Two years after the commercial success of Disclosure’s album, Settle, brothers – Howard and Guy Lawrence, aged just 21 and 24 – are back with the release of their sophomore album, Caracal.
Right off the bat, it is evident that Caracal is an entirely different animal than Settle. Named after a species of African wildcat, Caracal is slower and seemingly a lot more R&B inspired than the up tempo house music found on Settle. While growth of some sorts is expected, the album is somewhat lackluster. Don’t get me wrong, I love Disclosure; but after spinning this album since it’s release, I realized how alike many of these songs are. Simply put, the album is almost too polished. The duo have perfected their productions, recruited some of the biggest names in pop, and have crafted an album that is, sadly, just okay. On paper this album should have been so much more.
The Weeknd assisted single “Nocturnal” did little to inspire. The problem with “Nocturnal” actually has to do with Abel – his vocals were predictable and lacked presence. “Magnets” another star-studded feature on Caracal also suffers a similar fate. The track features Lorde, the 18-year-old New Zealand singer who co-wrote and co-produced the single with the duo; it is hardly noteworthy. While Lorde’s vocals are powerful, the production leaves little to be desired. Quite frankly both of these songs should have been a historic moment in dance music between two great musicians.
Album highlights include the Sam Smith assisted single “Omen”, although the tempo is slower, and the melody slightly repetitive it works here. “Holding On” featuring legendary American jazz vocalist, songwriter Gregory Porter is also worth mentioning. The album’s liveliest tracks are definitely “Jaded” and “Echoes” (which features the younger of the Disclosure brothers – Howard – on vocals).
Caracal suffers from a lengthy runtime and when the production is this subdued the brothers would have been better off making the album shorter; better yet they could have changed the sequencing on the tracklisting so the album built towards something and didn’t sound as flat. The albums’ promotional strategy also hindered the songs from sounding fresh upon release – six of the albums fourteen tracks were released as singles; by the time you actually had the album in your hands you quite likely had already moved on from those tracks regardless of how much you liked them as singles.
While the albums’ songs are still a danceable mix of pop inspired by R&B and house that will no doubt keep you grooving, they don’t quite hold together as a cohesive unit. Caracal is excellent at instances; at others, it’s a bit of a random collection of songs that leaves you wanting more.