How to Dress Well
Total Loss


4.0
excellent

Review

by Martin L. USER (44 Reviews)
September 11th, 2012 | 109 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Out of one abyss and into another

There’s a moment on the vigorous “& It Was You” when it all becomes inescapably clear: Krell has officially transcended all those pesky comparisons that have simultaneously crippled his How To Dress Well project as well as catapulted it into indie-fame. His peers like Justin Vernon (another beautiful falsetto voice shrouded amid a blanket of fog) and Abel Tesfaye (an Rn’B aficionado who isn’t afraid to use old-school hip-hop beats to give his choruses a little more punch) and even dubstep-hero Burial are all touchstones for breakthrough album Love Remains, and rightly so. That being said, it’s heartening that Total Loss is a more distinctive step past comparisons into territory all his own.

How To Dress Well’s debut was a sleek, immersive experience awash in waves of texture and a moody intensity. Its biggest draw for some and, in my eyes, largest setback was the heavy sense of anonymity that hid Krell’s soulful falsetto beneath layers of lo-fi aesthetic. Saturated and faraway, Love Remains was the perfect precursor to Total Loss. In 2012 Krell let’s his voice shine through the shrouds and our less obstructed view of the sorrow, the sweeping strings, and the painful twangs of his falsetto are all the more beautiful because of it.

Back to this transcendental feeling of Total Loss: it’s an album that abandons many of the tenets that made How To Dress Well so intriguing to many. A bold move, no doubt-- but Total Loss is an album completely enveloped in abandonment and loss, which isn’t surprising considering the title. Working on the album, inspiration was drawn from the bereavement of a close friend as well as a trying long-distance relationship. It’s not that Total Loss is doused deeper into the bucket of sorrow than Love Remains was; it’s just that now it’s that much clearer. What is a surprising and distinct aspect of How To Dress Well’s latest is that we’re actually able to understand what Krell is saying. Where aforementioned peers like Justin Vernon have only delved deeper into haze and ambiguity like on Bon Iver, Bon Iver, the lo-fi, detached atmospherics are toned down a notch. Clearer than ever, Krell’s crooning is the highlight.

Make no mistake though; How To Dress Well isn’t all gloom, here. Take, for example, the opening example of “& It Was You,” an energetic number bursting at the seams with bombast, perfectly complementing the dance-y songwriting. Speaking of-- the writing is as creative as ever, but –as before- acts more as a tool used primarily to highlight the heavenly duo of Krell’s falsetto and his enveloping production abilities. The production on Love Remains was exceedingly impressive, but it also provided a venue for Krell to hide his sensual vocal chords behind. Now that we’re in the clear, How To Dress Well is all the more delectable, and opens his music up to a much wider range of capacities.

As far as single tracks are concerned, the delicate strings of “Talking To You” or the standout production displayed on opener “When I Was In Trouble” are pure highlight material, but the real beauty of Total Loss is in the amorphous clarity, its ability to wield emotions up down and side to side with such ease. Love Remains was a bit too heavy to accomplish such a task, but the lightness here lends itself to such a task. As a record so hinged on loss and detachment, it only makes sense that How To Dress Well will lose some listeners with what’s destined to be a rather divisive release. Though when “Ocean Floor For Everything” fizzles out into a night sky-like abyss, one thing is clear: Tom Krell can still create the lushest of soundscapes that are as soulful and mesmerizing as ever… here’s to hoping there’s many more to come.



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user ratings (157)
Chart.
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
carouse
September 11th 2012


334 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Out next week but this is streaming here, and it's highly recommended: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2012/sep/10/how-to-dress-well-total-loss

breakingthefragile
September 11th 2012


2966 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Well, this got a review much faster than I expected. Just finished listening to that exact stream myself. Will read your review in a moment, but I'm really digging this album. It touches me in places, and I'm perfectly okay with it.

