Album Review: How to Dress Well - Care
By Tanner Bidish, Contributor
[Weird World; 2016]
Key Tracks: “Salt Song,” “The Ruins”
Tom Krell, aka How to Dress Well, has a long career, with a philosophy PhD and now four full-length albums under his belt. The latest of which, Care, marks a change of dynamic with the alt. R&B stylings of older work turning towards solid pop. An assortment of producers collaborated on Krell’s new record, must notorious of which is Jack Antonoff. Even with the names backing it, the final product feels overly derivative and shallow. Vague lyrics are usually coded with meaning in How to Dress Well, but here they fall short. The beats aren’t very memorable in any particular way outside of a classic catchiness found in a majority of pop. As a whole, Care is boring.
The opening track “Can’t You Tell” is a jam about consensual sex. It opens immediately with its chorus “I want to lay you down and take you right there,” and goes on to say “Yeah I want it / But I want it when you want it, baby”. The chorus is repeated more than what could be called okay, in fact the song goes well past a decent run length for what it is. The dragging opener is followed up by a track that is actually pleasant. “Salt Song,” the longest song on the album, is layered and thoughtful. It retains its pop construction, but with interesting choices like the guitar solo through the middle, and using the falsetto “do's” and “who's” to accompany strings into the song’s slower portion. Powerful percussion picks up the end and closes the number out. “Lost Youth / Lost You” brings back an overly repetitive chorus and attempts to call back the power push from “Salt Song” two tracks ago, but without the same pay off. “The Ruins” is a darker track that features interesting acoustic guitar at its bookends and some electric rifts in the middle. From there on out the album loses momentum. The second half feels lost in production and bogged down by contemporary pop trends.
Don’t expect to be enthralled in Care. Most of the tracks are forgettable or annoyingly repetitious. How to Dress Well doesn’t shine with charm from its early days, but sinks into pop market that is too large to accommodate its newest release.