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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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New Disclosure album ‘Caracal’ lacks originality

Disclosure
Photo by PROVIDED
Disclosure

I consider myself a fan of Disclosure’s music. It strikes a tight balance between dance and pop, between silly and serious. It’s a sound that, over time, has begun to take prominence in popular music, and when they announced their new album ‘Caracal,’ I was excited to see where they would take it. Unfortunately, Disclosure’s attempt at evolution leaves me feeling bored.
When Disclosure dropped their freshman album back in 2013, it seemed they were making a statement. Seemingly a reaction to the ever-growing trends of electronic dance music, ‘Settle’ was an album that hearkened back to earlier days of house music. It didn’t feature big drops or bass wobbles, in fact it seemed to function perfectly well without them. The album carried an energy to it, a brightness, an aura of nostalgia alongside its diverse-yet-danceable rhythms. 
It was summer music, full of all the sweetness and sunshine. But seasons change, and on Disclosure’s Sophomore record ‘Caracal,’ winter has begun to break on the duo, and the music has changed to reflect that.
In comparison to ‘Settle,’ ‘Caracal’ is dark. The BPMs are lower, the production is more minimal, the lyrics are more self-serious. It is the night to ‘Settle’s’ day, and it’s much closer to R&B than pop. Most tracks are slow burners, and the lyrics concern themselves with the negativities of love — the yearning, the losses, the lies. It eschews the previous record’s fun attitude and tempo for a plodding, soulful set of songs. This is Disclosure’s attempt to mature, and, unfortunately, it doesn’t work.
Make no mistake — elements of Disclosure is still here with the asynchronous synths, the 2-step inspired backing rhythms and the incessant amount of vocal features (seriously, of its 11 tracks, only 2 don’t have a “feat.” on their titles). This was all good and well when ‘Settle’ first came out, but times have changed. ‘Settle’s’ impact shifted the popular dance music scene towards a subdued alternative to the big drops of dubstep and trap. Thus, the new club standard is a cleaner, more refined sound, one that Disclosure helped to pioneer. 
Many musicians have adopted this sound, from Jason Derulo to The Weeknd (who is featured on the record’s opening track Nocturnal), meaning Disclosure has to do more to stand out. At its best, the album is passable. It’s music to do work to, something that works better as a passive activity than an active one. But when the duo’s first record was such an explosion of excitement and energy, one that single-handedly re-directed the future of dance music, this series of tracks feels lackluster. It’s not nearly as catchy, and the fun factor has been turned down so much it may as well be a DMV visit.

Normally, here is where different tracks would be individually analyzed and discussed. But as I listened to the tracks for this review, I had to constantly check what song I was listening to. The titles are the heaviest distinguishing factor between these tracks, and that does not bode well. While they definitely hit their marks as far as forming a particular sound, that sound does not change. From the first song to the last, ‘Caracal,’ is a repetitive wash of not-quite-catchy generic R&B. Even the album’s lead single, “Omen,” which wants to mimic the extreme success of “Latch,” pales in comparison to anything on ‘Settle’.

I came to ‘Caracal’ very hopeful, as ‘Settle’ was one of my favorite records of 2013, but the more I listened to it, the more I came to question what I ever saw in Disclosure in the first place. Thankfully, after I listened to ‘Settle’ again, I realized it wasn’t me. That record still maintains its strengths, and it leaves me with the notion that Disclosure has more to say, even if ‘Caracal’ isn’t quite the statement I was looking for.
In attempting to broaden their appeal, Disclosure has turned their heads from the goofy, kitschy fun of their past. In doing so, they have walked away from the very aspect of their sound that made them interesting in the first place. What’s left is a generic, indistinguishable series of tracks barely memorable enough to pass.

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