How to Dress Well:Total Loss | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Issue #42 - The Protest IssueHow to Dress Well

Total Loss


Sep 20, 2012 How to Dress Well Bookmark and Share

“The only bad part about flying is having to come back down to the fuckin’ world,” says the kid on the sample opening “Say My Name or Say Whatever,” the third track on Total Loss. It’s followed by a splash—the coming down, presumably, in the form of a water landing.

The sky and Poseidon’s digs are both appropriate settings for Tom Krell’s cloudy/murky R&B experiments, and much of his emotional tone lies in that coming down—in mourning, in regret, in a starry-eyed worldview butting up against reality.

It’s surprising this marks only Krell’s second proper album (after 2010’s Love Remains), considering the slew of material he’s crafted in the form of EPs, remixes, and so on. Production-wise, Total Loss is a marked step up in fidelity, with co-production credits for Rodaidh McDonald of The xx. That murkiness is definitely present, but the distortion’s toned down, allowing beats to really bounce, string sections to make poignant appearances, and even bringing Krell’s earnest falsetto to the forefront.

While tracks such as “Struggle” stick to Krell’s established bedroom R&B blueprint: deeply ‘verbed out, vocals lost in ringing instrumentation—not so much a song as a fountain of feeling—others bravely put it all out there. Album closer “Ocean Floor For Everything” gives contemporaries in the avant-R&B or indie worlds (The Weeknd, Bon Iver—anybody with their falsetto set on stun) something to strive for. Or there’s the ghostly instrumental, “World I Need You, Won’t Be Without You,” boasting a small chamber arrangement and distant pizzicato plucks/string noise.

When Krell is on, he’s on. When he’s not, at least the mood remains intact—you can rule a song out on a technicality, but Krell’s naïve, militant earnestness will make you feel bad about it. On “Set It Right,” Krell offers up a laundry list of loss, acknowledging loved ones who have left this mortal coil or simply grown apart. You start to ponder your own list, and when you open up those wounds Krell jumps right in—we all get to fly a little, but we all gotta come down.


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