How To Dress Well - What Is This Heart? - 2014 Alt Lo-Fi Indie R + B 2LP

In stock

How To Dress Well - What Is This Heart

Label: Weird World
Cat#: WEIRD037LP
Format: 2 × Vinyl, LP, Album
Country: UK & US
Includes mp3 download card.
Made in the EU.
Released: 23 Jun 2014
Genre: Electronic, Funk / Soul, Pop
Style: RnB/Swing, Lo-Fi, Downtempo


A1 2 Years On (Shame Dream) 3:46
A2 What You Wanted 3:41
A3 Face Again 4:28

B1 See You Fall 3:13
B2 Repeat Pleasure 3:31
B3 Words I Don't Remember 6:36

C1 Pour Cyril 4:18
C2 Precious Love 4:03
C3 Childhood Faith In Love (Everything Must Change Everything Must Stay The Same) 4:04

D1 A Power 5:33
D2 Very Best Friend 4:24
D3 House Inside (Future Is Older Than The Past) 6:39

Companies etc

Phonographic Copyright (p) – Domino Recording Co. Ltd.
Copyright (c) – Domino Recording Co. Ltd.
Mastered At – Electric Mastering


Co-producer – Rodaidh McDonald
Design – Oval-X Eternal
Mastered By – Guy Davie
Photography By [Cover Photo] – Zackery Michael
Written-By – Tom Krell

©2014 Domino Recording Co. Ltd

PBR&B, also referred to as R-Neg-B, hipster R&B and alternative R&B, is a term used by music journalists to describe an emerging, stylistic alternative to contemporary R&B.

How to Dress Well is a project that Tom Krell conducts with a particularly modern transparency: the music he shares is meant to illuminate the music that he makes. His most recent Soundcloud mixtapes, No Words to Say and I Think Life Might Be Elsewhere (Hungover Mix), were heavy on what we’ve come to expect from him—along with his own work in progress, we’d hear a very specific set of influences, mostly R&B and hip-hop, high/lowbrow dichotomies accepted by indie culture such as Lou Reed and Miley Cyrus, Young Thug, and GG Allin.

But late last year, early 2000s emo acts like the Starting Line, Taking Back Sunday and Saves the Day started to infiltrate, and surely he was trying to tell us why these bands speak to him. Whether it’s Chief Keef or Chris Conley, Krell is informed by genre but driven by expression; in his mind, pop music is anything that aspires for the most immediate and impactful connection, even if it risks embarrassment in the process. As a result, his transcendent third LP "What Is This Heart?" is a pop album of the highest caliber.

It’s easy to be skeptical, as he once treated mainstream music like an academic—pop rendered as ambient and insular experiences. His 2010 debut Love Remains didn't sound like anything else and still doesn’t, as if William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops were filled with cuts from early '90s R&B. Its follow-up Total Loss was sleek and solemn salon-soul, interpolating Ashanti but still modeled by outré, experimental artists ranging from Proem to Forest Swords to Steve Reich. The dubious term “indie R&B” already projected a degree of otherness on a white man in a primary black genre, and Krell’s egghead influences and agamous lyrics gave his detractors plenty of additional dirt.

But even in 2010, it should’ve been fairly obvious that grad students and grade schoolers alike can dream of being Michael Jackson, Bobby Brown or Beyoncé. Krell told us recently, “I want my music to be pop, but not populist—I want to be #1 on Billboard, but I want to do it on my own terms.” Previously, that might’ve smacked of indie defeatism, of wanting to be admired for sticking to his guns by contrasting it against an impossible scenario. But in 2014, unique and truly weird polyglot R&B/pop records like Beyoncé, Channel Orange and Kaleidoscope Dream have achieved runaway commercial, critical, and artistic success. It’s completely within Krell’s rights to ask, “why not me?”

So, here, Krell lets the music catch up with his extroverted candor, combining emotional risk and artistic confidence to figure out just how far How to Dress Well can go while retaining the project's essence. In retrospect, Krell’s albums sound as tentative and sketchbook as his mixtapes, as nearly everything on “What Is This Heart?” is a bolder, more accomplished version of what came before. "2 Years On (Shame Dream)” reiterates Krell's taste for unseemly reverie, as a car ride with his family turns both surreal and hyperreal, its ache presented in startling clarity—Tracy Chapman may have been on his mind as a starting point for bare, acoustic folk, but he needed to cover the uber-emo “At Your Funeral” over a Crash of Rhinos instrumental on his Hungover Mix to realize he was capable of doing it. “What You Wanted” pressurizes the subdued militance and tension of “Cold Nites” and releases it in the monstrous, pitch-shifted vocals that deface “Face Again”. The orchestral ambitions of the Just Once EP and the redlining distortion of Love Remains are removed from their headphone-intended origins and given concert hall ambience on “Pour Cyril".

