Her critically acclaimed debut album, 2016’s ‘All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend’, scored more than 200 million streams and 500,000 sales and was championed by the likes of Troye Sivan and Katy Perry. She was the only guest vocalist on The Chemical Brothers’ ‘No Geography’. And she even apparently inspired Billie Eilish to make to music. Yet 22-year-old wunderkind Aurora is still largely known as “her that covered Oasis for that John Lewis Christmas advert”.
While she’s always had the knack for an anthem, she may have always been a little too quirky for the pop charts. With the follow-up to last year’s mini-album ‘Infections Of A Different Kind (Step 1)’, ‘Step 2’ finds the Norwegian singer wandering even further down her own path – but with a little more fire and focus.
The record re-explores the bold political edge and call for empowerment that she first aired on ‘Step 1’. Opener ‘The River’ is a festival-ready electro-pop banger, and a Trojan Horse calling for people to be more open with their emotions, rather than fearing the stigma of vulnerability. ‘Animal is an arena anthem, too – one that asks the listener to lose themselves to instinct. There’s more of a widescreen and cinematic scope to the thunderous drums and soaring vocals of ‘The Seed’, as Aurora warns that “you cannot eat money – oh no” in a cry for us to focus more on love, nature and the bare necessities.
There are plenty of left-turns, and they pay off. ‘Apple Tree’ satisfies with its infectious hip-hop-flecked verses, ‘In Bottles’ floats gracefully between skittering beats and brooding choral sounds, and the subtle but playful tropical EDM of ‘Hunger’ best encapsulates the album’s bittersweet balance between the lightness of sound and the darkness beneath: “I’ve been bored for some time, and I’ve got death on my mind – come and follow me away from the nightlife”.
Aurora’s idiosyncrasies – which mostly set this album apart – sometimes also weigh it down. The elastic vocal abandon of “Oh-aye-oh-ah-ah” on ‘Dance On The Moon’ grows a little tiresome and ‘Soulless Creatures’ seems to only add to the ghostly mood of the album, rather than give it any more value. Still, the album shines with crisp production, a dynamic of extremes and Aurora’s unflinchingly confident performance and message.
With a high slot on the John Peel Stage at Glastonbury 2019 and an upcoming tour that takes in Manchester’s Albert Hall and The Roundhouse in London, it seems that her success is blossoming to match the ambition of her sound and vision. Either way, ‘A Different Kind Of Human’ is already a triumph.