|Album Review: Disclosure – Settle|
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Over the past few weeks UK brothers, Guy and Lawrence Howard, better known to us as Disclosure, have been teasing and pleasing us with a slew of singles off their hotly anticipated debut album, Settle. The brotherly production duo have been making it happen over the past few years, providing a brand of groovy danceable music at the forefront of a new UK garage dance scene.
The resurrection of this soulful groove, unfamiliar on American soil since the early Detroit and Chicago house days, makes the Londoner’s music very special for all US house heads. While overseas the boys are also causing a ruckus. Howard remarks, "I think girls are pleased that there's some joy back in club music. And boys are pleased that there are girls back in the club."
The twosome got their start on MySpace (yes, MySpace), when the London based label Moshi Moshi picked up their demo tracks. The result – a 2 sided single release on the prestigious label home to Bloc Party, Hot Chip, Friendly Fires, Florence & The Machine. They followed suit in the spring of 2011, with 2 more EP’s on offbeat labels Transparent and Make Mine.
The brother’s really began making waves when they put out their debut EP The Face, which featured favorites like “Boiling,” “What’s in Your Head” and “Control.” Working between 119 and 130 bpm’s, they established their infectious vibe we’ve all grown to love. We featured the EP back in 2012 calling it, “a genre-defying blend of musical styles and influences, that toes the line between the underground vs. accessible and the club vs. headphone music.” Disclosure’s music is like a cool glass of lemonade after a hot day in the sun, refreshing, rejuvenating, and revitalizing.
The Art Desk said it best when they noted, “Disclosure, on the other hand, recall the pared back, soulful sound of Chicago house in its earliest, purest form, amalgamated with a large dose of south London’s well-dressed two-step garage scene of a decade ago. They are, then, an emblem of hope for both taste-making oldsters despairing at heathens pissing in the dance music gene pool and those who simply want something light, easy, modern and hip to shake a leg to.”
In just under a year they put together the 14-track album, while simultaneously brushing up on their dance knowledge. Studying the likes of Daft Punk, Howard says, "[We compared] it to Daft Punk in the sense that it's a vocal album. There aren't many dance albums with full vocals. We don't really know why. You need the vocals to capture your tune and lift it now and again.”
The album is a fully realized composition with soulful moods from start to finish and validates a completely polished production talent from the young artists. On the first day of its release Settle has already skyrocketed to #1 in the UK iTunes charts. With such beautifully woven, intricately structured, and infectiously written melodies it is no wonder everyone is running to grab this album. So let’s dive in.
— NME (@NME) June 3, 2013
As NME elegantly puts it, this album has so much sheen you’ll want to tile the bathroom in it! Settle is an album so bright and vibrant, it can breathe color and life into the rainiest or the sunniest of days. Dance worthy tracks like “When A Fire Starts To Burn” “White Noise” and “Latch,” get us up off our feet and moving. While more melodic tracks like “Defeated No More” “January” and “Second Chance” subdue us as they lift us off the ground, carrying us through a wonderfully orchestrated musical expedition.
Settle begins with an introduction track that sounds like a rip straight from a Billy Graham or Joel Osteen sermon. “One thing I know about life is that it’s a guarantee. Change is inevitable. As much as you want to be in your comfort zone, as much as you would like to be stable, as much as you would like to have a comfortable environment the realization is that everything changes.” It is almost as if Disclosure is prefacing their progressive and modern sound, stating that change is constant, and that while old sounds stick around, new sounds are constantly emerging.
Appropriately leading us into the second song on the album, “When A Fire Starts To Burn.” The intro mentions spontaneous combustion and just like a wildfire the album will spread through speaker systems near and far, inducing a dance filled euphoria and a smile wider than the Mississippi. Here the twosome demonstrates their knack for signature bouncy house and UK garage sounds that undoubtedly ignite you into a dancing frenzy. One thing that sets Disclosure apart from many other artists is their well-crafted music videos. Just before the release of this album, Disclosure released this hilarious video for “When A Fire Starts To Burn” that, like the album, has everyone breaking out into infectious fits of dance.
Next up, “Latch,” the first single they teased us with back in October and undeniably the one that I had on repeat for weeks after.
Latch by @disclosure_uk is actually flawless
— Oliver Jones (@I_Skream) December 29, 2012
As Skream mentions, this song is absolutely flawless and it may be one of my favorites from the album. The soulfully crafted hook provided by Sam Smith’s vocals grabs ahold of you and refuses to let you go. Smith belts out “I've got you shackled in my embrace, I'm latching on to you.” Like the lyrics, I was initially love-struck and encapsulated by the intoxicating production and to this day am still in love with the track. The accompanying video showcases several couples rendezvousing and lusting after each other, giving literal interpretation to “I’m so incaptured, got me wrapped up in your touch.”
