This is definitely not art music but mindless music for the masses.
As a producer, Calvin Harris' identity lies in high pitched, shiny and glossy synth which permeates most of the work, creating an accessible pop sound with electronic trademarks. And while this may make for some nice happy music for the musically oblivious, there is a serious lack of detail in the production for a connoisseur. Beats are loud but dull, and lacking any proper variety, any the shiny sound means that the range of emotion on the songs as a whole remains limited.
Take for example the instruments utilized on 'Feel So Close', the electric guitar and piano. Instead of expressing the polyphonic tones each instruments are capable of, the sound is compressed even when listen to in lossless quality, creating a dull cold sound, which sounds even worse in contrast to the high-pitched synth, which cannot be described as organic either. There is a advantage to this, in that the sound is hardly amiss when compressed into mp3 for iPhones all over the world, but that merely reiterates that this music is for the masses.
The roping in of famous singers seems more to be more of a marketing ploy than any serious consideration of the artiste contributing vocals to it. The monster hit 'We Found Love' with Rihanna is a definite mismatch that can only be consumed by the many die-hard fans of the songstress. Nicky Romero's smooth vocals works well into the light-hearted nature of 'Iron', and Keli brings the first proper song 'Bounce' to life with her slick vocals. Ellie Goulding also creates a childlike innocence which works well with the bright synth on 'I Need Your Love', but elsewhere, the vocalists don't even try to fill their electronic templates intelligently.
Thematically, and lyrically, the album is just boring, cliche and downright shallow. What were you expecting? Songs are hardly discernible from each other with the same chord progression used for all the synth touches thoughout the album. It is not that I hate the genre, but with so many synth pop artistes creating melodic, memorable releases this year (Hot Chip, Beach House, Passion Pit, etc.), there is plenty of reason to forget this.
★★☆☆☆ Passable - One or two good songs, a bit of flow