Published Jun 18, 2018A good Chromeo album has always a statement of impeccable taste. For almost 15 years, the Montreal duo have mined the bleeps, pops and wobbles of '80s electro-funk to create sleek, streamlined pop pastiche. Their last offering, 2014's White Women, added high profile guests and Top 40 production to their formula, resulting in a sleeper hit in the infectious "Jealous (I Ain't With It)."
Four years later, Chromeo are aiming for a similar balance of nostalgia and pop appeal on Head Over Heels. The album retains the guest-heavy approach of its predecessor, enlisting funk icons past and present to varying degrees of success. D.R.A.M. turns in an anonymous feature on the album's slightly overripe opening track, "Must've Been," while French Montana is solidly overmatched by British up-and-comer Stefflon Don on the G-Funk infused "Don't Sleep." DJ Quik pops in for a spoken word interlude or two. Behind the scenes, Chromeo enlist a crackerjack cast of funk professionals that include Raphael Saadiq, '90s super-producer Rodney "Darkchild" Jenkins, Mtume's Tawatha Agee and veteran session bassist Pino Palladino.
And yet despite all these high profile guests and wily veterans, Head Over Heels' star-making moment belongs to rising neo-soul star Amber Mark, whose chemistry with Chromeo lead singer Dave 1 is electric on standout track "Just Friends." Mark sounds effortlessly cool when paired with the track's boisterous synth stabs and winding bass, and the group wisely cede the floor to her by the end of song.
Chromeo aren't entirely beholden to the energies of their guests, however, and are more than capable of crafting pop confections of their own. "Count Me Out" is maybe the group's hundredth low-rider-ready funk banger, while "Slumming It" punctuates a woozy bass line with hazy falsetto to create the perfect burnt-out beach jam. Music this nakedly derivative requires sharp pop instincts to be successful, and tracks like these prove that Chromeo are still able to create magic within their well-worn source material, even if they are retreading old ground. (Last Gang)