First Listen: Disclosure's "Caracal"

By Daniel in EDM News
Thursday, October 1, 2015, 3:42pm. (Updated: 10/19/15 at 8:02pm) Add comments

First Listen: Disclosure’s “Caracal”

Words by: Daniel Chamorro

disclosure-caracal-album

My ears perk up. I stare off into the distance, focusing on the new sounds resonating in and around my head. I bob my head, in perpetual sync with the beat. A smile comes across my face. The feeling of listening to a great track for the first time ever is one of the most underrated sentiments out there in the world. There’s nothing like it, it’s almost like opening a present on Christmas morning. Music has the power to elicit such profound responses from people, this has been evident for thousands upon thousands of years. Today, British duo Disclosure released their second album, titled “Caracal.” The sequel to 2013’s critically-acclaimed “Settle” has been one of the most-anticipated releases in dance music, and for good reason. You see, Disclosure are the real deal. They’ve put a new, fresh spin on UK Garage, combining it perfectly with pop. They’ve managed to score a Grammy nomination for their first studio release. They’ve also turned Sam Smith from an unknown London crooner to a bonafide international superstar. Perhaps their most impressive feat though, has been their ability to inject boundless amounts of soul into their songs.

First impressions are usually correct, or so they say. Can this be applied to music? Of course, there aren’t any universal rules when it comes to listening to or judging it. Every person is different, we all have our unique ways of digesting what we hear. Opinions can easily be changed, sometimes abruptly, sometimes over time. There aren’t any rules when it comes to this. However, I’m the type of person that usually likes to go with their gut feeling. So with that said, I present: First Listen, a type of album review where songs will be judged based off of a single listen. No rewinds. No playbacks. Top to bottom, one way through. Let’s see what Guy and Howard have prepared for us.

