I won’t bore you with a long recap of Disclosure’s history, I think we all know their debut album Settle was INSANELY popular, and that expectations for a follow up would be crushing.
Settle in some ways inspired another movement like Daft Punk did during their Discovery and Homework era. The album launched the career of Sam Smith, and reignited people’s interest in late 80’s early 90’s club music, like Daft Punk did for disco etc.
Fast forward two years later and we are all REALLY bored with the song “Latch,” so it’s understandable that Disclosure themselves are too. They clearly approached Caracal (terrible name BTW, every time I type it I have to go look it up first) with a different approach. Disclosure themselves stated in many interviews they were tired of the same old bass lines and chorus’ etc., so here on Caracal they try to go for a more chilled out vibe.
Now I don’t know about you guys, but when I describe someone I know in life as “Chill,” it usually means that when I hang out with that person I don’t have to worry about offending OR entertaining them. They don’t hurt the hangout in any way, but they don’t add anything to it either. That’s pretty much exactly what Caracal accomplishes.
The album plays it PAINFULLY safe. Every song follows almost the exact same format; a relaxed beat, guest singer, and a really flat chorus. It has 0 experimental tracks, no interesting instrumentals, and no interesting samples. “Omen” is particularly cringe-inducing, as it once again features Sam Smith and has the most plain beat and flat chorus you could ever imagine.
The best song on the album is really the first single, which sets you up for disappointment right off bat. “Holding On” perfectly captures the new vibe Disclosure wants. It has silky smooth production and Gregory Porter just kills it on the vocals. Unfortunately, the rest of the album is just that same formula over and over again with diminishing returns.
It does seem impossible to win with sophomore albums, as reviewers either fault you for doing the same thing as your debut, or knock you for venturing too far from your original sound. Now don’t get me wrong, no song on the album is bad, they just fall flat. It’s absolutely fantastic background music at the club while you sip a… cosmo? Is that what people drink at clubs? But the songs lack anything that is inspiring or a stand out.
I don’t care what the “sound” of the album is as long as it’s interesting. Settle was loud, catchy and exciting, and if Disclosure wants to turn down the BPM on Caracal, that’s fine! But replace it with something interesting. If you want to do some electronic music, be interesting like Com Truise or Jamie xx. If you want to do R&B, be smooth like Miguel or D’Angelo! If you want to be Disclosure, then turn up the BPM! Instead they just stick to a middle ground between all of these things. On Settle, there was the song “Help Me Lose My Mind” which is a slower song, but it’s peaceful and elegant. Caracal slows it down, but isnt peaceful or elegant anywhere. Even the interesting “Bang That” single is relegated to the “Bonus Tracks” section, so the main album now lacks any excitement.
While “Moving Mountains” is actually experimental and breaks the formula, Caracal, as a whole, never reaches new heights. It’s consistently good, but never great, and to me that is unacceptable.
Best Tracks – “Holding On”, “Superego”, “Echoes”, “Moving Mountains”