Review Summary: Tom Krell shows us how to properly step out of the shadows and into accessibility, and in doing so crafts 2014’s first pop AOTY contender.
Love is polarizing.
When it is at its highest point, it’s as though there isn’t anything that can make you feel that happy. But at the same time there is nothing stronger than the depression love can bring. In relationships we look for someone new, possibly someone who can relate with the same things that you relate to, or we look for someone completely different than ourselves; a person who can open up our minds to other ways of life that we never knew. Either way everyone is looking for something, and when we we find it, ironically we find out that there is something else we want. It a paradox, really, because as humans we will always want something else, or someone new, even after getting what we originally thought we wanted. Because in reality, we don’t chase love, we chase the process of love.
Welcome to the theme that How To Dress Well’s third LP brings us.
Whereas past How To Dress Well projects have been subdued in an atmosphere filled with lo-fi production mixed with Krell’s almost indecipherable pleads that relate to the downside of love, here we receive a more heart-on-sleeve Tom Krell. One moment his voice is breaking, and in the next his falsettos are crystal clear. Never has Tom Krell’s voice been showcased in the clearness that is on display here. Behind a haunting production that sees Krell’s pitch shifted voice bounce in and out of clarity, lead single “Face Again” pleads, “Just kiss me on my face again and tell me what love is supposed to be/ No I don’t think you know what’s best for me/ I don’t even know what’s best for me.” Krell’s confusion on love, where it is and how it’s lost, is the revolving theme throughout much of “What Is This Heart?” In all honesty, “What Is This Heart?” is more so an open journal into the meandering mind of its lead man than anything else. And it’s all the better for it. Perhaps the most defining moment on the album is found on the track “What You Wanted” where Krell is arguing with himself.
You never said just what you wanted when you wanted, I never told you when I was sad about it, I don't wanna wait until the dawn and tell myself I'll learn by morning, But I never listen to myself and I never said one word about it
And while the lyrics hit on so many levels, the production never gets outshined, rather rides hand-in-hand. Throughout the record, Krell uses crescendo’s to create structure behind his voice. Songs like “A Power” and “Pour Cyril” are amplified by the almost theatrical build-ups and breakdowns of trumpets, strings or piano samples. Like any good record, an album shouldn’t be controlled by just one aspect, but by its many parts coming together to create a wonderful spectacle. And that much rings true here as the upbeat moments of the Daft-Punk sounding “Repeat Pleasure” aren’t more important or better than the slowed down, James Blake-esque sounds “Words I Don’t Remember” or “See You Fall.” Actually, it creates longing of what’s next. And while the album can tend to feel like there are only two sounds going on – upbeat or slowed down – it doesn’t necessarily create a sense of boredom to the listener.
Oscar Wilde once said “Questions are never indiscreet, answers sometimes are.” With How To Dress Well’s third major outing, it’s almost as if it is a devotion to that quote. “What Is This Heart?” is most definitely an album based on moments, and much like its outlook on love, it’s the buildups that create the moment. And we receive these buildups and outstanding moments with every new track. Krell may never give us a direct answer to his questions, but the biggest revelation that he allows comes near the end with “A Power” as he says repeatedly “I don’t have the power, I don’t have the power”. It’s a revelation so emotionally moving in its crushing truth that it ends up being the moral of the album. And while Tom Krell may not have the power to understand why we humans do the things we do, he does have the ability to paint an emotionally distraught album behind why
he can’t understand.