Monday 14 September 2020

Review of 'ENERGY' by Disclosure

ENERGY is an energetic album. END OF REVIEW.

Back in 2013, the Lawrence Brothers released their debut album Settle - a glitzy reinvention of turn-of-the-millennium house and garage, featuring an array of unique up-and-coming vocalists. While you can blame this album for putting Sam Smith on the map (which some may view as a crime against humanity), it also helped kickstart the careers of artist like AlunaGeorge and London Grammar.

The dance music duo followed this album up with Caracal, which felt slower and poppier. It had lots of big names on it – but they all gave big disappointing vocal performances. It wasn’t that the vocals sounded bad, but that they were simply forgettable. In fact, I struggle to remember a single song from the album.

ENERGY is a livelier and much more dynamic album. It wastes no time with ambient introductions, launching the listener straight into the action with bubbly dance-pop opener ‘Watch Your Step’, and then following this up with fun Neptune-esque disco-house track ‘Lavender’ and infectious dirty hip-house banger ‘My High’.  

It’s an exciting start, but the record really hits its stride with ‘Who Knew?’, ‘Douha (Mali Mali)’ and ‘Fractal (Interlude)’. It’s here that the duo’s signature glossy chords come out to play. Mick Jenkins and Fatouma Diawara also lay down some of the catchiest vocal performances on the record (Fatouma is singing in Malian and yet it’s still insanely catchy), while ‘Fractal’ bangs harder than most tracks here despite only being an interlude.

‘Ce n’est pas’ is the first track on ENERGY where the energy subsides. In fact, it’s a six minute snoozefest that doesn’t go anywhere (although I respect the fact that it’s the second track on the record with a non-English-speaking guest – how many chart-friendly EDM artists do that?). Title track ‘ENERGY’ features some cool samba percussion, but has an underwhelming climax, plus I’m not sure why they invited back the preacher from ‘When A Fire Starts To Burn’ to seemingly ramble over the top. Seductive slowjam ‘Birthday’ (featuring Kehlani and Syd) ends up being one of the more satisfying tracks towards the end. It should have probably been the closer instead of ‘Reverie’ (which has a very upbeat pace and out-of-place guest feature from Common), but never mind.  

Even if things falter towards the end of the album, ENERGY feels like a return to form for Disclosure. Their willingness to venture into different styles of dance music and even embrace different languages makes this album feel very colourful and diverse. At the same time, there are brief glimpses of the sparkly sound found on Settle.