When Classixx released their debut album Hanging Gardens in 2013, it turned out that the Los Angeles duo Tyler Blake and Michael David, previously known for their production, were equally talented as songwriters. Among the album's many highlights were the songs in which the duo brought in outside voices, such as the glorious Nancy Whang-assisted kiss-off "All You're Waiting For" and the pre-sunrise melancholy of “Borderline,” which featured an affecting performance from Kisses vocalist Jesse Kivel. These fleeting glimpses of the pop album Classixx might one day make were tantalized, and on their sophomore effort Faraway Reach, they plant their flag even firmer in straight-ahead pop.
Their songwriting remains a strong point, and Classixx continue to show a knack for choosing kindred-spirit collaborators. This time around, names that would appear in larger fonts on festival posters show up: Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit—whose has worked with dance producers before, appearing on last year's Adventure, the underrated debut from France's Madeon—drops by on “Safe Inside,” and his wide-eyed sincerity neatly aligns with Classixx's buoyant worldview.“I Feel Numb” is full-on disco, featuring a heart-on-his-sleeve vocal from Holy Ghost! frontman Alex Frankel.
“I am the one who makes you feel OK,” Frankel assures a concerned significant other as he warns them that he might be slipping into another depressive spell. It's an example of the world-weariness that suffuses the record—Frankel makes this person feel not good, not great, but just OK. And, as any adult will attest, sometimes OK is good enough. An album that recasts the dancefloor as a space to explore—and, crucially, attempt to combat—the malaise of adulthood, Faraway Reach concerns itself with less-than-glamorous topics ranging from depression (the aforementioned “I Feel Numb”), to mundane and banal activities like fighting with one's partner in line at the grocery store (“In These Fine Times”) and allowing of the pain of the past to inform but not define you (“Just Let Go,” which absorbs the anthemic qualities of big-tent EDM and features How to Dress Well aka Tom Krell in full-on diva mode to great effect).
Classixx redeems the bleakness of these topics with their natural sense of warmth—their music often feels like a familiar hand on your shoulder urging you to keep going. In hindsight, the sun-bleached vibes of Hanging Gardens played a role in the rise of tropical house, and the same laid-back tempos and vague hints of sea breeze are found on Faraway Reach. But there's an inclusivity to Classixx, a sense of arms-outstretched welcoming that makes it impossible for anyone to turn their nose up at their music.A1 Grecian Summer A2 In These Fine Times A3 Safe Inside B1 I Feel Numb B2 Just Let Go B3 The Dissolve C1 Whatever I Want C2 Ndivile C3 Faraway Reach D1 Eyes On Me D2 Pure Distraction D3 A Mountain With No Ending