Album Review: Years & Years – Communion

By on Wednesday, 8th July 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Years & Years - Communion album coverYears and Years are the kind of band I should like (read: electronic-based and associated with Kitsune) but don’t. I didn’t rate their monster, chart-topping hit ‘King’. However, love them or hate them, Years & Years are the kind of slick pop act who find themselves super popular with the Radio 1 listening crowd and the BBC themselves (they gave them the BBC Sound of 2015 for pete’s sake), and judging from Polydor backing them for their debut album ‘Communion’, they are here to stay. For now at least. If Gigwise’s report from Glastonbury 2015 is anything to go by, they smashed their first-ever appearance at Worthy Farm by taking the opportunity to support gay rights and equality at the Other Stage Saturday afternoon after America’s historic Supreme Court decision on gay marriage a day before. But can they put together a cohesive, enjoyable full-length LP?

Listening to ‘King’ and several of Years & Years’ singles, I can understand the popular appeal. Singer Olly Alexander, a child actor and the last member to join the band after he was discovered by guitarist Mikey Goldsworthy while he was singing in the shower, sounds very much like Michael Jackson in his prime. If you imagine any of the King of Pop’s biggest hits in the ’80s and put a dancey synth beat in the background, you get a good rough approximation of what Years & Years sound like. The album is top-loaded with their 2014 triumphs ‘Real’ and ‘Take Shelter’, both with bouncy yet darker rhythm lurking throughout. The upbeat ‘Desire’ shows up further down the tracklisting. There is just enough urban tinge to make it edgy but make no mistake, this is top 40 after all, so it’s all within safe, predictable, populist confines.

Giving credit where credit’s due, their upcoming single ‘Shine’ to be released on the 5th of July initially deviates from any obvious synthpop formula, the synths muted and understated as Alexander’s vocals bounce. Until the chorus comes in and he sounds like Jacko again. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a child of the ’80s, but it’s distracting me from anything else in their music. ‘Eyes Shut’ deserves a mention too, as Alexander pulls out the blue-eyed soul similar to what has made Sam Smith as a household name and the group smartly chooses a mostly modest instrumental framework that includes piano to accompany his vocals. A similar approach is taken but in an even quieter way with album closer ‘Memo’.

There’s nothing objectionable on ‘Communion’, and the album certainly has its toe-tapping moments that will keep fans dancing and festival punters happy. You’re just left spinning, as there’s nothing substantial here to cling to…

6/10

Years & Years’ debut album ‘Communion’ is out this Friday, the 10th of July, on Polydor Records. Catch the band on their recently announced autumn UK tour scheduled for October and November 2015.

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