Audio Mixer: Mark "Spike" Stent.
Photographer: Elliot Lee Hazel.
Mikky Ekko has always been an eclectic artist, blending pop, folk, R&B, and hip-hop influences with a dramatic, romantic flair. However, his breakthrough single, the Grammy-nominated Rihanna duet "Stay," set expectations for and perceptions about his music that he clarifies on his debut album, Time. As on the collaborations with David Guetta and Chris Malinchak that arrived before the album, Ekko spends a fair amount of Time expanding his sound and downplaying anything that comes too close to "Stay"'s piano balladry: the album begins with the fizzy single "Smile" and doesn't delve into slower, moodier territory until its second half with brooding tracks like "Mourning Doves" and "Comatose." In between, Ekko works with a who's who of producers from many styles of music, including TV on the Radio's David Sitek, pop hitmakers Benny Blanco, Stargate, and Ryan Tedder, and left-field hip-hop sound-shaper Clams Casino. The title track nods to folk-rock's popularity with its brisk acoustic guitars and strings; "Riot" feels like a kissing cousin to OneRepublic's anthemic sound; and "Love You Crazy" and "U" deliver slightly different variations on lush, slick R&B-tinged pop. While Time's second half isn't quite as hooky, songs like "Burning Doves" and "Loner" are standouts that give Ekko a signature sound. ~ Heather Phares