When electronic trio Years & Years dropped their debut album Communion in 2015, they took the UK scene by storm. Their unique brand of electronic pop oozed with personality and love in a bright way, but things have changes. Years & Years return with a new view on love in Palo Santo, their follow up record that doesn't have quite as much positivity as their debut.
While the optimism and unbridled euphoria of the debut is gone, Years & Years definitely haven't lost their sense of musicality. Opening track 'Sanctify' brings the record to a dark start much like its predecessor, beautiful melodies taking precedence over the subtlety of the instrumental. The dark vibe returns later on with 'Rendezvous,' the melodies still dominating but with a newfound sensuality to them. A disco vibe is channeled in 'Hallelujah' to spice things up, while euphoric pop is delivered in 'All For You' and 'Karma.'
The lyricism plays an important role in Palo Santo, definitively separating it from the band's past work. There's a lot more heartbreak and anguish on this record that's more upfront and present here, especially on tracks like 'Lucky Escape.' Throughout the entire song, Olly Alexander sings of being better off without a past partner, even when that person seems to be living well. It's a lamenting track but also an attempt to be uplifting, to remind both himself and his ex that they are not trapped in the past and are moving ahead with life. 'Hypnotized' takes a dramatic path in both lyrics and sound, singing of falling madly in love against everything you've believed in. The end of the record gets more ghastly, title track 'Palo Santo' crying "And the memories are filling up with smoke / You'll remember me and I start to choke / You're the darkness in me" and closing track 'Here' quietly ending the record with "I'm not here."
Years & Years return with a new view on love in Palo Santo, showing a more pained side. The record doesn't quite have the same engagement as the first album, but all the same it is relatable in perhaps the most personal ways.
Favorite Track: Sanctify
Least Favorite Track: Karma
Rating: 72 / 100
Stream or buy Palo Santo on AppleMusic, and follow our 2018 Playlist on Spotify: