Disclosure – “Settle”

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Grade: B+

Key Tracks: “When A Fire Starts to Burn,” “F For You”

A debut from a European dance band coming only weeks after Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” burned up the charts might not seem like a good decision. It worked. Perhaps it was unintentional, but Disclosure might be on to something. The British duo – two brothers of ages 21 and 18 – have perfected an album harking back to dance music of the 90’s, not unlike the aforementioned French duo. Americanized house and dance music (the abrasively loud forms of EDM and dubstep I embraced in college) is still very popular, but has a definite expiration date, and that date might be coming soon. As “Get Lucky” climbs the charts, Boards of Canada release a comeback and Disclosure release a well-anticipated debut on the same day, all signaling a potential return to more controlled forms of dance music.

There is really nothing new on this record. It greatly succeeds, however, as an exploration and combination of many different forms of dance and house music. The combined opening tracks of “Intro” and “When A Fire Starts to Burn” present an almost Prodigy-type of heavy, hip-hop influenced type of electronica. This doesn’t stick around, as the album shifts through various volumes and tempos, and with a whole and welcomed line-up of up-and-coming British singers.

“Settle” is, at its core, exactly what it wants to be, and that is an effective dance record. It even flows well as an album, something nearly every dance band seems to struggle with. It might be very long, but if it’s put on at a party, that will no longer be a complaint. The beats are cooled and controlled, with little invention going on. In a world now filled with Skrillexs and Diplos, that might be just what we need.

-By Andrew McNally

Laura Marling – “Once I Was An Eagle”

(Photo credit: Rolling Stone)

(Photo credit: Rolling Stone)

Grade: B+

Key Tracks: “Breathe,” “Saved These Words”

British singer-songwriter Laura Marling has been receiving constant praise for her work, including immediate approval of her fourth album, “Once I Was An Eagle.” The album does it’s job – it is an honest and effective folk album. But it does not start off that way. The first three tracks, “Take the Night Off,” “I Was An Eagle,” and “You Know,” are fairly tepid folk songs, with uninspiring lyrics and Marling’s vocals sounding phoned in. It is not until the fourth song, “Breathe,” that the album’s diverse originality starts to seep in. The song is a beautiful and building work of emotion. After “Breathe,” the album opens up into a mix of tracks with very diverse origins. Some have fast-paced with booming percussion, some are softer and more traditional of a singer-songwriter. Most songs feature just Marling and a slight instrument or two in the background. The album, as a whole, flows well in its transitions between different styles.

Once the album expands, there is a sense that Marling puts all the elements of herself into the record, exampled in the different styles. The songs have consistently great rhythms, no matter the volume or tempo. Marling deals with some tough thematic material in her lyrics, typical of a successful folk record. The album is long, stretching just over an hour, and it starts to feel tedious during the decrescendo towards the end. But the album’s final song, “Saved These Words,” is very reminiscent of “Breathe” in that it is a building song, a tough and perfect finale to the album.

Musically, the transitions between different styles keep it interesting, tough to accomplish for a folk singer. Marling’s guitar rhythms are often catchy and interesting, some less stale than others. Although the album starts slow, it turns into another near-perfect album for the acclaimed singer.

-Andrew McNally