Review: How To Dress Well

It’s taken an inexplicably long time to reach these shores, but finally How To Dress Well’s stellar debut ‘Love Remains’ is seeing a full UK release, thanks to the muffled pop-loving Tri Angle imprint.

And when I say “inexplicably long”, it’s actually only been a few months since its September release in the States, but given the waves that Tom Krell’s brand of hazy R&B has been making since it manifested itself on his first full-length offering – it was a regular ingredient of many ‘Top Albums’ lists at the close of 2010 – it’s baffling how his clouded falsetto hasn’t washed across the nation’s record shelves until now.

How To Dress Well is the sound of a genteel R&B star who’s found themselves wandering lost in a Burial-esque urban landscape, their mournfully elegant vocals consigned to echo around a world of paranoid anonymity rather than brushing the ears of the loved ones that the voice yearns for. The album opens with ‘You Hold The Water’, a confused blur of crackles, back-masking and hovering vocal gushes, all tumbling around a cut of Julianne Moore dialogue from 1995 film ‘Safe’ – “basically, there’s nothing to worry about, aside from being a little run-down”. A line of comfort that aptly describes the album that’s to follow; while the production may seem creaky and unpolished, and the vocals somewhat eerily haunting, there’s still a warmth in Krell’s tone that’s reassuringly poetic, providing the listener with a willing companion to accompany them through the gloomy back-alleys of the album.

‘Ready For The World’ provides possibly the most sing-a-long/mumble-a-long (delete as appropriate) moment on the record, except of course for when Beyonce channels herself through an angular white guy on ‘Can’t See My Own Face’, a track that takes a moment of lingering intangibility before revealing that it’s actually a half-cover of ‘Crazy In Love’. The rousing ‘Walking This Dumb’ is a live recording, providing a glimpse in to the fuzzy power of a HTDW show, while later on ‘Mr. By & By’, with its stifled funk beat, could almost be deployed by a very gutsy DJ in a set – key word there being ‘almost’, I take no responsibility for any rapidly diminishing dance floor crowds. Penultimate track ‘Decisions’ “features” Yuksel Arslan, who I think it’s safe to assume is more of a reference point than an active contributor, being as he is a Turkish surrealist painter who’s now in his 70s.

While the fourteen tracks on ‘Love Remains’ may only equate to just over 38 minutes, by the time closing track ‘Suicide Dream 1’ slightly abruptly snuffs itself out it’s clear that the only better way to hear what emits from Tom Krell’s heart would be to place your ear to his chest. This is a wonderfully intimate record that’s clearly been crafted in a thoroughly unique and personal manner. Fortunately for the rest of us, it’s a manner that proves lovely to listen to.

Check out How to Dress Well on MySpace.

Jack Scourfield.

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