The Avalanches (feat. Sonny Cheeba) – “Because I’m Me”

16 years.

16 doggone years we had to wait for the The Avalanches put out a second album.

When I first heard Since I Left You in early 2001 I had just started high school and was living in Canada. When Wildflower dropped in the summer of 2016 I was an adult, several years into my career, living in a different country. Basically, half my life passed. Time never stops.

So yeah. The Australian electronic collective had a difficult time following up their debut, one of the greatest albums of the 2000s. I don’t blame them, as Since I Left You is a hard act to follow, a beautiful collage of thousands of samples and grooves lifted from obscure records and media transformed into a wondrous album that felt like a kaleidoscopic world tour. After wrapping up touring around 2003, the group took their time trying to find the vibe for the second album, bouncing from a hip-hop influenced record to “ambient world music” one around 2005 and so on. Over the next few years the group went through their ups and downs, creating and discarding music, scoring films, having members leave to focus on family and health issues, and trying to get an animated movie off the ground that ended up going nowhere.

The band got more serious in making music around 2012, bringing in artists like Danny Brown, Camp Lo, Ariel Pink, and others to contribute vocals, and Wildflower took shape. Down to two of the original six members, the group worked on fine-tuning the album right up to release on July 1, 2016.

Now, is Wildflower a good album? Yes! As good as Since I Left You? No…but it’s still very good. In contrast to Since I Left You‘s frenzied breaks and endless party atmosphere, Wildflower feels like some early ’70s AM gold, full of rose-tinted nostalgia and easygoing afternoon vibes. It’s a fun album, but a different kind of fun compared to its predecessor. Wildflower also puts greater emphasis on guests, with several singers and rappers (some even sampled on the first album!) in the mix, making the songs feel more self-contained and structured versus the first album’s wild mashups. While the debut is a ruckus, this one is the next day’s comedown.

“Because I’m Me” is the first song on the album, and a fantastic opener that channels some of the pure jubilation of “Since I Left You.” Based around a chopped up vocal sample of a New York City street kid from the 1950s, the band goes off, with incredible big band flourishes and a positively psychedelic melody. Sonny Cheeba, one half of Camp Lo hops in, having fun with it and bringing the Black Caesar vibes he’s known for. It’s rambunctious as all get out, and this video is pretty fun too.

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