While the indie-rock nation was warming up to electronic genres like dubstep and chillwave, Top 40 radio, almost overnight, was turning mainstream dance pop into the new arena rock. Behind every Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas and David Guetta is the impulse to make as many people as possible feel ridiculously good using broad strokes of synthetic keyboards that routinely replicate the power chords of yesterday’s axe-wielding guitar gods.
Despite their indie-trained self-deprecating image, Frenchmen Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay wholeheartedly embrace shameless crowd-pleasing in the arena-disco fusion they engineer as Justice. Discarding the brutish, super-distorted beats of their 2007 debut †, Audio, Video, Disco offers sweeter, more fully realized songs sung by Ali Love, Diamond Nights’ Morgan Phalen and Midnight Juggernauts’ Vincenzi Vendetta that recall Daft Punk’s transition from the groove-based Homework to the distinctly more melodic Discovery.
Although Augé and de Rosnay talked a good game about Audio being the daytime pastoral alternative to the nocturnal urbanity of †, the results are more Laserium-friendly than ever: Check those spiraling guitars exploding in harmony on “Canon” as they pay tribute to “Strawberry Letter 23,” the Shuggie Otis psychedelic soul jam popularized by the Brothers Johnson. Like their rep-starting Simian remix “We Are Your Friends,” Audio is the musical equivalent of a buddy’s drunken arm around your shoulder — awkward, maybe even a little overbearing, but unexpectedly comforting.