What makes artists like Odesza stand out is their genuine interest in intimacy in a genre that trades on broadness. The Seattle-based pair have an attention to texture that feels more connected with beat-minded downtempo acts such as Air and Boards of Canada — two of the band’s professed favorites — than some of the hulking EDM producers they’re often co-billed alongside.
Their tracks are just as sleek and catchy, but are also filled with the sounds of cassettes crunching as they’re pushed into stereos and lyrics searching for signs that will orient them in uncertain relationships and, to a degree, the broader world.
10. Odesza – “IPlayYouListen”
Summer’s Gone, the duo’s self-released 2012 debut, was initially circulated as a special collaboration between the their respective monikers (BeachesBeaches and Catacombkid). It’s understandable that on arrival, this could’ve merely been a very timely one-off tape with the way it worked indie-popular samples into punchy beats. But there’s a wild grandness about “IPlayYouListen” that pushes back on the ceiling that independent producers constantly run into, bringing out a song that feels alive outside of their production software.
9. Odesza – “Across the Room”
Even when it succumbs to chasing dance trends, A Moment Apart still showcases a number of change-ups for the duo. The heat-shrunk samples in it that are typically front-and-center are sewn into the fibers of the song, grounded by the presence of live drums and Leon Bridges‘ elegant crooning. It’s both a testament to the group’s soft power and a fulfillment of their dream to collaborate with Bridges, whose talent as a featured artist goes criminally underutilized in the world.
8. Odesza – “How Did I Get Here”
The first proper song on ?Summer’s Gone clocks in at just above two minutes, barely an appetizer for Odesza’s fractured production. Nevertheless, “How Did I Get Here” packs in all the quirks the two would hone in the following half-decade. The sound-effects-as-rhythm, the warping, coquettish female vocals (this time a “22”-era Lily Allen standing in for future collaborators) and surrounding drums are all compacted into a head-bobbing and eerie tune.
7. Odesza – “Late Night”
“Late Night” possesses a swagger that most other Odesza songs marvel at from the outside. A robotic two-and-four drum beat carries through a wall of whooping vocals and glitchy, effervescent keyboards, breaking up A Moment Apart‘s introspection with a rare and funky show of force.
?6. Odesza – “All We Need”
Odesza ties off the most self-assured sequence of songs on In Return by representing its fellow Pacific Northwest scenesters. Portland R&B artist Dan Vidmar’s weepy falsetto is sharpened — almost immersed — by volleys of tropical toms and marimba flourishes. The Odesza song “All We Need” carefully balances its atmosphere with its melodics in a way that makes both even more irresistible.
5. Odesza – “My Friends Never Die”
Right before capturing national attention, Odesza decided to diversify and dropped its bassiest, most knocking material on the underappreciated My Friends Never Die EP. Its titular kickoff sidesteps the space-cadet electropop of Summer’s Gone somewhat, dissecting the chopped-and-screwed singer samples with furious spurts of drum-machine high hats and a bridge of distorted Santigold arpeggios. The handdrums and glassy synths, of course, still make an appearance, only further evidence of the guys’ demonstrable range.
4. Odesza – “Line of Sight”
“Line of Sight,” the most hook-y offering on A Moment Apart, also serves as the album’s most comforting. The fizzling synth chords that have become sound du jour could’ve easily been bent into a best-night-ever anthem that is reflected inward by WYNNE’s sentimental chorus of “I don’t learn, no I don’t learn/ ‘Cause you always seemed so kind.”
?3. Odesza – “Sun Models”
In Return‘s sleeper hit pieces together the quirks that you come to identify as ‘an Odesza track’ and saturates them. Michigan-based singer Madelyn Grant’s scatting is rendered nearly unrecognizable either as intelligible words or even as a human voice, the bright marimbas that drive the song are weighted down with a gelatinous synth and the usually soft hand percussion is covered in digital cut marks. It is, by any definition, ‘trop-influenced,’ but its execution is addictively surreal.
2. Odesza – “Bloom”
One of the band’s most potent unaccompanied songs, “Bloom” takes the rough, tweaked-out techniques on Summer’s Gone and buffs them to a shine. The stuttering, shapeshifting voice and burbling flutes that ripple through each other show that Odesza stands on the merits of its own production rather than its features alone.
1. Odesza – “Say My Name”
The tinny groove and chopped-up vocals that introduce “Say My Name” are so instantaneously mesmerizing that they become a dog whistle: no matter how away or distorted, your ears immediately perk up when it comes on. The Odesza song is a stellarly-paced track that’s made exponentially stronger by Zyra’s charming lyrics that illustrate how well Odesza crystallizes deep feelings of longing and uncertainty into densely-layered, upbeat dance.