Latch was followed a few months later by the euphoria-filled, Mercury Prize-nominated debut long player Settle, which affirmed the Lawrence brothers penchant for crafting irresistibly addictive dancefloor bangers of the highest quality. Blessed by an impressive crop of collaborators including Jessie Ware, London Grammar, Eliza Doolittle and AlunaGeorge, Settle contains nary a throwaway tune and stands as one of the most thrilling LPs released this century thus far.
So when Disclosure revealed plans for their follow-up album earlier this year, most of their devoted fans surely expected the group to pick up precisely where the adrenaline-fueled Settle left off two years ago. And while the groups proven template of polished, soul-infused house grooves remains generally intact on Caracal, their sophomore effort is executed with a noticeably more tempered pace and subdued energy than its precursor. If Settle is the fire that burns brightly across the dancefloor for the entire duration of your hedonistic night out, Caracal is more akin to the flickering flame that signals the inevitable winding down of your evening. Which isnt necessarily a bad thing, as it reinforces the Lawrences versatility in going hard and playing it soft.
Where Settle sustains the listeners rapt attention from start to finish, Caracal proves an album of two halves, the first being the stronger of the two by far. Following the tepid album opener Nocturnal featuring current radio staple The Weeknd, the album hits its stride early with the gorgeous Sam Smith reunion track Omen, followed by the invigorating rush of the Gregory Porter enriched Holding On and the magnetic Hourglass with soulhead favorites Lion Babe. Together, these three tracks form the most enthralling fifteen minutes youll hear on the album, hands down.
From then on, its a relatively tame ride with an abundance of downtempo grooves that, while expertly executed with sonic flourishes throughout, can never quite elevate the listeners pulse beyond its normal BPMs. Even the bona fide star power of contributors Lorde (Magnets) and Miguel (Good Intentions) cant save the rest of the album from devolving into pleasant-enough fare that leaves you feeling little more than ambivalent. The exceptions to this rule appear on the sleek Willing and Able featuring British singer-songwriter Kwabs and the melodic, recently released single Jaded which includes vocals courtesy of Disclosures very own Howard Lawrence.
With the brilliance of Settle, Disclosure established their own creative bar so astronomically high that their follow-up was destined to bring the brothers back down closer to earth, at least according to their own lofty standards and their supporters unfair expectations. Indeed, when juxtaposed with Settle, Caracal struggles to compete. However, relative to the lions share of new albums that have surfaced this year, Caracal unquestionably makes for a far more gratifying listening experience. So while it would seem that Settles massive success has proven both a blessing and a curse for the duo, Caracal is nevertheless a solid manifestation of the groups sonic evolution that will keep us as eager as ever to discover the next chapter in Disclosures blossoming career.
Notable Songs: Holding On | Hourglass | Jaded | Omen | Willing & Able