The stylistic range of “What Is This Heart?” lends credence to Krell’s “pop, but not populist” ambitions—if he was to make a superproducer-per-song, blockbuster album, this is how it would likely turn out. However, Rodaidh McDonald returns to produce and retains the stained glass sound of Total Loss: bright, translucent, and nowhere near as brittle as it may first appear. More importantly, Krell’s voice is made the focal point rather than a texture. His singing can be parodied at this point, meaning that it's something established as clearly his own: demonstrative and inclusive as good karaoke, not performative in a way that’s meant to be judged. It’s spiritual, though more borne of a monastic purity than a specific religion. And now, it’s only distorted as a signature punctuation rather than using the effect as a white-out slather.

Krell makes it known that he's got chops, the kind that can handle the physical challenges of “What Is This Heart?”’s pop rites of passage—“Words I Don’t Remember” aspires for the “Purple Rain” extended coda, Krell’s wavering, breathless coo reverbed and distended to emulate an emotive, showstopping guitar solo. L.A. Reid should’ve desperately tried to smuggle the effervescent disco-pop of “Repeat Pleasure” onto Xscape and if there was every a doubt that a HTDW song could be a legitimate smash hit rather than a deconstruction of one, there’s the arena-R&B of “Precious Love”, which tags on a gorgeous, unexpected key change that lasts about ten seconds just to stunt.

In the true spirit of How to Dress Well, “What Is This Heart?” is comprehensive and referential, littered with bits and pieces of the music that’s moved him over the years. “Words I Don’t Remember” teases its lyrical cold war with the milky chords of Diana Ross’ “Missing You”; Beyoncé's declaratory “to the left” cadence from “Irreplaceable” is utilized to express Krell’s apposite desire “to relate, to relate” on "Precious Love". Meanwhile, the spirit of “Very Best Friend” is so plainspoken and eternal that it has to be some roller rink obscurity from his youth, the source of which Krell is keeping from us all.

For the duration of How to Dress Well’s existence, Krell’s obsessive devotion to pop music has served as a connection he can trust, as he lowers himself into the depths of unanswerable questions about spirituality and death. While that love remains, Krell’s breakthrough on "What Is This Heart?" is a staggering paradox: as long as he holds onto that tether, he’ll probably never get to the bottom.

While Krell is sometimes still that college freshman listening to Jimmy Eat World with a “Childhood Faith in Love”, he writes about love like the philosophy Ph.D. student that he is—much of this album recognizes a pop cultural paradigm where love is presented as a panacea, the single most important thing a person can acquire. But the problem is that it’s so often conveyed through consumer products that love becomes one itself—something meant to be obtained, consumed, and replaced, a simple prop to occupy one’s time.

Krell recognizes his own complicitly in this situation both as a human and as someone who makes pop songs in How to Dress Well. The first words of “Words I Don’t Remember” are, distressingly, “You know that I love you, baby”, and he confesses with palpable guilt, "Said 'it was you' for the rest of our lives", referring to the joyous centerpiece of Total Loss. “& It Was U” was indicative of how the brief flickers of happiness on past HTDW albums only served to remind you of the surrounding, oppressive presence of death and depression. Though "What Is This Heart?" is by far Krell’s lightest, most melodic album, his lyrics are constantly prodding at a pervasive societal problem: a mistrust of intimacy, fear of legitimate connection, the idea of romance as a competitive sport.

But if you think this is some kind of grad-level treatise, remember that the title of this album is phrased as a question. Krell’s pain and pleasure is borne of in situ struggle—do you say just what you want and when you want it in pursuit of an honest relationship, knowing that your most honest moments can be wicked? That’s the cruel irony at the center of “Repeat Pleasure”, where the title doesn't instantly reveal its cynical view of sex. What initially sounds like a glittery valentine becomes a "Dear John"-in-waiting, as Krell realizes our tendencies to get caught up in routine:"I say there's no one above you/ But now there's a new place above that line.…Even if you're holding on for something unchanging/ And once you got it you'll want something else."

“What You Wanted” similarly provokes people who see others' hot love and emotion fade rather than continuing endlessly and assume that the same won't happen to them: "Said I know that I want it/ Know that as soon as I've got it/ It'll change, I'll hate it." Later, on "A Power", Krell seeks sympathy and serenity rather than carnality; during a tribal, percussive breakdown and his most intense vocal performance, he sings with desperate joy, that if he doesn't share his desire to "loved and lost in all directions", he'll be sucked into, "dark, silence and the void".

How To Dress Well - Words I Don't Remember

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How To Dress Well - What You Wanted

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How To Dress Well - Pour Cyril

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More Information
Condition New
Format 2LP
Label Weird System