OneRepublic - Waking Up

OneRepublic would rather not associate themselves with this scene. There was always a Brit-indie aesthetic to them, a melancholic minor chord lilt ("Say (All I Need)" off their debut album Dreaming Out Loud), a Coldplay-esque acoustic thrust ("Stop and Stare") even as they were looking to appeal to younger, more urban audiences with their collaboration with Timbaland on "Apologize", undoubtedly their biggest hit. There's just no pigeon-holing them. They even have a cello player in the band, for heaven's sake.

Waking Up presents OneRepublic (yes, it's really spelt as one word) with all those "sophomore album pressures": are they taking a new direction, or is it just more of the same? It's a safe bet that the songwriting is their strongest asset, with Ryan Tedder – lead singer and songwriter to the stars (Beyonce, Leona Lewis, Rihanna, Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Lopez) – at the creative helm. Lead single "All the Right Moves" is a propulsive, break beat-heavy anthem that opens with an organ and rocks a pretty massive chorus. It might be reminiscent of "Apologize", but sounds so much bigger, bolder. Those studio knobs must've been turned to 10-and-a-half, at least.

Touring the world for the past year has also given them more of an edge, and their time spent in South Africa has proved fruitful too. "Everybody Loves Me" found its genesis at MasterMax Studios in Johannesburg, while the beautifully serene "Fear" was partly recorded in Table Bay, Cape Town. Seems they take that "international band" tag rather seriously.

As assured as they sound here, the schizophrenia of Waking Up can start to wear thin. "Good Life" is one of those light, toothless tracks Tedder could've saved for Justin Bieber (the whistling! The whistling!), and by the time the title track comes around, they're a rock band again, channelling Foo Fighters power chords before attempting Sigur Ros-style dreamscapes on the lovely "Lullaby". It's the kind of ambition and vision most American rock bands wouldn't even dare, but then again, OneRepublic are no such thing.