Disclosure, 'Settle': Track-By-Track Review

89 Billboard Rating

It's easy and short-sighted to compare Disclosure's debut album "Settle" to Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories," partly due to the proximity of their release dates, partly due to the highly lazy "European electronic duo" tag, and partly due to the fact that "Random Access Memories" is the biggest album in the country, bubbling over to include the radio success that Disclosure hopes (and deserves) to find. But the massively impressive "Settle," out Tuesday (June 4) on Cherrytree/Interscope, is much more closely related to the best work of Basement Jaxx and Hercules and Love Affair -- artists that have toed the line between dance and pop by tinkering with white-hot beats and handing the melody to guesting vocalists. Daft Punk's latest towering project is clawing at something deeper, while "Settle" offers nothing as conceptual as something like "Giorgio by Moroder"; that's not to say that Disclosure is not operating on a high level, just that they're still more interested in presenting exhilarating dance music than trying to analyze its power.

Guy and Howard Lawrence, two British brothers born in the 90s, have opened their debut opus to a slew of vocalists with short back catalogs but immensely promising futures. With artists like Jessie Ware, Sam Smith, AlunaGeorge and Eliza Doolittle attached, "Settle" may very well look like an amazingly well-predicted collection of superstar talent in five years' time. However, with rhythms this beguiling, who wouldn't want to sing over them? The brothers have tapped into the amorphous joy at the heart of dance music, and have peppered "Settle's" masterfully executed tracks with that feeling. The Disclosure members may not base their work around their own voices, but "Settle" is a deeply personal list of reasons why these siblings love making music -- and we, as their audience, get to bask in the expansiveness of their passion.

Which songs on "Settle" are worth multiple listens? Check out this track-by-track take on Disclosure's debut.   

1. Intro - A one-minute track that's less of an intro for the album and more of an opening to "When a Fire Starts To Burn," with its vocal sample pounding on the pulpit about inevitable change over a series of crackling drums.

2. When a Fire Starts To Burn - This banger's title refers to the rhythmically repeated lyric -- delivered by Eric Thomas -- at its sweaty center, but it may very well be a nod to the wildfire-like rapidity in which Guy and Howard Lawrence have found international success. Eschewing pop for at least one song, Disclosure delves into delirious dance.

3. Latch feat. Sam Smith

Credit goes to vocalist Sam Smith for his tremendously uninhibited performance on this baroque electro-pop spectacle, but don't discount Disclosure's wobbling, sinewy production, either. Let's hope these three gents get together for more collaborative wizardry sooner rather than later.

4. F For You - Disclosure excels at cherry-picking vocal turns of phrases that blend with the instrumentation constructed around them -- on the breathlessly stylish "F For You," the assonance of the words "infected," "restless" and "manifested" serves as a lynchpin to the hypnotic verses.

5. White Noise feat. AlunaGeorge

The translucent, capricious beats almost distract from Aluna Francis' vocal turn on this breakout single for both U.K. artists, but the singer seizes control on the chorus, which sashays into full view after a spacey buildup. "You just want to keep me on repeat, and hear me crying," Francis seethes.

6. Defeated No More feat. Ed Macfarlane - The longest song on the album is a sensual slow burn that could stand side-by-side with any of Disclosure's acclaimed singles. Unfussy organ riffs, broiling hi-hats, woozy synths and Friendly Fires singer Macfarlane's ethereal pipes convey a feeling of yearning, and "Defeated No More" is a universal house track throbbing with affection.

7. Stimulation - The album's second movement is less concerned with pop song structure and more playful with its samples. "Stimulation" glides along, harnessed to a menacing baseline and highlighted by multi-pronged percussion that sounds like an uptempo refraction of Burial's "Archangel."

8. Voices feat. Sasha Keable - Picking up where the kinetic "Stimulation" left off, "Voices" finds Sasha Keable painting some jazzy tones into the stars of Disclosure's self-contained world. At times springy and at other times dense, "Voices" sounds like a successful mash-up of two entirely different songs.

9. Second Chance - Disclosure takes Kelis' "Get Along With You" and turns it inside out, taking her plea of "Try me, cause I'd be/The one that makes you happy" and gleefully melting it into scraps. It's a subversive experiment and interesting interlude on the album.

10. Grab Her! - Another inspired sample, this one lifted from a J. Dilla track, is used on "Grab Her!," although Disclosure is less tethered to its vocal snippet here than it is on the preceding track. Instead, the song is pushed forward with hollow beats bouncing in various directions and congealing into a formidable web of sound.
 
11. You & Me feat. Eliza Doolittle

There's something blindingly sad about Eliza Doolittle's voice on the single "You & Me," as the singer cuts through the steely whir of the production and allows her tone to properly convey the desperation of the lyrics.

12. January feat. Jamie Woon - Similarly to the way Hercules & Love Affair underlined Antony Hegarty's deep-throated emotion, Jamie Woon's melancholy is exploited on "January," a shimmering dance cut that isn't afraid to strike pensive poses. Fans of Woon's "Lady Luck" single should love this repeat performance.

13. Confess To Me feat. Jessie Ware - Months after gaining recognition for its remix of Jessie Ware's "Running," Disclosure recruits the U.K. songstress and traps her in a pummeling techno landscape. Unfortunately, the subtleties of Ware's mighty voice are largely lost in the clutter; "Confess To Me" sounds like a potentially fantastic live cut, but on "Settle," it never fully comes together.

14. Help Me Lose My Mind feat. London Grammar - Whereas Jessie Ware's contribution to "Settle" overstepped its boundaries, London Grammar's turn on "Help Me Lose My Mind" is ornately arranged and wholly gorgeous. Draw a line from "When a Fire Starts To Burn" to this track, and drink in the journey that Disclosure has taken its listeners on with their debut album.

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