Published Sep 21, 2016Tom Krell has spent his entire career singing about togetherness while consciously putting distance between himself and listeners. Though that gap has slowly been closing over the course of three LPs, Krell's latest as How to Dress Well offers a rapid acceleration of this trend. Gone is the vocal reverb and echo, along with any sense of hesitation. Here, Krell makes his intentions known on immediately with album opener "Can't You Tell," singing clearly that he wants to "lay you down and take you right there."
That directness — both musical and lyrical — pervades Care, an album that finds Krell taking his project in a more pop-oriented direction with the help of a diverse array of producers like dancehall beatmaker Dre Skull and experimental electronic musician Kara-Lis Coverdale.
"Lost Youth/Lost You" is an immediate standout. Carried by dynamic production from Bleachers' Jack Antonoff, the track captures Krell's struggle to come to terms with his ever-evolving feelings. It's ripe territory for vague platitudes about millennial malaise, but Krell is so certain in his uncertainty that it's hard not to root for the guy. Throughout the record, the singer strives for a place or feeling that's just out of reach, creating the tension that propels the album forward and culminating with the epic power-ballad "They'll Take Everything You Have."
Once branded an alt-R&B crooner, How to Dress Well has proven to be a far more enduring project than many would have thought. In Grimes' wake, plenty of artists making mainstream pop are trying to weird up their sound, but Krell seems more interested in using pop's form as a vehicle for less commercially viable ideas, throwing out the playbook with each release. His ability to make sonically adventurous, emotionally rich pop has made him a perpetually welcome presence in a crowded field and made Care another triumph. (Weird World)