EDM has gotten a bad rap as festival-centric, drug-assisted party music. Northern Lights, the long-awaited debut album from Zeds Dead, is here to change that. Covering and blending a number of different genres, Northern Lights is an exquisite look at the electronic music landscape touching on house, grime, chillstep, glitch, hip hop, and trap.
The album shines on every track. Each succeeding song is a display of Zeds Dead versatility to seamlessly blend genres and that’s the true success of the album. The first track, “Stardust,” plays like a song by The xx, with crunching guitars and a grooving bassline that compliment the rich vocals of Twin Shadow. The Atlas-assisted “Lights Out” offers a beautifully haunting chillstep that will keep anyone’s head nodding. Twin Shadow reappears on the incredible “Loneliness,” a song with a mellow house beat and vocals that drive the theme of the song. “Symphony,” featuring Charlotte OC, sounds like Zeds Dead twist on vintage trip-hop.
Getting features from the likes of Diplo, Pusha T, Rivers Cuomo, Twin Shadow, Jadakiss, Styles P, and a number of others, helped flesh out each song’s unique appeal. Even though Zeds Dead are the headliners, they do not bury their vocal features amidst endless glitches and beat-drops. Oozing with single potential,”Too Young,” featuring Pusha T and Cuomo, has Blowbama lyrically stepping outside his comfort zone as Cuomo sings the hook, all while the song bounces along with a Beatles flair on an electro-pop beat. “DNA,” with Jadakiss and Styles P (two-thirds of NY’s The Lox), puts vintage East Coast hip hop against a hard-hitting trap beat.
Of course, there are the festival-ready songs like “Me No Care” which displays crushing glitch alongside a dancehall sample that evokes something similar to Major Lazer. “Already Done,” featuring East London’s Ghetts, is a another flavor-packed song. Combining the UK grime sound to go along with relentless glitch drops, this song is sure to be a staple in future live performances.
After releasing six EPs and a number of singles, Zeds Dead first full-length album spans fifteen tracks and just under an hour in length. The duo discussed the creative process and working with the wide-ranging group of collaborators in an interview with Billboard:
DC: The oldest track on the album actually dates back three or four years. But the main focus has been the last year and a half or so. We decided to make an album as soon as we did Zeds Dead. It was always a goal of ours. We put aside other stuff as we were making EPs and doing singles. We just felt like now was the time.
Hooks: We’ve also been touring nonstop since 2010. It was a year ago or so when we were like, we want to have a less crazy tour schedule for the next year so that we can actually work on this album and do it properly and not rush it. We still have to do it in hotel rooms and on planes, but we want to be in the studio as much as possible. That’s what the last year has been like for us. Still a lot of shows, but less than before so we can be in the studio whenever we can.
In a day and age where most electronic music sounds contrived, Northern Lights has set the bar high for expressing creativity. Zeds Dead’s debut not only demonstrates their prowess as producers, but also their love and knowledge for music. Utilizing electronic music as their template, the Toronto duo has crafted a meticulously rich experience, one that will have listeners constantly going back and discovering refreshing moments.
Northern Lights is now available for purchase on Amazon. Stream it above for free, courtesy of Spotify.
For more music, news, and tour dates, check out Zeds Dead Zumic artist page.