Showing posts with label how to dress well. Show all posts
Showing posts with label how to dress well. Show all posts

Sunday, October 28, 2018

video review: 'the anteroom' by how to dress well

Yeah, have to be honest, I don't exactly expect this to go over that well... but hey, I got Resonators and Robyn on the horizon, so stay tuned for something better soon!

album review: 'the anteroom' by how to dress well

So I wasn't expecting this. 

And if you've been following Tom Krell's career arc as How To Dress Well the past few years, I think that's a reasonable statement to make, as he's gradually taken steps away from the misty, melancholic alternative R&B sound to something more pop-friendly, culminating in 2016 with Care, an album that did not totally stick the landing but did provide me with 'Salt Song', one of the most infectious and gripping indie pop songs of the decade - if there was something that should have gotten a single push, it was this! But with that being said, pop was not a natural fit for Tom Krell, so if he was going to stay in that lane, I expected some careful tuning and refinement for the next project - hell, it'd probably be more lucrative in the long term, right?

What I didn't expect was this, the sort of genre pivot that flew not only in the opposite direction but also past his alternative R&B roots to something quite different, what he's described as 'an ambient dance record where the energy never goes above three out of ten'... which could work, I guess? It's hard to tell, it might fit closer into Tom Krell's comfort zone but it also seems like the sort of experiment that could misfire if he wasn't careful. So alright, fine, what did we get out of The Anteroom?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

the top 50 best songs of 2016

I've gone on record that this list in particular is always the hardest to make. Refining a list of songs that I've covered on albums I've reviewed over the course of the year - which numbers in the thousands of songs - down to a select six hundred or so, then down to a subset of just under 200... and then the final fifty. Suffice to say, there's always a lot to cover.

But I have to say, this year felt easier than others. I'd say part of it is that I'm getting a better handle on my organization going into these lists, but that would assume I've got some inkling of what I'm doing here. I think the larger factor is that the truly amazing songs that monopolized my year - the top 35 or so - they fell into place remarkably quickly, and that made ironing out the details easier than I expected. Maybe it was because it was easier for me to get passionate about some of these tracks than before, because if you ventured away from the mainstream Hot 100, there was a lot of great music in 2016. Away from the charts there was great metal, rock, synthpop, hip-hop, and especially country, which had one of its best years in recent memory, and fair warning, there's going to be a lot of it on this list.

As always, the songs had to appear on any one of the albums I reviewed - singles or deep cuts, all are possible, so no more wasting time, we have a lot to get through! So let's start off crazy with...

Saturday, October 1, 2016

video review: 'care' by how to dress well

As I said at the end of the review, I think I had more fun writing this review than actually listening through the album (though I still hold 'Salt Song') as fantastic, but given the shitstorm I've received over the past few hours... good thing to hold onto, why I put up with all of it.

Now before I get into the overloaded mess of upcoming records dropped yesterday, I've got two more I want to knock off my list that are priorities... stay tuned!

Friday, September 30, 2016

album review: 'care' by how to dress well

Let's briefly flashback to 2014. It's near the beginning of the summer, I'm listening through the new How To Dress Well album, the PBR&B project from singer-songwriter Tom Krell, and even despite hitting the absolutely gorgeous song 'Pour Cyril' that would later land on my list of my favourite songs of the year - we hit a bit of a snag. Even as that record is aspiring to more of a pop sound compared to the heavy melancholy of Total Loss from 2012, I wasn't certain he was pulling it off. His vocals were too thin and gentle, the self-absorbed bluntness not really fitting with the tones he was chasing, it was the sort of record that had all the ingredients of an insightful and potent pop record... that just ended up missing the mark for me.

So when I heard that Krell was taking How To Dress Well even further in a pop direction, recruiting Jack Antonoff of fun. and Bleachers and dancehall producer Dre Skull, I have to admit I was a little skeptical. On the one hand, sure, Jack Antonoff has a great ear for pop hooks and he's been the secret weapon behind some great songs before... but on the other hand the move to touch on dancehall struck me as yet another artist hopping towards tropical sounds in a bid for the mainstream, a lane that struck me as the completely wrong fit for Tom Krell. His writing might occasionally ring as simple and straightforward in a pop context, but his presentation demanded subtlety, and modern pop is nearly the furthest thing from that. And given the lukewarm response to this record, I was tentative to dig in, but Krell does have a gift for some powerful melodies, so I figured Care was worth a listen - was I right?

Monday, June 30, 2014

video review: "what is this heart?" by how to dress well

Man, this was a tricky review to do. Not sure it's my best, but I think I got my point across.

Next up is the mid-year review! Never done one of these before, should be a lot of fun! Stay tuned!

album review: "what is this heart?" by how to dress well

Well, this conversation was inevitable, but it's also one that I've been meaning to discuss for some time. And it's not a comfortable subject either, but it needs to be addressed in some fashion after some critics decided to make it a point when criticizing the album in the classic example of criticizing the artist, not the art.

Yeah, I'm talking about indie R&B, or PBR&B if you want to get snarky about it, a term coined in the rise of a selection of unconventional R&B acts over the past couple of years. A relatively new subgenre, indie R&B drew more on more diverse aesthetics and subject matter than the classic jazz/soul/gospel influences that have driven R&B for decades now. Common acts in this genre include Frank Ocean, Miguel and The Weeknd, who built successful careers modernizing R&B tropes and subject matter. And amongst that group was the musical project of singer-songwriter of Tom Krell called How To Dress Well, who, in contrast to many of the conventions of R&B, traditional or indie, is white.

Okay, let's state this right out of the gate: yes, white musicians have borrowed from black music for decades, and some built careers on assuming the general public would be ignorant enough not to look up the original source. And they tended to get away with it... until the Internet came along and made the dissemination of information and music a lot easier and gave artists of all races the equality of opportunity to enter the medium. And as a music critic, I work my hardest to focus on the art, not the artist, unless said artist's life provides additional context or meaning to the music. And I'm going to repeat what I said about cultural appropriation back when I reviewed that last tUnE-yArDs album Nikki Nack: if you're going to borrow from other cultures, know what the hell you're doing and do it well - and in the case of indie R&B, it's being shaped by a richer well of influences than solely music that has been traditionally associated with black culture, so this shouldn't be an issue! 

And yet whenever How To Dress Well gets brought up in some circles, the cultural appropriation conversation gets dragged up - which is a goddamn shame, because his 2012 album Total Loss was pretty damn great and deserves to be considered on its own merits featuring a strong fusion of modern R&B with the hazier, melancholic edges of indie rock, showing beautiful compositions at the intersection between gorgeous melodies and distorted, experimental rawness. And sure, you could make the parallels between his delivery and other R&B acts, but I'd argue the confessional emotions he brings to the table are universal regardless of race - and on that record, he shows them pretty damn well. So you can bet I wanted to check his new album "What Is This Heart?" - how does it go?