Unless you were living in a cave throughout 2012, you've probably heard "Harlem Shake," but you may not be aware of its maker, Baauer, and if you ask him, that isn't the worst thing in the world.
Like any artist who's trying to outrun their most popular work, Baauer comes out swinging on Aa, but not really in the ways you might expect. There's nothing necessarily out of place here — it all sounds as big and polished as it's supposed to — but Aa has as many trap doors as it does dance floors.
Take "Temple," featuring M.I.A., for example. Aside from being one of the only tracks could have Baauer sitting on either side of the "ft." (were it not for his slick, identifiable production), it sort of disintegrates into a pool of ambience just when you might expect a final thrust. The title track, too, is surprising: Just when you think it's going to explode, it ends up turning off the road into a swampy glade, to leave you with reptilian chirps instead of the massive drop that was definitely promised at the start of the track.
This is a good thing; Aa constantly keeps you on your toes. Sandwiched in between the pop-tinged glory of "Body" and the guttural rumblings of "Sow," Baauer drops "Pinku," a track that has the characteristic metallic veneer of an '80s montage, like you've just arrived in Tokyo with a suitcase full of small arms.
All this is not say that Aa is without its bangers. Make it past the subsonic soup of second track "GoGo!" without pressing repeat and we'd be impressed, and as if you couldn't guess from the title, "Make it Bang," featuring TT the Artist, is about as club-worthy as it gets. Then, of course, there's "Kung Fu," featuring Pusha T and Future, a track that's just as good as it hypothetically sounds. Future — who can pretty much say whatever he wants in that trademark croon of his — mostly just repeats the words "Whip it up," while Pusha provides the lyrical meat and Baauer adds a layer of synthesized warmth.
If there's one thing that Aa demonstrates in spades, it's growth. The record not only shows a wide array of styles, but lays a solid foundation for Baauer to build on in the future. Considering the sheer quality of Aa, it might seem strange to say, but it wouldn't be all that surprising if Baauer tops it with his next release. (Lucky Me)