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A Great Big World, ‘Is There Anybody Out There’ – Album Review

A Great Big World Album Cover
Epic

A Great Big World – comprised of Chad Vaccarino and Ian Axel — made a great big splash in the latter quarter of 2013 when Christina Aguilera got a hold of the duo’s song ‘Say Something.’ The spare, achingly beautiful, vocal-and-piano-driven song went right to the top of the charts, deservedly so. But what about ‘Is There Anybody Out There?,’ the pair’s album? What are AGBW like without Xtina and on their own?

AGBW’s closest sonic relative is fun., thanks to their open, honest and emotionally naked lyrics and their melding of pop with some classic rock conventions.

They’re not afraid to get in touch with their feelings. The songs are resonant and powerful, excavating the emotions and the heart. There are bluesy influences, epic and bombastic rock parts that recall vintage Queen, a few tastes of twang, and moments of melancholy.

A Great Big World certainly cycle through a variety of emotions and styles in the space of the album, which is unpredictable and never, ever boring. The lyrics seek to connect, literally and figuratively throughout. The album achieves an incredible balance with some lighter-sounding fare and weighty subject matters. There truly is something for ‘Anybody’ on the album.

1. ‘Rockstar’
This track — much looser and more upbeat than some of the album’s slower songs — is laced with innocence and wonder and some ’80s computerized, video games sounds.

2. ‘Land of Opportunity’
The spirit of the barbershop quartet sound is captured and reimagined with ‘Land of Opportunity.’ The track also has a bit of a Broadway musical/comedy energy to it.

3. ‘Already Home’
A gentle lull of a song about refusing to be lost in the hustle and bustle of the urban cityscapes that surround us, ‘Already Home’ boasts some seriously eloquent harmonies.

4. ‘I Really Want It’
Yes, there is a total rocker on ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’ and it’s called ‘I Really Want It.’ The supremely catchy song is drenched in ’80s melodies and key lines.

5. ‘Say Something’
The Xtina-less version isn’t too much different than the popular one, save for the obvious lack of the pop diva’s gorgeous voice. It’s still sad. It still aches. It’s still crushingly powerful, mournful and beautiful; it’s just much less harmonized.

6. ‘You’ll Be Okay’
An uplifting song about weathering the storms of life, ‘You’ll Be Okay’ is backed by a bit of melancholic melody in the first verse. The bluesy, slightly jazzy choruses, and the classic rock production values make the song addictively catchy, and it’s our fave track that populates ‘Is There Anybody Out There?”

7. ‘Everyone Is Gay’
At first, ‘Everyone Is Gay’ sounded like it could be a novelty song, thanks to its goofy cadence and its lyrics. But it’s really an anthem about looking for love to change the world, regardless of your orientation. We challenge you not to sing along to this toe-tapper. Seeking love is a never-ending quest and is that which unites us all in our common existence. But AGBW make a tough scenario sound easy with this song, which has a HUGE, Queen-like coda.

8. ‘There Is an Answer’
‘There Is an Answer’ is the most fun.-like song on the album and it builds and escalates into a real rock jam. It does remind us a bit of big, soft rock bands like Fleetwood Mac in how the song grows. It’s also one of the most layered tracks on an album that does have several spare tunes.

9. ‘I Don’t Wanna Love Somebody Else’
With a gentle acoustic melody serving as the bed for the vocals, this one stings the heart and strikes a nerve. Heartache sucks. This song lets you know you are not alone, which is always the best thing about music.

10. ‘This Is the New Year’
Here is another piano-driven song with lots of mood and texture and about being there for the one you love when they can’t be there for themselves. It boasts the most tension and release on the record.

11. ‘Shorty Don’t Wait’
AGBW infuse this love song with a little twang and the result is a folky number about not letting life pass you by. It’s got a sing-along vibe, and we could see it being passed down and updated through generations.

12. ‘Cheer Up!’
The lyrics to ‘Cheer Up’ look at life on a molecular level, but the music is young and sprightly.

13. ‘Say Something’ Feat. Christina Aguilera
What else can be said about this utterly dominant song about the pain of letting go and not saying anything when you probably should? There’s no greater pain than walking away from someone you love. While Xtina is a powerhouse, she doesn’t overtake or overwhelm her cohorts; there is a balance of voices and an authentic agony here.

Next: 10 Things You Didn't Know About A Great Big World

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