Disclosure quickly became one of the hottest breakout dance music outfits of the past handful of years when they dropped some of the most electrifying dance music singles of 2013 – F for You, You & Me, White Noise, and, of course, their Top 10 smash Latch with fellow breakout star Sam Smith. The album these songs later appeared on, Settle, became an instant classic for listeners yearning for an alternative to the tired status quo of mainstream dance music in 2013.
Guy and Howard Lawrence took a refreshingly postmodern approach to house music, taking influence from classics in deep house music and redefining them for modern tastes, fusing them with UK garage and modern vocal-heavy dance-pop. The mouth-watering attention to detail laid out in many of the songs on Settle, combined with the great melodies and progressions on them, showcased Disclosure’s immense talents as producers, and made Settle a potent listening experience from beginning to end.
The Lawrence brothers’ sophomore LP, Caracal, is a disappointingly misguided attempt at capitalizing on the commercial success of Settle, while all but sidestepping the unique and standout qualities that made its predecessor much more than just faceless club fodder. One extremely major change on this album that you’ll notice just looking at the track listing is the added emphasis on vocal guests. Even the two tracks that don’t have credited vocalists feature original vocals pretty prominently.
This was an exciting turn when it was revealed who would appear on this LP – the likes of The Weeknd, Sam Smith (as you may expect), Miguel, and even Lorde – and since vocal-heavy songs like White Noise and Latch were among the best on Settle, it was exciting to see how they would work off of these new vocalists.
Right from the opening track Nocturnal, which features The Weeknd, it’s clear Disclosure aren’t looking to do any sort of busy work. The track itself is fine – it features Abel Tesfaye’s trademark moody vocal delivery, over a mid-paced four-to-the-floor groove, with some glossy synth melodies that back up a radio smash chorus that sounds like it could’ve come right off of Tesfaye’s last album.
What the track doesn’t feel like in the slightest, however, is a Disclosure track. Between the radio pop synthesizer timbres, lack of detail in the instrumental, complete emphasis on the vocalist, and its tempo of 104 beats per minute, anyone listening to this track would just assume it’s a B-side off of The Weeknd’s album Beauty Behind the Madness that Disclosure had nothing to do with whatsoever.
With a bulk of Caracal, it’s clear Disclosure didn’t want to just repeat the formula that made Settle fantastic, but the changes made lead to a series of songs that sound like anybody else could’ve produced them. Omen continues Disclosure’s involvement with Sam Smith, with a radio-friendly pop song that feels nowhere near as dynamic or unique as Latch. While the track does feature a wobbly synth bass line that does give off Disclosure vibes, it’s at times barely audible because of its drowning in the overproduction surrounding the track.
Willing and Able goes in more of a pop-R&B direction, with a slow-paced, sensual beat and soulful lead vocals from Kwabs. Another track that isn’t too bad, but again, aside from the wobble bass in the mix, you wouldn’t guess that the same guys that produced songs like F for You and When a Fire Starts to Burn were responsible for phoning in these cuts. On Caracal, Disclosure sound disappointingly overshadowed by their collaborators.
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