Song of the week: How To Dress Well – Ocean Floor For Everything

Tom Krell opens up and steps out with full-bodied soul music for and from the heart.


Words by: Charlie Jones

It begins with his voice, the auto-tuned bare bones of it an immediate hook on the heart strings, before that warm piano comes in and his words unfold with their familliar will-o’-the-wisp sensuality, pulling you into Krell’s delicate world of heightened feelings. What is immediately obvious is that he’s cleaned up his sound somewhat. The music of ‘Love Remains’ crackled and shivered engagingly, as though the whole thing might fall to pieces at any second, but Ocean Floor For Everything positively glistens with a comparative silkiness. It’s still not a crystal clear sharpness of course, something that would hardly fit with his heart-on-sleeve aesthetic, but the sound palette has still been brightened, the production tightened up a notch – a brave move for an artist that made his name by creating hazy, sounds-barely-there R&B.

How To Dress Well’s return is a welcome one. Since ‘Love Remains’ came out there hasn’t been anything to touch the beautifully damaged and swollen heart of that album. Ocean Floor For Everything packs that familliar genuine emotional punch that Tom Krell’s music always had, but also shows him stretching as an artist, creating a song that builds with a complex and cracked majesty using the sparsest and most delicate of elements.

Krell’s music was always something of an odd proposition. A lanky guy with a PhD and a wavering voice with the power to engross and move, the artist he probably would mostly ally himself with Cassie and her fractured R&B. ‘Love Remains’ was an album of singular heart, but it came bathed in a rough haze, a result of his sensitivity, but also his shyness. It was an amazing work, but clearly still an album from someone fumbling in the shadows for their right place. From the sound of this new song, on the follow up he is bringing the soul, has had the guts to turn this tentativeness into full-bodied swooning pop songs. It makes him one of a number of artists this year, from Nite Jewel to Laurel Halo to Grimes, who have transitioned from shrouding themselves in crackling, shadowy anonymity on their early records, and instead are opening up and have the confidence to let their personalities, and their singing voices, rise to the forefront.

The big moment in Ocean Floor For Everything is that masterful pause about halfway through, that single clap, and then the whole thing comes cascading down in an overspill of crisp percussion, waterfalls of dizzy falsetto layered up, all underpinned by the same bright and tender piano that the whole song has been carried along on throughout. Once it’s over, you feel as though there should be more. How To Dress Well’s songs work best consumed and sunk into as a whole, when you completely commit to the emotional roller-coaster he wants to take you on, and it will be interesting to see what kind of journey he’s got in store on the album Ocean Floor For Everything is going to be a part of. Basically, no one makes music with the sensitivity, and the ability to communicate that sensitivity, quite so competently as How To Dress Well, and its a real pleasure to have him back toying with our hearts strings and tear ducts on an even bigger and more complete scale than before.

Acephale and Weird World will release How To Dress Well’s album ‘Total Loss’