British house duo Disclosure burst onto the scene two years ago with their debut album entitled ‘Settle’. With its slick and enticing sounds influenced by classic house, the album was both a critical and commercial success, with brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence deservingly being nominated for the Mercury Prize and a Grammy in 2013, and also having several hits on the charts with tracks like “Latch”, “White Noise” and “When a Fire Starts to Burn”. They have now just recently released their second album ‘Caracal’, with boasts even bigger stars and hopefully just as big a sound.
As I’ve mentioned, the guestlist on ‘Caracal’ is even more high-profile. Sam Smith returns on “Omen”, Lorde features on “Magnets” as well as The Weeknd, Miguel, Gregory Porter and Kwabs all getting a track to themselves. However, I’m beginning to wonder if this is just to attract attention, because the best way I can describe this album is as a more commercial and diluted version of ‘Settle’, which really is a disappointment. Let’s start with the highlights already because there are definitely a few. Firstly, I’m not saying Disclosure have completely betrayed the style that brought them to popular attention as there is still some really good work on here. “Holding On” is easily the best track and nails pretty much everything. The production is tight, the beats are simple but very effective but Gregory Porter makes this song. His voice is like hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows, it is unbelievably smooth and he delivers an excellent performance. “Jaded”, “Superego” and “Echoes” are also pretty enjoyable with decent vocal performances and beats and up the tempo a bit after several more chilled tracks, which is most welcome.
For me, it’s that specific point that brings this album down for me. Perhaps I had the wrong expectations and the Lawrence brothers wanted to take a more downbeat approach, but ‘Caracal’ is definitely lacking the energy that made ‘Settle’ so enjoyable. Yes, the latter had tracks that weren’t quite as heavy such as “You and Me” and “Help Me Lose My Mind” but these were just as well made in their own right and the album’s ‘non-lead’ tracks if you want, were much stronger overall. Eliza Doolittle, London Grammar, Jamie Woon and Sasha Keable had solid guest appearances and I’d gladly dance (or something slightly resembling dance) to “Stimulation” or “Grab Her!” anytime as they’ve got excellent rhythms without relying on vocals. On ‘Caracal’, I can’t find much that I really enjoy apart from the tracks I’ve mentioned and I don’t really see that changing. Of course, none of them are awful. The Weeknd’s vocals on “Nocturnal”, Sam Smith’s vocals on “Omen” and “Willing and Able”‘s waves of synths are decent to start with, but once you get to the second chorus, you’ve heard enough. It’s the same story for the majority of the album as the same fairly slow, lulling pattern is visible on most of the songs so for example “Magnets”, “Good Intentions” and “Masterpiece” just get lost in this sea of sound and could very easily just be merged together. Disclosure’s single “Bang That” doesn’t appear on this album apart from on the iTunes Deluxe edition, and it is sorely missed as it probably would have given it more of a spark.
To bring it all together then, ‘Caracal’ is definitely a step down from an extremely exciting first LP. The stars brought in to feature on most of the tracks have mainly strong performances but can’t carry the album to the same heights as its predecessor. Apart from a few standouts, it’s fairly lacklustre in comparison in terms of production and just general entertainment value. Having spawned a few hits, it’s definitely not a bad album, but I can only hope that Disclosure will revitalize their music with their next release.
Listen to it here!
By Emilio Cruzalegui