Ever since their single “Real,” British trio Years & Years have constantly been in the spotlight. After earning multiple awards, gaining experience, and increasing in popularity, they have finally combined their deepest, darkest emotions into their debut album. Their infatuation of addictive, bouncy dance tracks is what encompasses the core of Communion, and despite it’s occasional naivety, each track tells a distinct story – and more importantly, always manages to stay human.
Even though Years & Years are known for their pop delicacies and energetic, lively sound, they shouldn’t be written off quite so quickly as other critics have recommended. On the surface, it’s easy to see the disdain with Communion – some songs are incredibly simple and peppy, which can make it seem like there’s nothing more to it – but the deeper, more introspective tracks are where the real appeal lies. Opener “Foundation” is a good example of a track that wouldn’t necessarily spring to mind when trying to name a classic pop song, but the eerie, powerful feeling it brings and the gaze into the dark side of a usually ecstatic, energetic band is enough to make you want to keep listening. “Take Shelter,” a song that appeared on their EP, uses bouncy, exotic beats to evoke a mysterious, almost entrancing feeling, which is something that I’ve found happens a lot throughout the album. That feeling of voyeurism – a constant, unified obsession and fascination – helps a lot when trying to compose an effective dance track, and there’s a whole lot of it here and in the beautiful track “Real.” There’s a sort of energy that pours out of the synth and electronic instrumentals that evoke a certain kind of feeling – one that scratches at the seams and threatens to break free, but the fact that it’s contained makes it all the more exciting. Pure dance tracks “Desire” and “Gold” show off frontman Olly Alexander’s pained crystalline voice as well as how it morphs with the beat, while “Eyes Shut” becomes a poetic pop ballad for heartbreak. The slower tracks “Ties” and “Memo” are the safer of the bunch, meaning that while enjoyable, it doesn’t really take any risks, which seems to be the biggest concern of the album as a whole. Years & Years seem to be a band that’s great at evoking certain feelings and images, but struggle in trying to achieve a constant, comprehensive sound. This, though, is normal for a band just starting out, and I can’t fault them too much for that. If anything, it just seems as if the album was a few songs too long, considering some tracks repeat themselves in terms of subject matter and feeling. The tracks that do stand out are wonderful, however, and most importantly, showcase the effects of humanistic desire – something that the band does incredibly well.
What makes Communion great is the fact that it showcases both sides of Years & Years in a sneaky way. We get the simple jubilation, the constant euphoria, and the unadulterated passion first hand, and lots of it. However, when listening deeper, you understand that these tracks are coming from a place of heartbreak and disappointment, which, despite their occasional wide-eyed demeanor, creates a sort of tension that’s both contemplative and appealing all at once.
photo courtesy of the guardian