How To Dress Well – Total Loss (Weird World)
October 5, 2012 by Daniel Gill
It was only last year when Active Child’s debut album came out with a fantastic response from blog’s and music sites all over the world. It was one of them albums that was in a blogger’s top five records when it came to the end of 2011. It was said that Active Child’s music owed a lot to Tom Krell aka How To Dress Well and his from of glittery indie R&B that arrived on the scene in 2010 with Love Remains. An album which Krell himself has described as “deadlocked melancholia”; a musical response to the suffering emotions Krell had to deal with whilst making the album. It seems tragedy and pain struck Krell again with Total Loss, as this is pure heart on your sleeve stuff.
It’s hard to ignore the lyrical content this R&B wunderkind deploys on some of these tracks. The content goes far into Krell’s real life, you can just tell these songs aren’t stories he’s just made up or true stories fabricated to seem more heart-aching and melancholic. These are battles in love, depression and other relationships; war stories that have left scars on Krell’s mind. However, there seems to be a form of redemption in ‘Set It Right’ where he opens up about the people in his life that have obviously played a part in the Krell’s stories over the years. With this being the penultimate track on Total Loss, it feels like a final thankyou speech and maybe an apology with the intent on doing exactly what the song title says.
There is a halt in all the emotional anguish half way through the album where Krell slides into genuine R&B territory with ‘& It Was You’. This is a song on Total Loss that makes you believe that Krell has come out of the fragile and cracked shell he has so long been hurting in. However it seems like an interval for deeper thoughts to come as you enter the final third of the album. It’s still however a welcoming change of pace, showing Krell can make upbeat R&B with a sprinkling of pop.
Every mix is so spacious that the room left in each song just fills up with Krell’s conflicting emotion. It’s like they become an extra instrument for him to play with. There’s times when the atmospheric sound-scape goes so deep that you are wanting him to start singing or add some of his trademark high pitched backing vocals. Them spaces become awkward silences; like you’re talking to an ex and you don’t know what to say, you just want something to be said and you don’t care what it is. There’s so much lo-fi ambience in Krell’s production, it’s like some times he doesn’t know what to do inside it.
After getting through that awkward silence, Total Loss is at times absolutely beautiful. The slow moving ballad of ‘Talking To You’ feels so personal you feel like you’re invading Krell’s life by listening to it. However at the same time, it’s a love song that any one can relate to. Just like ‘Set It Right’ this feels like another tale of redemption, but this time maybe a direct message to a certain person. It’s a tale that any listener can turn into one of their own.
Total Loss is one of them albums that will pull at your heartstrings and maybe toss up a few old memories whilst it’s playing as well. It’s R&B with a ghostly aura smothering it, a lonely bubble that Krell has created for listeners to enter. As sad as that bubble is, let’s hope it never pops.