Thursday, August 21, 2014

Track by Track Flashback: "Settle" by Disclosure

The first in my series of Track by Track Flashbacks is Disclosure's debut album Settle. A collection of schizophrenic dance hits that helped bring about the 90's house revival of 2014, Disclosure broke out as the premiere electronic producers of 2013. Now working with the likes of Madonna and getting a sleeper US hit with Latch, it looks like Disclosure are on a nonstop takeover of the world. So let's look at each track on the album to see why they have been so successful.

1. When A Fire Starts To Burn

As most good albums have displayed, an intro that leads into the first real song can be a useful tool to display what to expect on the album. With this in mind, Disclosure somehow encapsulated their signature sound in "When A Fire Starts To Burn" while also sampling a motivational speech. It's that kind of forward thinking that makes the Lawrence brothers pioneers. Though a little repetitive, they clearly get their message across and the entire time I keep thinking how this would have been a great song for Azealia Banks to rap over (lost opportunity for Azealia).

2. Latch (feat. Sam Smith)

This is Disclosure and Sam Smith's first breakout hit in every country, really. It came out last year and somehow has just recently cracked the Billboard Top Ten. In all honestly, I don't get how. Sure, it's something different from everything else on the radio, but it's not really catchy, it's not really danceable, and it's not really pop. However, it clearly resonates with the crowd and Sam Smith does have the pipes to back it up.

3. F for You

These boys sing too! This is the first track that shows just how multi-talented Disclosure can be and was also a highlight during their concerts. It's super catchy, has weird dream-like breakdowns, and that bass is the coolest thing you heard in 2013. And if that's not enough, Mary J. Blige has come into the picture and adequately heightened the diva factor.

4. White Noise (feat. AlunaGeorge)

Now here is where things got good. I wasn't particularly impressed with Latch, which made second single White Noise take me by surprise big time. First off, that electronic melody that reincarnates throughout the song is supremely hummable and it's amazing the ways the brothers shapeshift the sound to match the different parts of the song. But really, AlunaGeorge shines with her angelic vocals that find a nice home on electronic songs like this. Hopefully, this song follows its UK success and brings Disclosure they're second hit in the US because it really is amazing.

5. Defeated No More (feat. Ed Macfarlane)

This is a real testament to Disclosure's chameleon-like production. While distinctly a Disclosure song, this chilled-out hypnotizing song wouldn't have sounded out of place on Friendly Fires last album, which Ed Macfarlane is the lead singer of. That's probably why Madonna wants to work with them so bad.

6. Stimulation

Unfortunately, the fun starts to get a little bit annoying at this point. Like some of their other solo work, "Stimulation" just goes on and on repeating the same riff over and over. It's interesting for about a minute and a half but really, five and a half minutes? It's too much, sorry.

7. Voices (feat. Sasha Keable)

Disclosure took it upon themselves to introduce many new talents to the music scene, and Sasha Keable was one of them. A great dance song with a great vocal can never go wrong, and really set up Keable for future success. Back to bangers, this was the last single to be released from the album and is probably the most accessible. Furthermore, it shows just how remixable their tracks are, as this Le Youth remix can easily tell you. 

8 & 9. Second Chance & Grab Her!

Suffering from the same repetition as "Stimulation", these two tracks are just dance filler. At least "Second Chance" is short and "Grab Her!" managed to get nominated for a VMA. 

10. You & Me (feat. Eliza Doolittle)

Somehow, Disclosure made a song featuring one of the worst pop singers in England amazing. Eliza Doolittle should really thank the Lawrences for introducing her to dance music. Paraphrasing a review I read somewhere, the song is extremely scattered but the chaos is so organized and interesting. With Eliza giving us a surprising heartfelt vocal (that bridge of "Can you stache my heart, somewhere in the dark, keep it safe" was a real moment of 2013), this should be a new direction for her and dubstep producer Flume keeps the  it going with this insane remix for all you strobers. (Side Note: You & Me is probably my favorite song off the album.)

11. January (feat. Jamie Woon)

The indieness of this song is ridiculously high, but I suppose that's a good thing. Singer-songwriter Jamie Woon brings some edge to "Janurary" and, although a little forgettable, the track continues the flow that Settle should be known for.

12. Confess To Me (feat. Jessie Ware)

This was definitely the most anticipated collab on the album and the fan favorite amongst the Disclofans. Jessie Ware is a singer-songwriter extraordinaire whose own start was helped by this Disclosure remix of her fantastic single "Running." Based on how insanely good that was, I expected a lot from "Confess To Me" and while it does display Miss Ware's heavenly voice, that chorus really kills the song for me. Jessie's voice really should not have been messed with, but all in the name of artistry I suppose.

13. Help Me Lose My Mind (feat. London Grammar)

The only ballad on the album also happens to be ridiculously good. A big hypnotic song, Help Me Lose My Mind is a rare song that proves that ballads from Disclosure are just as good as bangers. It also brought art rock group London Grammar to the forefront, with lead singer Hannah Reid haunting vocal sealing the deal on this song as well as the album.

Settle was a great album from an extremely talented duo of producers. The best thing about the album is that Disclosure's sound was something we never expected, but we realized we needed. They managed to straddle the line of mainstream, indie, and EDM with expert finesse and never strained from their unique sound, despite its repetition at times. Overall, good job Lawrences for creating the best dance album of 2013.

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