Disclosure Caracal

Disclosure Caracal
6
On their follow-up to 2013's massive Settle, the brothers Lawrence (Guy, 24, and Howard, 21) double down on guests and slow down the tempo; the result is a collection of groovier, still-danceable pop gems that will keep the floor moving but don't quite hold together as an album. Caracal is excellent at points; at others, it's a bit of a hodgepodge.
 
Opener "Nocturnal," featuring the Weekend, feels tailor-made for Abel Tesfaye's tenor croon, but it's an odd album opener, long without being particularly ambitious, and feeling more like a Weeknd song than a statement of intent from the duo themselves. Disclosure find their form on "Omen," a handclap-driven hip-shaker with a hard groove and a fine vocal turn from Sam Smith, and they keep it on house anthem "Holding On" and "Hourglass," on which newcomer Lion Babe harmonizes splendidly with herself over a throbbing, bass-rich rhythm. The duo find the album's perfect balance of host and guest influence with singer Kwabs on "Willing & Able," a stripped-back wobble that still manages to sound like Disclosure.
 
From there, Caracal has ups and downs; Lorde's "Magnets" isn't as catchy as it should be, while "Superego" doesn't elevate Nao much higher than she reached by herself on her February 15 EP. Disclosure fare better on their own, sounding their melodic best when Howard sings on the thumping "Jaded" and the skittering "Echoes."
 
At its best, Caracal is incredible, but between its lengthy runtime and the sheer number of guests here, it lacks the cohesive balance that Disclosure managed to achieve on Settle. What's crucial, though, is that it shows ambition. There's plenty more to come from these young artists, and Caracal gives the sense that Disclosure's masterpiece could be just an album or two away. (PMR / Island)