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Being among the leaders of house and a new album packed with all star guests (The Weeknd, Lorde, Sam Smith, and more), it’s easy to see where electronic and pop music fans alike are being drawn in. Perhaps the only way to try and match the success of Disclosure’s previous effort Settle was to get this pop appeal. But can their new album match the quality fans so adored in its successor?
Caracal stays very true to itself. It embodies everything house is, and should be. While this has both its ups and downs, for the most part, it does everything it attempts to do in a complete fashion. The beginning of the album is an onslaught of soul - The Weeknd and Sam Smith’s guest spots appearing consecutively after one another. The album opens on a big note: the seven minute house monster that is “Nocturnal” featuring The Weeknd. The Weeknd’s R&B voice shines bright and provocatively on top of the typical deep bass notes and pretty little synths that compose the instrumental. The song centers around the atmospheric chorus (which is really just Weeknd singing, “Nocturnal, yeah!” over and over) and progressive build ups. On the surface the track seems a bit tacky and long, though the length is justified by the catchiness of the track. Even if you hate it, the track is extremely infectious. Unfortunately, the album peaks just as soon as it begins.
As I mentioned before, this album takes a firm hold of everything it attempts to do. The negative side of that is that it holds on to these principles throughout the entirety of the album, making it an enjoyable yet forgettable experience. The tracks following “Nocturnal”, “Omen” featuring Sam Smith and “Holding On” featuring Gregory Porter, while great as standalone songs, ruin the flow established with the debut track. Not only that, but they feel like secondhand knockoffs of it! “Hourglass” featuring LION BABE rebuilds the charm of “Nocturnal”, with LION delivering great harmonies, with a fun backing track. The album quickly shoots low again, nothing separating “Willing & Able” from being a KWABS feature and a KWABS track. “Magnets” with Lorde and the first track on the album without a feature, “Jaded” are the last high points on the album. Lorde delivers a great performance with her signature ominously charming harmonies, even while the instrumental may not fit the mood the vocals seem to want to set up. “Jaded” has a driving charm with a very catchy chorus yet again. Your suspicions are built up and broken down throughout the first half of the album, ultimately leveling off into a very average expectation for the second half. While there are memorable moments scattered few and far between the second half of the album (songs like “Moving Mountains” and “Molecules” are quite well written and groovy), nothing truly stands out like the better tracks of the beginning. Not to mention the absolute disasters that are “Bang That” and “Good Intentions” featuring Miguel.
Caracal isn’t the follow up you’d expect from Disclosure, but it definitely holds its ground. It has its ups and downs (well, mainly downs), but it’s a solid house record. Great to put on in the background to get work done, or to put on at a chill party. Dropping big names definitely helped the album get some fresh ideas and pop exposure, so hopefully the trend continues in Disclosure’s future endeavors.
Favorite Tracks: Nocturnal (ft. The Weeknd), Magnets (ft. Lorde), Jaded
Least Favorite Tracks: Bang That, Good Intentions (ft. Miguel)
Overall Rating: 6.5/10