Digging: Molly Drake - Molly Drake

Captain666
September 11th 2012


652 Comments


freature

cvlts
September 11th 2012


8985 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

damn that was fast haha

Solisis
September 11th 2012


370 Comments


sounds pretty interesting

Funeralopolis
September 11th 2012


11892 Comments


sweet i liked their (http://tinyurl.com/8j6zbed) debut, definitely gonna check this out

Digging: Owen Pallett - In Conflict

klap
Staff Reviewer
September 11th 2012


10582 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

hey good review who is Martin L

Digging: Charli XCX - Sucker

sniper
September 11th 2012


19079 Comments


nice review.

TMobotron
Contributing Reviewer
September 11th 2012


7159 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good review, and I know it's a polarizing aspect of his music, but I'm on the other side of this statement:

"How To Dress Well’s debut was a sleek, immersive experience awash in waves of texture and a moody intensity. Its biggest draw for some and, in my eyes, largest setback was the heavy sense of anonymity that hid Krell’s soulful falsetto beneath layers of lo-fi aesthetic."

I think the fuzzy, distant vocals worked better in adding textures and atmosphere. The clear vocals on here are sweet as well, but it makes this a much more straightforward listen that's more immediate but less captivating overall.

Love Remains was such a huge grower for me because it took awhile to fully connect with some of the more distant and muffled elements of the music. I'm digging this release a lot, but I don't see much room for it to grow - I kind of feel like I got it all on the first listen, which is unfortunate because I loved the growing power of Love Remains.

I'm still loving this though, and this is a good review.

sniper
September 11th 2012


19079 Comments


i concur with tmob regarding the vocals. this is still dreamy as shit though so it's all good.

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
September 11th 2012


50959 Comments


Dear Steve, how do I dress well and look like a hunk to all the ladies?

Just wear a suit ya dummy
Fer yer health


Digging: Friendzone - Collection 1

carouse
September 11th 2012


334 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks for the comments, all. And yes, I understand that what drew many (especially on this site, I saw) to HTDW was the "fuzzy, distant vocals," and that's perfectly fine but it wasn't my cup of tea, hence how I mentioned it in the review. So thank you!

TMobotron
Contributing Reviewer
September 11th 2012


7159 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Word man, I wasn't really disagreeing with you - I know there's a split opinion on it and I get why, just wanted to give my 2 cents on the other side of it.

Calculate
September 12th 2012


1135 Comments


i loved love remains for a while there and thought it was the best thing ever and then for some reason that love fell off a cliff and now i don't like this shit at all, he's such a weak singer to the point that he just ruins everything here for me

TMobotron
Contributing Reviewer
September 12th 2012


7159 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I don't think this is supposed to rely on the strength of his vocals - it's more about songwriting and having a relatively unique sound. He's certainly not a show-stealer the way The Weekend singer is, but it's supposed to be a more subdued listen than that anyway, and he certainly works for that. Calling him "such a weak singer to the point that he just ruins everything" is a bit crazy IMO. He's not over-stepping his bounds in any way, and is actually pretty fitting for the spacey sound that this is going for.

Calculate
September 12th 2012


1135 Comments


ok after skipping through the second half now it maybe wouldnt be so bad if he didn't sing in that terrible falsetto so often but even the instrumentals are far less sonically interesting and varied than those on love remains

TMobotron
Contributing Reviewer
September 12th 2012


7159 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"the instrumentals are far less sonically interesting and varied than those on love remains"

I actually do agree with this. I'm opposed to the departure from that distanced sound, but I can't help but feel that my biggest problem is that a lot of the production here is pretty simplistic and lacking depth.

Calculate
September 12th 2012


1135 Comments


simplistic, shallow, and a little bit messy perhaps

chambered49
September 12th 2012


1727 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

martin my nigga ur still on a roll great review

PuddlesPuddles
September 12th 2012


4787 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'm not sure how often I can revisit this... Once or twice might be all I need. It's a good follow up I'll prob end up forgetting about it soon



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