Disclosure’s Settle is an incredible album. It’s one of those rare efforts that has me hooked song after song; it flows seamlessly, I’m loathe to skip anything. Settle is the UK based brother duo really harnessing their sound and executing it to its full potential. Needless to say, I have been excited for Caracal to be released, but hesitant that it might not live up to its predecessor.
Things are rarely that simple; having a knockout [read: critically acclaimed] first album can be dangerous in that it raises expectations, and Guy and Howard Laurence really hit the nail on the head the first time round. On first listen, Caracal underwhelmed me, but, in truth, it’s good. It’s just a different sound; less beat driven EDM and more soulful, RnB leanings.
Much like Settle, Caracal is collaboration heavy. The duo have explored their long-time partnership with Sam Smith, resulting in the second single from the album, ‘Omen’. The trio’s formula worked with ‘Latch’ and it’s worked again, creating an effortless single that it feels impossible not to like. It’s slower than ‘Latch’, it’s gentler, it feels a little more formulaic, it’s good, but, even with the powerhouse vocals of Smith, it feels like there’s something missing.
The same is true of ‘Noctural’, featuring The Weeknd and ‘Magnets’ featuring Lorde. They’re commendable tracks in their own right, with creditable collaborations, but coming from a duo that have changed the landscape of pop it all feels a bit bland. Good, but bland.
Let’s spend a second giving credit where credit’s due: the production of this album is incredible. The mix of the vocals in ‘Willing & Able’ is so subtle and blends perfectly with the warm, bassy synth pulses; ‘Echoes’ was a subtle nod to their UK Garage influence; ‘Superego’ feels like a successful product of their new taste for RnB. I keep saying that it’s good and I truly do believe that; it’s just not as good.
‘Holding On’, not to be confused with Julio Bashmore’s single by the same name released earlier this year, feels like a hit that could have come from Settle. Bashmore, as well as having a single by the same title, has remixed Disclosure’s ‘Holding On’, and it’s exciting; exciting enough to bring the anticipatory feeling that comes when first listening to Settle.
Before first single ‘Holding On’ was released, Disclosure posted a track that they’ve been playing in their sets for a while as “something for the summer”. The track, ‘Bang That’ will only be featured on the deluxe album, which is a huge shame because it’s reminiscent of their older, more house-like beat driven dance sound.
A confused review by a confused reviewer! Perhaps I’m being unfair; I loved ‘Holding On’, and ‘Omen’, and different albums sneak up on you in different ways. I’ve had ‘Hourglass’ featuring LION BABE in my head for at least a week. This album definitely seems to cater more to constructing songs than it does creating mixes, and the outcome hasn’t been unsuccessful but it’s left me feeling a bit… unsettled.