  1. Nocturnal (feat. The Weeknd) Kicked things off with a vibe straight outta the 80’s. Their throwback influences are evident. The Weeknd, probably the biggest singer out right now, is working well within this element. This sounds like something to listen to while driving down the highway on a nice night with the top down. Their signature synths have been kept along for the ride so far. Strong start to the album, different. The good type of different, though. The type that makes you want to be more acquainted with. If you had told me this song was made in 1984, I wouldn’t have questioned it. It’s refreshing for a dance music act today to construct a song longer than the usual 3-4 minute tailor-made-for-radio duration. It’s the longest they’ve made, but they worked well inside of them. Nice to see these guys using a sample from Frankie Knuckle’s “Your Love.” (RIP.) Favorite part of the track is the bridge between the two choruses, where they allowed for their sounds to breathe, making it easier for them to permeate within the listener.
  2. Omen (feat. Sam Smith) Quite possibly the most anticipated song on this album, Omen is most definitely a different animal than Latch. The soul is still intact, but it’s not so much a song to dance to, it’s more so one to groove to. It sounds triumphant, almost like a most-deserved victory lap. This track is more open, you can easily tell that they wanted to experiment for their second collaboration with Mr. Smith. The chorus? Infectious. This is one for the car playlist, and for the house party as well.
  3. Holding On (feat. Gregory Porter) The lead single, the only song on this album that I’ve had in constant rotation before. I couldn’t help it, it’s sooooo good. Can I just say that the beginning of this track is magnificent? Porter’s voice rises and crashes like a series of tidal waves, crashing inside my eardrums. The progression and build-up of the track before the first chorus is impeccable, like a master chef adding ingredients to his specialty soup one at a time with precision. First, the bass drum. Then hi-hats. Handclaps and chords, then boom– Gregory. A delicacy. Holding On’s got some real jazz elements, with strong emotive chords and modes. You can’t help but sing along with this. Shake it, sh- shake it.
  4. Hourglass (feat. Lion Babe) Settle 2.0 here. Disclosure’s evolved sound is easily distinguishable. I’ve gotta check out more of Lion Babe, her voice is honey. The breakdown after the soulful chorus is reminiscent of Apollo, a single they released for free to fans shortly after Settle. I see why there were murmurs of Guy and Howard going towards more of a pop route, and less towards the upbeat, club-ready sound that they’ve been previously known for. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, since a true artist is partly measured by their artistic growth. Only the best have managed to constantly reinvent themselves while continuing to produce quality works.
  5. Willing and Able (feat. Kwabs) Slower than the two previous tracks. Sounds like a D’angelo track at first, with a driving, drum machine line that could fit into any R&B track today. It is a known fact that the brothers from Surrey are huge fans of his. Signature synths have retruned. This one’s closer to the same vein as Omen, full of soul. I see why Disclosure only work with artists that are willing to write with them in the studio. You can hear their collaborative efforts, the way that Kwabs’ voice flows perfectly through the sound waves, in and between the harmonies.
  6. Magnets (feat. Lorde) A completely foreign rhythm here, this is unlike anything I’ve heard from them. I need to find out what instrument they used for that thumping percussive line. It’s tribal, with Lorde’s gorgeous voice flowing gracefully between the elements of this great work. The New Zealand songstress along with the brothers from southeastern England knocked this chorus out of the park, coming together to create a truly funky breakdown.
  7. Jaded A song featuring the vocals of Howard, it’s a more upbeat effort fit for the dance floor. The duo recently said on Twitter that they would’ve loved to work with the late and great Michael Jackson. I believe MJ would’ve loved to lend his vocals to this song. It seems that the 808 drum used in Willing and Able was borrowed for this, using the same sounds that were heavily used throughout the infancy of hip-hop in the 1980’s. Let me also add that Howard’s got the juice when it comes to singing. Enjoyed his vocals on F For You, and he hits the nail on the head here as well.
  8. Good Intentions (feat. Miguel) The man who claimed he made better music than Frank Ocean. While that’s up for debate, it’s clear that Miguel is a great vocalist in his own right. He starts belting out his lines a lá 80’s synthpop style, which is also a genre that this song would fit into snugly. It seems that Disclosure found their comfort BPM here, it’s around the same speed as Omen and Willing and Able. No complaints here, though.
  9. Superego (feat. Nao) Oh wow. this is new. Nao sounds similar to AlunaGeorge, but this ain’t no White Noise. This is the second song from this album that could’ve easily featured a rap verse or two, along with the aforementioned Willing and Able, which now that I think about it, had a heavy J Dilla feel to it (RIP). Disclosure’s affinity for 90’s hip-hop and Dilla had to have been put to full use during the production of Superego. So far, very satisfied with Caracal. Here’s hoping that it continues this way through the end.
  10. Echoes UK Garage. That two-step. Howard sings on this one as well. Stronger, more layered synths are present. He and his brother’s production chops have grown since 2013. Fans of Settle will have this on constant rotation. One great thing about these guys is that they’re learned how to create space in their songs, by sustaining certain melodies and allowing for the listener to enjoy them properly. It’s a clear indicator of progression with this duo, since the skill creates a larger canvas for them to pour their art onto.
  11. Masterpiece (feat. Jordan Rakei) 98% sure this is Disclosure’s slowest song ever, one that’s 100% R&B through-and-through. The soul of the track is leaking through my speakers at the moment, this song was made for the bedroom. Very sensual, very enticing. This is a highlight of Disclosure’s ever-so eclectic sound, being able to span across opposite sides of the musical spectrum.
  12. Molecules If you don’t have the deluxe edition, stop reading right this second. Jk. I only have it because I’ve got a free trial of Apple Music. Which will be running up soon. Sadface. Anyways, Disclosure’s comfort BPM for this album has returned to the fold, and boy is it comfy. I think this speed allows for more flexibility within their music, they’ve managed to express themselves, just as, if not better than they did on Settle. I think with their prior album, it was suited more for the club, more for dancing. This one is more in the lane of Defeated No More and Help Me Lose My Mind, two of the more emotional songs from the LP. The album is meant to vibe along with.
  13. Moving Mountains (feat. Brendan Reilly) One of the couple of songs that I listened to off the album before its release. One of my favorites, its minimalism is attractive. It’s very stripped-down, with synthesizers, a simple metronome and Reilly’s voice for the majority of the song, and it’s building up to– YEAH. THAT. The boys from Britain have gone a little trap on us, eh? A hip-hop head would take a certain liking to this. I’m going to write Guy and Howard a letter pleading them to work with some real rappers.
  14. Bang That, till ya pass out. Chances are, you’ve heard and danced your tail off to this one several times. Bless Disclosure for giving us a club anthem to move our feet to while waiting for this monster of an album. It’s quite possibly the most danceable track that they’ve made to date. These guys are so versatile, it’s a given that they’re going to be sticking around for a long time. First time I heard this, I fell in love. Wild Life NYE at Pier 92 in New York. I can’t put into words how hard this hit for that NYC crowd.
  15. Afterthought is not a word to attribute to this album. A fitting ending, it serves well as a bookend for the journey that has been taken through this album.

And there ya have it. I’m going to go a bit rogue here and choose not to affix a numerical value representing how much I liked this album. Personally, I don’t think anyone out there has been able to truly grasp this album just yet. True comprehension of musical works require multiple listens in different environments. You can’t get that in a day or two. What I will say, is that I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Disclosure’s latest product, and I can’t wait to listen to it more. So, if you liked what you heard, come out to Echostage on October 21st/22nd to hear it live. If you didn’t really like it, that’s fine. Give it a few more listens if you want, and then come see the duo in person. Concerts are known for their ability to change opinions. See you all this week!

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