up becoming a bit too distracting. So…much like I was saying earlier, sometimes it’s just about standing back from the material and being as objective as possible – not just to hear what’s not working well, but also to recognize what’s really going RIGHT…to make sure that those parts, specifically, end up coming through the strongest. I thought the hooks in both the verse & chorus worked out extremely well for Anastasia – and we can hear her perfectly clearly too, which is great…but that beat doesn’t quite give us enough of a break so that we can really absorb how sensational these parts really are. Again Mr. Tauber, I’ll remind ya – we’ve all heard drum-beats & bass-beats before…that’s not gonna be the main draw for most people, or what genuinely separates ya from anything else…it’s more beneficial to concentrate on bringing out the aspects of your music that really makes it unique & special…that’s the real pathway forward from here.
I love the fact that, in hearing “Light Warrior Remix” – I instantly remembered this song from the past record I reviewed from Dylan. Not entirely sure what convinced him to bring it back and give it another spin, but I’m glad he did – it puts a solid finale into The Lagoon and closes the album down with a song he knows he can rely on. I liked the original version, and I dig this remix here now on Dylan’s latest record too…”Light Warrior” is a song with great energy, hooks, and a real inspired hook at its core. I’d have to check of course, but maybe this is a trend with Tauber’s music…maybe he brings back one of the old cuts for the new records each time…if not, that might be a good tradition to start too – it worked here. Ultimately, this is something like his fifteen full album…he doesn’t really need my advice – he knows what he’s doing well, and he knows what connects with the people, not only because he’s an artist, but because he’s a listener & music fan just like the rest of us are. The Lagoon might have been a little more unexpectedly uneven than what I’ve experienced so far in the past from him personally, but still a record that’s full of bright spots & highlights within the set along the way. Sometimes we’re so locked into the moment as artists, it’s harder to be objective, or to see where things don’t quite measure up to our talents, capabilities, and music we’ve made in the past…that’s actually very natural – so while I don’t know that The Lagoon is going to be the album that pushes Dylan’s music forward this time around necessarily…it’s still a solid lateral move that has plenty of admirable qualities in each song.
Find out more about Dylan Tauber from his official website at: https://www.dylantauber.com
Find out what we do at sleepingbagstudios, and be the next to be featured on our pages by clicking here!