With possibly their best album in their 20-year career, Icelandic electronic band GusGus have a tall order trying to top Arabian Horse. It had the most cohesive whole of any of their albums, their most internationally viable soundscape, several great singles (“Over”, “Deep Inside”, “When Your Lover’s Gone” and “Arabian Horse” standing out in that regard) and the addition of singer Hogni Egilsson’s silky voice.
While not entirely successful in that bid, the club-friendly Mexico comes very close at times.
It starts off with a quintessential GusGus song in “Obnoxiously Sexual”, featuring relatively simple lyrics, their signature synth sound and Hogni’s lathering of sexiness on top. “Another Life”, with Urdur’s vocals, strings and hi-hats aplenty, and “Sustain”, featuring Daniel Agust’s wonderfully pure voice filling out an autobahn-like rhythm and ethereal chorus are straighter affairs but perfectly serviceable for the high standard GusGus has set itself.
In fact, GusGus’ strongest feature has always been the immaculate choice of singers. Befitting their dance-friendly but borderline minimal house sound, Daniel Agust, Urdur and Hogni are all pure singers, each bringing their own clear, emotional touch to the music.
And with “Crossfade” that is clearer than anywhere else on the album. A thumping dance tune is imbued with emotion by the combined force of Daniel and Hogni. This song is ripe for an Ibiza-ready remix, Radio 1Xtra playlisting and a Sunday morning pick-me-up all at the same time, and is way too short at five and a half minutes.
“Airwaves” is more atmospheric, but gradually and patiently builds up to a stadium-sized crescendo, with lyrics that seem to be part introverted musings, part ode to the music festival GusGus is almost synonymous with, Iceland Airwaves.
In fact, after the first part of Mexico has concluded, it struggles a bit to keep momentum, especially after the high points of “Crossfade” and “Airwaves.” “God Application” is perhaps the least stereotypical GusGus song, which lends it its own identity, with a blend of a contemporary pop sound and a decidedly old-fashioned T-World-style rhythm mixed with dramatic strings. “Not The First Time” is the album’s least noteworthy sound, while the instrumental “Mexico” will probably find its way into a movie soundtrack or two on the strength of its bassline alone. The finale is the somewhat abrupt “This Is What You Get When You Mess With Love.”
Mexico is a very, very good dance album, peaking around the middle with chart- and festival-worthy bangers. It’s more direct in its intentions than Arabian Horse and a little less filling. Still a must-listen for any dance and EDM fans.