Just another night
Mark Ronson is a veteran DJ, musician and producer who has won accolades for his work on smash hits like “Rehab” and “Uptown Funk.” He is known for his eclectic taste in production choices, dipping into everything from funk to hip-hop to electropop. Ronson also collaborates with artists and songwriters from all across the music industry. In his career, Late Night Feelings is his fifth studio album.
The central themes of Late Night Feelings, as the title suggests, are the romantic feelings of yearning, desire and heartbreak that often arise in the middle of the night. These are similar to the feelings that Carly Rae Jepsen presented on her Emotion album. The similarities don’t stop there. Besides both albums being completely sung by female singers, they have a similarly nostalgic sonic palette; Feelings travels back into the past, except this time there is more of the disco-pop of the ’70s. Strings are romantic, background vocals ooh and aah and vocals are mostly untouched by effects outside of reverb. There is also a lot of breathing room in the mix, which is vital to the nocturnal theme of the album.
Besides the crisp, modern production, there are a couple of moments that make it obvious the album was not made in the ’70s. The track “Truth” has a hip-hop style drum beat, and an almost-rapped delivery by guest vocalist The Last Artful, Dodgr. The track “Don’t Leave Me Lonely” continues the tropical beat trend that has plagued the pop world for the past few years.
The album opens brilliantly with the “Late Night Prelude.” It starts with a stormy string section growing ever more frenzied, whisking the listener into outer space. In a split second, the strings drop out, casting a rare ray of sunshine. Then smooth production flows in; female vocals enter, punctuated by horns. It feels like heaven. The track segues wonderfully into the title track.
Despite thoughtful care put into the flow between tracks, the first half of the album is mostly forgettable. Ronson packs some delicate instrumentals and pretty, layered production on the title track, but the song is held back by a lack of oomph. The instrumental lacks the punch of a compelling dance track, and Lykke Li’s high-pitched, girlish vocals do not convey much emotion, especially on the underwritten hook. Towards the end of the first half are a few underdeveloped tracks featuring Ronson’s new muse Yebba.
More than halfway through, the album starts to finally get a run of ear-catching tracks, starting with “Truth.” The guest vocalist has a quirky performance, and Alicia Keys’ piano chords are a welcome change of pace. This is followed by the desert country-pop of Miley Cyrus on “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart.” Impressively, the song can be interpreted as being about more than romantic love, but more could have been done to further that feeling such as editing in sounds of thunder. On the romantic “True Blue,” reverb-y wall-of-sound layering fills the space around Angel Olsen’s signature trembling voice. Lykke Li plays the character of a late night pick-me-up on “2 AM,” wanting more from her lover. While song quality goes up in the second half, cohesion goes down, since Ronson begins to do some genre-hopping.
Late Night Feelings is a mixed bag of tracks. The first half is packed with underwhelming tracks, while the second half contains several worthwhile ones. Ronson cannot be faulted for his production, which is consistently eclectic, sharp and enjoyable. However, Ronson continues to lack enough interesting ideas to create a great album on his own. While Ronson is commendable for his ambitions in making a concept album, the album’s nocturnal aesthetic is too quiet and hollow for foreground enjoyability. Tracks like “True Blue” and “Why Hide” are highly recommended, but the full listening experience isn’t the most interesting night out.