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In retrospect, the subtle marketing campaign of Clean Bandit's New Eyes was brilliant. By announcing themselves as a "classical-electronic" hybrid group, they attracted music snobs all over the web ready to tear into how stupid such a hybrid would be, all of whom would listen to the first three or four songs before going off on their Tumblrs about how the band represented the death of music. After questionable album opener 'Mozart's House', the about-to-be detractors would be feeling pretty smug.

And then 'Extraordinary' would hit. And it would hit hard.
 Because despite all their schlocky early-classical string interludes, Clean Bandit know how to write a damn good pop song, and 'Extraordinary' is a perfect example of their prowess. It's immediately memorable, its piano chords and vocals are superbly simple, and the transition to absolutely euphoric chorus is stunning. The pop violins and anthemic, ravey piano set the song apart from its inefficiently maximalist peers: here is a song which uses every element efficiently to form something wonderful.

The issue here is that New Eyes is a hit-or-miss affair. The band alternates between genius songwriting and irrefutably kitschy drivel. It's tough to reconcile the cryptically vapid 'Telephone Banking' with the incredibly fun 'Come Over'. The album is wildly inconsistent, and its lows (like the cringe-worthy Mozart string quartet inclusion on 'Mozart's House') are almost painful.

However, its highs shoot to the stars. I can't overemphasize just how good potential song-of-the-year 'Rather Be' is - it's jaw-droppingly brilliant. The unforgettable violin hook at the beginning paves the way for one of the best choruses of the year, even better than 'Extraordinary'. The song is simply amazing, and represents how well Clean Bandit can do when they're on point.

Which is why it's so frustrating that the album as a whole is so forgettable. Half the songs sound like outtakes from the release New Eyes could have been, and the other half are some of the best pop songs of the year. The band's stubborn adherence to the idea of their classical roots seriously hinders some of the worst tracks here, but when they use their strings as a sultry addition to a ravey piano-led section (a la 'Dust Clears') they succeed immensely. While there are hours of discussions to be had about whether "electronic/classical" hybrids can consistently sound good in a pop context, New Eyes provides ample evidence for erring on the electronic side of that split.

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