Album of the Week: How To Dress Well - ‘What Is This Heart?’

Tom Krell's graceful third album distils the emotional pop-consciousness that's made his mixtapes such influential listening.

One of the main things about How To Dress Well that I and many other writers have clung to have been his mixes. From his one FACT Mix in 2012, to the “CHANGE YOURSELF (winter is coming mix)” in late 2011, his taste has been what truly interested me, because I felt its divergent yet complementary nature mirrored and inspired my own. I think of Krell as the guy who so eloquently described Janet Jackson on this very site, and debated female R&B singers with Jacques Greene. It was him who made me delve deep into Janet Jackson's back catalogue, realising her music wasn’t all joyous sunshine. His approach to mixes reminds me of Lindsay Zoladz’ quote, declaring Vampire Weekend’s 'Modern Vampires of the City' the best album of last year: “We are moving in the direction of a place where everybody is allowed to love everything.” This is also gotten at in a fascinating recent cover story on Krell where he describes himself as one of the first people making music with this massive, non-exclusive taste palette in mind: “With How to Dress Well, I was one of the first people to start a trend that is now completely dominating independent music, which is the interrogation of independent music's relationship with pop music”.

All of which brings us to his graceful third album, 'What is This Heart?'. The album’s masterful middle marker Words I Don’t Remember (which magnificently follows Repeat Pleasure and precedes Pour Cyril) is a new classic. It doesn’t play its whole hand at once, wafting and emerging then sneaking away just to build up again with memorable lyrical turns ("If you could let your angels out/I’d rescue one at a time") and a final exploding burst of a victory lap. It sucks the air out of the room, but you want it to. The strings and brass on Pour Cyril are so patient and gentle with Krell repeatedly calling for no pain, and there is a palpable pump and gallop in A Power. The skip in the step-carrying, dribbling, and trilling Very Best Friend is Disclosure-meets-Lloyd’s Get It Shawty, while also calling to mind INOJ’s Love You Down (which Krell utilized in some form on his 'Love Remains' track Ready For The World) and Kp & Envyi’s Shorty Swing My Way. House Inside (Future is Older than the Past) picks up where Words I Don't Remember leaves off, and charges onward with vigor.

'What Is This Heart?' is like one of Krell’s mixes, saying “stay the night,” “change yourself,” and “love yourself” to the listener, all at the same time.

7/10

Weird World released 'What Is This Heart?' on June 23rd 2014. 

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