John Legend - Darkness and Light

You can't match the smoothness of John Legend. He's a pop king, as it stands. His new album Darkness and Light is a furthering of his pop sensibility and his swagger.

John Legend has five albums under his belt now, and Darkness and Light is the pinnacle of his smoothness. It's full of sweet textures and driven instrumentals that really bring his character to life. It's kicked off by 'I Know Better,' introducing the record with Legend's rich timbre and a soulful instrumental. The piano bursts strongly above the organ keyboard, enriching the song's sonic nature. Other songs really capture the sweetness the record wants to exude: 'Overload' with Miguel is very sincere, background harmonies supporting the soothing story of the track, and 'Penthouse Floor' with Chance The Rapper bringing some funk and combining it with the sweetness of the other tracks.

There's some variation in the album, though. It's not all about being smooth. Pulsating bass kicks up the momentum with 'What You Do To Me,' Legend's swaying vocal line really complimenting the background orchestra. The record comes with bluesy tones, too, 'Right By You (For Luna)' calmly starting before its mysterious textures really come to the light. 'Same Old Story' has the composition of a Bon Iver track, glitching pianos resonating before a vocoder starts distorting the vocals in a blissful manner. The title track 'Darkness and Light' gives a darker aesthetic to the album's initial soundscape, too, Alabama ShakesBrittany Howard bringing a southern, sensual rock twang to the track.

The album is rooting in sweet love. There are several songs that make the most out of their sweetness - 'Surefire' is the pinnacle of it all, combining the best of the record into one fantastically pure track. It's all in the smoothly progressing guitar and bass, carrying the song in a very sweet and peaceful way as John Legend sings introspectively and with want, strings providing a little extra punch to it.

John Legend is a popstar in the most lowkey of ways. His music is huge as a result of how raw his messages are. It's all about love when it's coming from him - Darkness and Light sees the highs and lows of it, relating to everyone in someway. It plays through with few moments of energy, but its emotion stays strong throughout.

Favorite Tracks: Surefire, Darkness and Light, What You Do To Me

Least Favorite Track: Marching Into The Dark

Rating: 72 / 100

Disclosure - Caracal

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