Like their close musical cousins and Black Butter labelmates Rudimental, producers Kye Gibbon and Matt Robson-Scott of Gorgon City use their debut album as an opportunity to survey the U.K. dance-pop scene, livening up their songwriting with contributions from a hardworking assembly line of guests. As a statement of purpose, it’s a fairly practical one — here is a pair of fun, efficient pop producers who will work with anyone! — but in practice they’ve produced a lackluster album.
True to its title, Sirens owes its character to the charisma of its vocalists, and the album features many of them dexterously flexing their vocal cords; London dance singer Katy B does her best with the unexciting “Lover Like You,” faring a little better than Jennifer Hudson, whose powerhouse vocals threaten to topple the otherwise thin “Go All Night.” The highlights adeptly rework the standard, pulsating club formula: “Imagination,” co-written by frequent Rudimental collaborator Emeli Sandé, “6AM,” an otherwise monochromatic club-thumper saved by Tish Hyman’s dynamic vocal, and the dumb-sexy “Elevate,” which expertly pivots its skin-deep profundity (“We were meant to stand out from the crowd/ And you know we’re never coming down”) around a breathy, one-word loop of a chorus. Sirens‘ collection of same-y, mid-tempo pop also contains its fair share of uninteresting moments, as well as some outright duds, like the limp (and vaguely slimey) “FTPA.”
Still, frontloaded into the first four tracks of the album are two of the best pop singles of the year: the dream-like trance hymn “Ready for Your Love,” and the heady “Here for You.” Both songs showcase the talents of young singer-songwriter MNEK, who at the age of 19 is already shaping the sound of U.K. dance-pop, penning hits for Duke Dumont, and producing for Kylie Minogue and girl group Little Mix (he’s also responsible for “Spoons,” the best cut from Rudimental’s Home.) Laura Welch’s weightless singing over an echoing bass drop on “Here for You”‘s chorus is the album’s most undeniable rush, and proves that Gorgon City are capable of elevating their material with agile, surprising arrangements. If they’re in this for the singles game, they’re well on their way to a satisfying career.