From “Latch” we are led into “F For You,” (short for “Fool For You”), which they previously premiered on Zane Lowe and is another ballad of lust and affection.
— The FADER (@thefader) May 28, 2013
Like “Latch” addiction and craving play a central theme over the seductive bounce. For the first time the duo proves just how many hats they wear. Instead of featuring the vocals of an outside artist, the youngest of the brothers, Lawrence, lends his voice to the track. Like a basketball player that shines in the fourth quarter, the guys have a knack for structure that glistens across the second half of the track, ultimately awakening the dance floor possibilities.
Just driving to the studio listening to @disclosure white noise on the radio. The production in that record is fantastic… Fair play guys
— Mark Knight (@djmarkknight) May 21, 2013
Their collaborative effort with fellow Brit AlunaGeorge is up next and also one we have previously heard. “White Noise” is a summer spirited release with a charismatic beat ready to burn a hole in your dancing shoes. Between the expectations created with rhythmic changes and the seductive burst of energy by AlunaGeorge’s vocals, the song is a perfect backdrop for any summer playlist.
On “Defeated For You,” the duo link up with another UK lad, Ed Macfarlane – the front man of the band Friendly Fires. Friendly fires are usually known for their dance-punk sound with a dose of indie pop, but the Disclosure boys let a funky synth glide right over Macfarlane’s far reaching voice. Melodic and soothing, this track is one that breaks up the upbeat dance vibe and allows us to be submersed in a glistening world of entrancing sounds.
Following “Defeated For You” is “Stimulation” which is a song reminiscent of the old school UK garage sound. Clicking percussion, rattling bass lines, and repetitive vocals are indicative of it. Both elevating and stimulating, this song is one to get you moving and shaking.
Next up, “Voices” featuring the vocals of another fellow Brit, Sasha Keable. This track exemplifies how beautifully Disclosure incorporates gripping vocals into their music. Sasha’s voice is melodic, angelic, entrancing, and captivating. This track is one that is hard to resist putting on repeat.
'Voices' on Disclosure's album is the standout track for me. Vocals are absolutely top notch in front of the production of the song #settle
— Siobhan McAuley (@siobmcauley) June 3, 2013
One of the more interesting and experimental tracks of the album, “Second Chance,” reminds me of something I would hear inside of the boiler room. While short, Disclosure knocks the ball out of the park on this emotionally charged song. Sweeping modular synths and dreamy and distorted vocals go to prove how truly diverse and seemingly flawless Disclosure are in every facet of their production.
Following suit with the down tempo and abstract sounds, Disclosure samples J Dilla for the tenth song on their album, “Grab Her!” Wonky runs up the chromatic scale, accompanied by Dillas reworked vocal samples lend this song to an ominous, yet playful dance feel.
There's a track on the new @disclosure album called "Grab Her" that could easily be "Grab Huh" and you know how happy that makes me.
— Kerri Mason (@KerriLMason) May 14, 2013
Next up is the perfect summer jam, “You & Me” featuring the vocals of pianist and singer Eliza Doolittle. This is another song that really revisits the old UK Garage sound and breathes a new life into the genre. You & Me has already made a huge impact on the dance music community, with remixes released from big acts like Baauer and Toro Y Moi. Accompanied with the release of this single was a harmonious and sultry depiction of the sort of relationship everyone desires. Warning, this video is not safe for work.
As we near the end of the album, Disclosure stays consistent with their exceptional production and flawless blending of vocal driven dance music. “January” is the kind of track that would be accompanied by a warm cup of tea and the company of a loved one. January ignites the soul with warm and captivating instrumentation paired with the sensual vocals of Jamie Woon. This song is just as delicious as it is silky smooth.
Turning the corner, we are smacked in the face with the dark and dance driven single “Confess to Me” featuring Jessie Ware on vocals. Abstract yet upbeat synths are layered and warped by the vocals giving the song a more cryptic and dark feel, yet they still hold down their signature made-for-dancefloor trademark.
Like that last sip of coffee, Disclosure’s last song “Help Me Lose My Mind” is an intricately and wonderfully mastered song that is worthy of closing out this incendiary dance album. Featuring the vocals of London Grammar, this song is uplifting and inspiring. Full of love, emotion, and beauty this song ends leaving us pinning for more.
— Disclosure (@disclosure) May 29, 2013
Without a doubt, Guy and Lawrence Howard have the Midas touch, turning every song they lay their hands on to pure gold. There is a reason this album has already soared to the top of the iTunes charts in such a short time. Breathing new life into the dance game, the Lawrence Brothers are proving their strength and talent at a young age. Can’t wait to hear more from the brotherly duo.
-Clark McCaskill contributed to this review.