thu 29/06/2017

CD: How To Dress Well - 'What Is This Heart?' | reviews, news & interviews

CD: How To Dress Well - 'What Is This Heart?'

CD: How To Dress Well - 'What Is This Heart?'

Third album of cryptic, brooding R&B from US songwriter Tom Krell

These days it’s just as easy to compose bedroom musical diary entries using a few loops and samples
Up close and personal: How To Dress Well has his heart on his sleeve

It seems a little ambitious to be thinking of those omnipresent end-of-year album best-of lists when it is barely summer, but there’s something about How To Dress Well’s “What Is This Heart?” that puts me in that frame of mind. Not because I can see it topping any such list of my own but rather because I can see this album - this sumptuous, melodic, intricate, claustrophobic third full-length from the electro-R&B project of one Tom Krell - topping everybody else’s. It’s another way in which Krell’s music is similar to that of Frank Ocean, whose similarly falsetto-laden work of laudable emotional honestly left me similarly unmoved in 2012.

When you’re used to having confessional songwriting delivered up close, stripped back of all but an acoustic guitar and the whites of the songwriter’s eyes, it can be hard to see past that, to remember that these days it’s just as easy to compose bedroom musical diary entries using a few loops and samples (including, on album stand-out “Precious Love”, the same hold music I hear dialling between offices at the day job). Well, Krell broods just as effectively as any guy-with-guitar on the front of his new album, and “2 Years On (Shame Dream)” opens the album just as delicately. It’s a cryptic kind of honesty, full of painful sentiments and familial heartbreak drifting out on the down-beats, but it’s an effective and memorable album opener.

“What You Wanted” begins with that same sparseness until the sensual beat and layered vocals really get going about a minute in. In the short moments when he doesn’t sound as if he is made of glass there are shades of Prince to Krell’s voice, as well as the odd track like “Very Best Friend” on which he goes too far the other way and produces some generic sleaze ’n’ b. With a little reverb, an uplifting melody and that sample “Precious Love” gets the balance right, while the album’s epic closing track takes the composition out of the bedroom and into the arena.

Overleaf: hear "Words I Don't Remember" by How To Dress Well


Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters