Rolling Stone - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "Balancing old and new-school soul with Bruno Mars panache, this Danish singer's debut is a fine argument for pop optimism."
Recording information: Band House Studios; Beachwood Garden Studio; Blakeslee Studio; Frostbox; Mansion Studio; Medley Studio; Vibe Factory.
Lukas Graham -- the funky Danish band named after its charismatic frontman -- released their sophomore self-titled album in their home country in 2015. It went on to become a hit, spending nearly 20 weeks atop the Danish album charts and spawning the international hit, "7 Years." In 2016, Lukas Graham released that breakthrough -- nicknamed the Blue Album -- in the United States, just as "7 Years" climbed toward the top of the Billboard charts. Packed with jovial doses of soulful pop/rock that recalled the catchiest of Ed Sheeran and Maroon 5, Lukas Graham also sprinkled in Ronson-esque throwback flourishes atop the classic songcraft of Billy Joel. The album's popularity derives in part to its relatability and its frontman's passion and charm. Graham's lyrics are reflective and straightforward. He's a storyteller, providing accessible snapshots of his life embellished with upbeat and soulful backing by the band, whether it's lighthearted fare like falling for a stripper on "Strip No More" or the cautionary bro-tale "Hayo." One of his best narratives, the aforementioned "7 Years," channels Graham's grief after the passing of his father in 2012 -- the same year the group began its ascent on the back of its eponymous debut -- wringing a lifetime of lessons out of four wistful minutes. His parents loom large over other tracks, like the "Hard Knock Life" ode to his Christiania upbringing on "Mama Said" and the evocative "Happy Home." Although the most emotional songs could inspire tears, they somehow provide solace and end up feeling uplifting: even on the raise-your-pint closing track, "Funeral," they manage to transform a typically somber event into a cause for celebration. "Everyone I know better be wasted...Cause the way I lived, it was amazing." The unpretentious nature of the music and Graham's laid-back attitude give each song an everyman quality, presented by a youthful, wide-eyed raconteur who has just enough life experience to speak to a wide audience. On Lukas Graham, listeners are invited to party with Graham and his boys, knocking back a few drinks, talking about life, and hugging it all out with a smile. ~ Neil Z. Yeung