After Disclosure released their debut album “Settle” back in 2013, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t listen to anything else. “Settle” was, and will continue to be, the gold-standard for pop-driven UK garage and house music. The amount of time I spent dancing alone in my room to the infectious, trance-inducing tracks has cemented “Settle” as one of my ultimate albums.
So when Disclosure announced their follow-up “Caracal” with the teaser track “Bang That,” I lost my mind. “Bang That,” a minimalist garage track, streamlines the Disclosure sound into a bass-heavy rave track that makes it impossible to sit still while listening. I couldn’t wait for Sept. 25 so that I could finally listen to the album that would establish Disclosure as one of the most innovative and tight production teams of our generation.
Then Sept. 25 came.
“Caracal” debuted at the top of the UK albums chart and broke the Top 10 on Billboard. The debut generated a lot of mainstream hype, primarily from single “Latch,” which launched the career of featured singer, Sam Smith. It’s no surprise that many have been waiting for Disclosure’s new album and rushed to buy it. But those who loved “Settle” for its garage and house influences won’t find it on “Caracal.”
It’s hard to fault Disclosure for wanting to create more commercially successful songs. Disclosure’s pop structure in “Settle” was present but not overbearing, as Disclosure’s signature tight production took equal precedence to the featured singer’s vocals. While many songs adopted this form in “Settle,” they were all distinguishable and had their own personalities, and they were spaced out and separated with beat-driven tracks. “Caracal” takes this formula to the nth degree: Almost every single song has a featured vocalist singing a pop-structured song with very minimal and repetitive production. Virtually all of the EDM underground influence is absent from this sophomore album.
The structure of the album is more pop-driven than “Settle,” but the new pop-like songs don’t match similar ones from the band’s debut. Opener “Nocturnal” features The Weeknd and his signature over-sexualized crooning, and the song drags on for seven redundant minutes. “Good Intentions” was promising, considering R&B powerhouse Miguel is singing, but he sounds almost bored with the track and the feeling translates to the listener. My favorite track, “Bang That,” isn’t even on the album. Keeping this track off the album (though it is an “iTunes exclusive bonus track”) shows that Disclosure has eschewed their roots in favor of money-making pop.
The songs as a whole aren’t awful—Lorde’s track “Magnets” is great because it’s more Lorde—but this isn’t a Disclosure album. “Caracal” is an exercise in sophomore sellout, a powerhouse duo choosing to appeal too much to commercial success and losing influence in the process. Boring, minimal production makes this album difficult to listen to all the way through. Luckily, 2015 has already been full of great dance albums, but “Caracal” is one to skip. Instead put “Settle” on for another spin, and hope that Disclosure can get back to their roots.
Release date: Sept. 25