For nearly two decades now, The Avalanches have repurposed pillaged sounds of yesteryear in order to locate a current emotional resonance, to connect the past with the present and vice versa. Within this compelling artistic process, they’ve consistently elucidated how music functions as one of man’s few common unifiers: that regardless of whatever language, decade, or country a great tune is from, its power transcends boundaries. So in a year of global separation and political strife, there’s maybe been no better time for such optimistic tenets to be confidently reaffirmed by the guys who thought it was a good idea to mash Wayne and Shuster over the Enoch Light Singers (which it obviously was). But in an era where music’s flexibility is at an all-time high, in terms of both availability and structural malleability — as opposed to 2000, when they first debuted — the group’s entire schtick this time around hinges less on its novelty and more on its actual quality; it’s gotta have a little something more than what a DJ on SoundCloud can offer up instead. So let’s get out of the way what their latest LP, We Will Always Love You, decidedly isn’t: an excuse for Robert Chater and Tony Di Blasi to gloat about the impressive list of friends and cleared samples they’ve assembled in their Rolodex over the years. The voices massed here feel like natural inclusions into the grand tapestry of genres and tonalities the duo ambitiously traverses; a contemporary Gorillaz or DJ Khaled album, this is not. If anything, their guests’ abilities are utilized and incorporated so harmoniously through the project’s overarching structure that their star power never overshadows any one particular moment, while still delivering these features in progressive, exciting ways. Disparate generation talents such as MGMT and Johnny Marr (“The Divine Chord”), to Terence Trent D’Arby (sorry, Sananda Maitreya) and Vashti Bunyan (“Reflecting Light”), to even Cornelius and Kelly Moran (“Music Is the Light”) are able to coalesce and bounce off the seemingly endless soul, blues, disco, and psychedelic riffs thrown their way. But make no mistake, this is still firmly The Avalanches’ show, with their unique voices still ringingly present as they orchestrate a mix that’s downright cosmic — which is perhaps the best descriptor for this collection of new material, as each track progresses into the next with such uniformity that it hardly feels like a gimmick by the time mega incel Rivers Cuomo shows up. And if you can make him sound tolerable these days, then, sweet Jesus, you must be on to something at the very least.
Published as part of Top 25 Albums of 2020 — 10-1.