3/5 stars

With “Lift Your Spirit” as its title, Aloe Blacc’s new album could not be clearer about its intentions. The soul and rhythm and blues singer returns with his third studio album, but most mainstream listeners will recognize Blacc from Avicii’s hit “Wake Me Up,” for which Blacc provided vocals. Never quite managing to become the uplifting record it intends to be, “Lift Your Spirit”too often takes the easy route in sounding inspirational, but Blacc’s velvety smooth voice and old-fashioned flair almost make up for the album’s flaws.

The album opens with its strongest track, “The Man,” which has already made some waves in the United States. With a subtle nod to Elton John’s “Your Song,” Blacc sings with pride about his determination and success. Sure, he brags through the song, but he does it in a way that makes the listener feel like a part of the victory. “The Man” lays the groundwork for a set of feel-good tracks, but few other songs truly live up to its promise.

Of the issues that plague “Lift Your Spirit,” banality is the most frequent offender. At times it feels like Blacc has the recipe for great music but only uses expired ingredients. On “Love Is the Answer,” Blacc praises the power and truth of love to the melodies of jazz. He presents these ideas as unique, when, in fact, everyone from The Beatles to Celine Dion has sufficiently covered this territory. “Here Today” also suffers from a dependence on material that has worn thin. Encouraging people to “live for today,” Blacc stretches the pretty exhausted message of YOLO to four minutes. Despite their instrumental and vocal achievements, these songs fail to make an impression.

However, halfway through the album, Blacc begins to have some fun. “Can You Do This,” a faster track, has the bright sound of Bruno Mars, but it retains enough of Blacc’s style to distinguish itself. And “Chasing,” with its robust horns and catchy hook, could have been pulled out of an R&B time capsule locked away since the 1950s. These two songs don’t aim to change people’s perspective on life or love, but they are simple, upbeat and far more successful.

The music doesn’t remain carefree, but fortunately, a few songs manage to find the real depth it seems Blacc has been striving for through most of the album. The two final songs, “Red Velvet Seat” and “Owe It All,” express earnest devotion to loved ones. “Velvet Seat” includes Blacc’s most impressive vocal performance and strikes a great balance between classic soul and contemporary pop. “Owe It All,” Blacc’s tribute to his deceased mother, is honest and heartfelt, and serves as a great ending to the album.

  • Also included on Lift Your Spirit is an acoustic version of “Wake Me Up,” which loses some of the spark of the original. Its country sound feels overwrought and out of place on the record, and a more stripped-down version might have been more effective. After the immense popularity of Avicii’s original, Blacc set himself a real challenge by trying to gain success with an acoustic record, and unfortunately, he doesn’t quite make it work.

A compilation of hits and misses, “Lift Your Spirit”is, at best, triumphant and, at worst, forgettable. Blacc’s voice is a powerful tool, yet weak lyrics cast a shadow over his talent and intriguing musical ideas. By the end of the album, Aloe Blacc never quite lifts your spirit, but he comes frustratingly close.

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