Even though Walker & Royce have been putting out tracks since 2011, it wasn’t until this summer that they really started turning heads. “Take Me To Your Leader” was a smash hit; nearly every house DJ was dropping it in their sets. Not only that, but Walker & Royce managed to produce a house tune that was extremely accessible. You didn’t even need to like or listen to house music to groove to it, even non-house fans loved it.
“Take Me To Your Leader” was a great track to grab everyone’s attention. Just a month later, the duo released another monster, “Rub Anotha Dub,” with the legendary Green Velvet, which was the perfect follow up. It was here that it was revealed that these two tracks were in fact part of a full length album titled Self Help via Dirtybird.
In an electronic world full of EP releases, it’s very rare to see any house DJs/producers releasing actual albums. It’s clear Claude VonStroke saw something very special in them, and pushed them to produce more and more. The result, which I was able to experience firsthand at Dirtybird Campout, was pure gold. If I’m remembering correctly, Walker & Royce premiered nearly every track off of Self Help during this set (besides the two singles), and minds were blown. It was very clear that they had a breakthrough in their production. Nearly all the tunes featured their (now) signature, heavily distorted bass lines. Without having anything to compare the sound to, I just started calling it “fuzzy” bass.
The first track off Self Help, “Sunday,” is a clear step outside Walker & Royce’s comfort zone. Most of their prior tracks are straight-to-the-point house music. “Sunday” begins with a hip-hop inspired beat, but shifts into a glossy, emotional track within seconds. If this track signifies anything, it’s that this album is going to be nothing like the Walker & Royce you knew before. It’s a perfect lead into the next track, “Role Models” featuring OnCue. This track is, once again, an even further step outside their comfort zone. This time, the Brooklyn duo create their most radio-friendly tune to date, while still utilizing their “fuzzy” bass lines. Hopefully you can sing and dance at the same time, because “Role Models” will be having you do just that. OnCue’s vocals sound a little bit cheesy, but for some reason it just fits so well that I wouldn’t change it in any way.
Now we start getting into the heavy stuff. The third track, “Best Track Ever,” is already a fan favorite. Showing their unending versatility, Walker & Royce start the track off with a ridiculously spicy acid-house drop that may even throw you off balance. The track trucks forward with the acid synths until it stops dead in its tracks and explodes with another filthy, distorted bass line that will twist your face up every which way. “Best music, ever” the vocals boast before throwing you into this wild ride of a tune. Try and hold on.
Track No. 4 is probably my current favorite off Self Help. Young Australian vocalist Sophiegrophy shines on this insanely catchy cut. I can tell you with certainty that this tune went OFF at Dirtybird Campout. This was the first time anyone was hearing it and the amount of dust that was being kicked up due to uncontrollable dancing made it seem like a tornado was tearing through the crowd. Here, Walker & Royce show us that sometimes, simplicity is key. The track is spearheaded by Sophiegrophy’s vocals, but fueled by W&R’s fat 808s and left-field synth stabs. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without a buildup that leads into a burst of distorted bass that slaps you in the face near the end of the tune.
It’s at this point in the album, when “Take Me To Your Leader” comes in, where you may be asking yourself, “Holy shit, is every song going to be this good?” Yes. Every song. Go get a glass of water because we’re only halfway done with this sucker.
“Why Tho” follows, and it contains all my favorite elements to a track. Hypnotizing melodies, heavy 808s, with an eventual drop into some more “fuzzy” bass. The track was good enough to be picked up for a premiere over at Complex. Don’t even think about skipping this one.
Dances With White Girls returns for his second appearance on Self Help, providing his wonky vocals to “Love & Marriage.” It’s one thing to hear him take control of a track, but it’s another to see him dancing around on stage, goofing around, and singing live with all the other Dirtybird artists getting down with him. This was the exact scene at Campout and I won’t forget how much fun it was. I sincerely hope Walker & Royce continue to work with Dances With White Girls in the future, because they make a perfect team.
Up next is the highly coveted track “Warkin It.” This track, I believe, was first played out by Claude VonStroke during the first night of Dirtybird Campout and it definitely got people talking. “What is this shit?!” I heard people yelling as they jumped around wildly. It wasn’t until the next night that it was confirmed that this was indeed a Walker & Royce track. This track is a distorted, “fuzzy” bass overload. The repetitive vocal cut echos over and over while the bass in the background swells up and up until it reaches its tipping point. I probably should have stated this earlier, but you’re really going to need a good sound system to truly appreciate the complexity of Walker & Royce’s new sound. It sounded unbelievable live, but best believe it won’t sound the same on some simple earbuds.
You’d think at some point there would be an interlude on this album, you know, so you could catch your breath. Nope. “Warkin It” leads directly into another banger, “Can You Pass That” featuring JPatt. My favorite part about this track is the pace. It takes about two full minutes to get into the real meat of it. Once JPatt’s vocals come in, you think you’re about to be sent into another long, epic build up. But instead, you’re shoved right into a wave of bass. JPatt’s vocals are perhaps the catchiest on Self Help. The track progresses even further with distortion so heavy you think you’d find it in a dubstep tune. One thing you will never get with a Walker & Royce track is a copied and pasted drop. At no point in this album does a certain part of a track repeat itself. Maybe that’s why everything feels so fresh. House music is naturally repetitive, but it doesn’t feel that way at all, here.
Walker & Royce have stated that Green Velvet is one of their idols, and that “Rub Anotha Dub” took the longest to complete. They wanted it perfect since they were working with someone they look up to so much. Well they got it pretty damn perfect. Green Velvet must also agree, because he’s let them remix one of his all-time famous tracks “La La Land,” which is coming out late December.
Even though the album is 11 tracks deep, each track is nearly 6-7 minutes long. If you’ve listened all the way through with me here, you’ve been rocking out to house bangers for an hour straight. “Need Ya,” featuring vocalist Forrest, is still a pretty high-energy song, but compared to the rest of the album, it’s more of a mellow tune. This definitely feels like a come-down track, but still features all the elements that made Self Help so great.
I’m not sure where or when it happened, but Walker & Royce had a production revelation at some point during 2017. It first appeared six months ago on their remix of Justin Martin’s “The Feels,” and then again on their guest appearance on Billy Kenny’s “The Lonely Robot.” Their sound design was simply taken to the next level. Claude VonStroke gets a little credit for pushing Walker & Royce to produce more and get this sound out there, because I truly think it’s game changing.
It’s rare to see house DJs/producers putting out a full length album. It’s also rare for every single song on a full length album to be SO good. Somehow both of these things are true in the case of Walker & Royce’s Self Help. It’s been a while since I was this blown away by an album. I consider myself crazy lucky that I was able to experience the whole thing live, and I insist that you catch W&R on their Self Help tour.
Walker & Royce – Self Help: 10/10