On April 20, 2018, the music community and its listeners grieved together over the suicide of Swedish music producer and DJ Tim Bergling, popularly known by his stage name, Avicii. Yesterday, the Bergling estate released the artist’s third studio album, uncannily titled “TIM.” With 12 tracks handpicked by producers who worked alongside the young musician, the record offers a glimpse into what may have been going on in the mind of Avicii in the months leading up to his death. “TIM” is haunting, masterfully assembled and completely Tim.
The album opens with “Peace of Mind,” featuring Vargas & Lagola. Musically, the song is peak Avicii but subdued. Built on a combination of acoustic guitars, sweeping synthesizer lines and Avicii’s classic ’80s-style layered vocals, “Peace of Mind” takes the normal dance-pop feel of previous tracks such as “Levels” and brings it down to a mid-level volume. And as it turns out, that altered sound is a perfect accompaniment to the song’s lyrical content.
Singing, “Dear Society / you are moving way too fast / way too fast for me” and “Do you need a relief / Do you need a release / Do you want to be free,” Avicii uses dance-pop to make a powerful statement about the speed of technological development in modern society that’s creating a world entirely dependent on electronics and entirely devoid of real human interaction. “Can I get a little peace of mind,” he sings, a fervent cry for a break from the ever-present technological ambush.
“SOS” holds the third slot on the record, and it’s a triumphant return to the sound fans of the Swedish artist know and love — a sound that begs to be the soundtrack to late nights spent dancing on a beach. Opening on a repeating ostinato of chords voiced on plucked strings, the vocals of featured artist Aloe Blacc quickly layer on top — along with a few eclectic sounds that fit perfectly within the groove — to build a soundscape one can’t help but move to. Blacc sings, “I can feel your touch / picking me up from underground / I don’t need my drugs / We can be more than just part-time lovers:” it’s a classic Avicii-style love story.
A good record has a blend of highs and lows, and Avicii stays with tradition, offering “Ain’t a Thing” as one of the tracks to fill in the low end. The song begins with a soft pattern played on piano — more rhythmic than melodic in its utility — that’s quickly joined by the unaltered and unlayered vocals of guest artist, Bonn, and a quiet snare played in a traditional marching band rhythmic style. As the song progresses through the first verse and pre-chorus, the musical underpinning builds alongside Bonn’s vocals, both crescendoing into one of Avicii’s most innovative beats to date. Bass, synthesizer and drums all become one to create a groove with a loose swing not often found in modern pop music. With interjectory vocals from Bonn placed every few bars, the chorus of “Ain’t a Thing” is strongly reminiscent of the work of American hip-hop artist Jon Bellion. Although it’s a quieter song than others, “Ain’t a Thing” still finds a way to be another song to add to one’s “fun to dance to” playlist.
One of the album’s more haunting numbers comes in at No. 8 on the tracklist, titled “Freak.” Built around a sample of whistling taken from Kyu Sakamoto’s 1961 song, “Sukiyaki,” “Freak” doesn’t musically depart too greatly from the rest of the record, but the lyrics offer a much more interesting picture to examine.
The song opens with, “I don’t want to be seen in this shape I’m in / I don’t want you to see how depressed I’ve been.” Later, the song continues, “And I told you I’d be different / And I told you I was wild / … / Maybe you’re the freak.” If the lyrics are to be interpreted at face-value, “Freak” gives listeners an idea of how Avicii may have viewed himself in the time leading up to his suicide — too messed up, too different to be accepted for who he was. While the song is undeniably easy to jam to, listeners can’t help but feel a responsibility to consider the very real lines that offer statements like “I don’t want you to see the scars within.”
Suicide often leaves behind more questions than answers for loved ones and fans to try to piece together. In partial answer, “TIM” is a remarkably well-assembled collection of music that provides those left with questions a look into the life of Tim Bergling leading up to his death. From classic bops like “Heaven” and “SOS” to more experimental tracks like “Tough Love” and “Excuse Me Mr Sir,” the record is a compilation of songs that’ll find themselves on many summer playlists.
But above all else, “TIM” is a story about Tim.
Contact Jake Conley at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.