ENERGY is a mess, a simultaneously enjoyable and frustrating experience. To explain why we’re going back to 2013.
Long ago, in a time when listening to dance music didn’t seem so depressing, Disclosure released an absolute slaperooney of a dance album, an instant classic. Settle launched onto the scene seven years ago and in one fell swoop the Lawrence brothers (Guy and Howard) landed themselves into the dance record hall of fame. Whether they wanted it or not, Settle was a double-edged sword; setting the bar unbelievably high. The high bar ended up being bad for both the brothers and their fans.
While they didn’t shit the bed with their second project, Caracal, it left a bitter taste in the mouths of many fans. Caracal was a pop record, unexpected to most. We should have seen it coming I suppose, but I guess that’s easier to say in hindsight. The Lawrence brothers had long admitted a love for pop music, often telling of their affection for artists like Jamie Woon. After all, it was their signature sound mixed with traditional pop song writing that gave many of the major hits on Settle their widespread appeal and accessibility (“Latch”, “F For You”, “Help Me Lose My Mind”). Unfortunately, their breach into pop territory was not met with overwhelming praise from critics.
I mention all of this for two reasons. One – the Lawrence brothers are actually fantastic at making pop music (if you ignore their worst ever song “Magnets”) and I don’t think they get the credit they deserve from critics. Two – it helps explain Disclosure’s very clear return to their dance style, for better or for worse.
Let’s start off on a positive note. ENERGY has some absolute killer tracks. “Lavender” is sexy and chique. When it becomes safe to, you’re going to want this to get on the dancefloor and engage in some consensual grinding.
“My High” is Disclosure’s slowthai banger. Similar to slowthai tracks like “Doorman” and “Deal Wiv It”, but with the unique Disclosure sound. This track is full of tongue’n’cheek lines and has an infectiously aggressive, on-edge atmosphere.
The title track “ENERGY” is the crown jewel of this album. Layers of percussive rhythms build until there are no breaks, the space around begins to vibrate, and the air becomes saturated with energy (seriously couldn’t think of a better word). This is a dance track through-and-through, ENERGY needed so much more of what this track has to offer. Why did we only get one track like this??
Besides these top tunes, there are only two other stand-out tracks that are worth anyone’s time: “Douha (Mali Mali)” and “ce n’est pas”. Both are interesting because they are legitimate developments of Disclosure’s signature style by using the influence of different cultures. However, they lack the momentum and presence of the best tracks to really draw attention.
Sadly, the remainder of the tracks on the album are mediocre. To be fair it’s probably more accurate to describe them as underwhelming rather than mediocre. I’ll let you decide which is worse.
I’m not saying that Disclosure haven’t tried to develop. All I’m saying is, you can’t put an extra layer of frosting on a seven-year-old cake and convince me it’s not stale. So many tracks on ENERGY have the same sound as those on Settle except with added bells and whistles (both metaphorical and literal in this case). To name a few: “Watch Your Step”, “Who Knew?”, “Reverie”, and “Birthday”.
Actually, “Birthday” is in a class of its own, and not a good one. “Birthday” is their new worst song. On first listen, I legitimately questioned whether or not I was still a fan of Disclosure. Harsh criticism, but one that I now levy at Kehlani and Syd. Guys… the lyrics on “Birthday” are hot garbage.
You could look at the poorer elements as either mediocre or underwhelming, and there's a big difference between the two
All I have to say about the two interludes in the album is this: if you’re going to include an interlude in your album make sure it’s both a good palate cleanser for the following track and make it an interesting tangent that appears to develop ideas or themes you’re using. Don’t use it as an opportunity to flex your producing skills by wedging in a genre that has no reason being in your album *cough* Thinking ’Bout You *cough*, and don’t make it as boring as a lo-fi beat compilation *cough* Fractal *cough*.
Despite the criticisms I’ve hurled at this album it cannot be said that it is bad. There are some great highs amongst the lows, and even the lows can be viewed differently. As stated before, you could look at the poorer elements as either mediocre or underwhelming, and there’s a big difference between the two. The critical reception to this album has been reasonably varied, most landing it in a range from 3-5 stars, which is pretty inconsistent. If this is your first Disclosure album or you’re not a regular listener, I’m sure you’re having a blast, you should be. ENERGY is a fun album to listen to. This album makes me want to throw some shapes and get back to the dancefloor (excluding “Birthday” of course). Though when I do return, I can say with certainty that I’ll be reaching for a lot of other albums and not this one.