Following 2018's Step 1: Infections of a Different Kind by less than a year, Step 2: A Different Kind of Human finds Norwegian singer/fantasist Aurora Aksnes still investigating humanity through a wide-angle lens. Ecological as well as social themes permeate the record, as does her impulse to reach out to the alienated. These ideas are all represented, either literally or symbolically, on "Dance on the Moon." It stars the distinctively pixie-voiced AURORA as an angel. After opening with spare piano, shimmering background atmosphere, and the singer's dreams for a better future ("I hope love will come to us again"), it evolves into a spacy, soaring dance-pop with tight, layered vocal harmonies and a scat-like countermelody. Like much of the record, it's lush, warm, and welcoming, despite the presence of icy timbres, including frequent vocal processing. This is also true of the encouraging, more reflective "Daydreamer" ("I know I'm just a girl/but can I change lives?....I think I can"). AURORA's albums have been both empathic and fanciful from the beginning, but here, via a rousing melody on shimmering, percussive choruses, she issues a call to action: "We become nighttime dreamers, street walkers, small talkers/When we should be daydreamers, and moon walkers, and dream talkers." A few of the album's darker entries are also urgent; the austere "The Seed" warns "You cannot eat money, oh no," and the heavily stylized "Apple Tree" and "Hunger" incorporate hip-hop and Eastern music influences on cautionary, if rhythmically animated tracks. A Different Kind of Human is most compelling when AURORA's vocal performances are allowed room to breathe, as on the captivating title song. While processed vocal harmonies are among the track's otherworldly sounds, the main vocal line is largely exposed and undistorted, a juxtaposition that becomes more profound alongside lyrics like "We have come here for you/And we're coming in peace....This world you live in is not a place for someone like you/Come on let us take you home." While uneven, it's an album that sticks, both for its theatrical melodies and uncommon benevolence.
Step 2: A Different Kind of Human Review
by Marcy Donelson