Album Review: Caracal by Disclosure

Caracal by Disclosure

For Dance acts like disclosure, the sophomore album is a unique hurdle. After Settle, an album whose runaway success saw the UK-based duo crossing over into mainstream circulation, Disclosure has the unenviable position of making another dent in the pop charts, and proving to skeptical dance music fans that their back-ward looking style isn’t a one trick pony.

Unfortunately, the group falls prey to the same bad instincts that other crossover dance acts have in the past. The best comparison here is Simian Mobile Disco, an act whose debut record delighted pop music fans and won them respect in the dance music community,  but whose followup album saw them losing sight of their strengths in favor of a litany of guest stars.

Caracal takes the same path. The album has a stellar list of voices – The Weeknd, Lorde, previous collaborator Sam Smith – but their voices are lost on the songs, which lack the dynamism of Settle. Worryingly, the album is all vocal songs. Some of their debut’s strongest moments came on the instrumental tracks like “Grab Her!” where the duo tweaked their 2-step indebted house music in interesting ways. These songs also functioned as breathers between the anthems and sugary pop hooks found on songs like “Latch”. The specter of “Latch” hangs over the whole record here – the Lawrence brothers seem eager to reprise it’s success, which is most obvious on “Omen” a Sam Smith-featuring track that amounts to a bland rehash of their 2012 single, turning what made “Latch” sound so vital into paint-by-numbers formula.

When Disclosure stops chasing pop stardom on Caracal, they turn in a few moments that expand their sound in new, fun directions. “Superego” featuring Nao has a synth-funk styled  jumpiness that makes the song feel exciting, and “Masterpiece” trades the duo’s normal uptempo bump for a smooth, gliding slow jam feel that feels like a natural fit for Disclosure’s pristine, glossy sound. Here’s hoping on their next release, Disclosure focuses on exploring new sounds instead of chasing chart dominance.

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