Years & Years: Palo Santo (Polydor) Review | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, June 29th, 2022  

Years & Years

Palo Santo


Jul 24, 2018 Years & Years Bookmark and Share

It’s no coincidence Years & Years’ second album arrived on the eve of London’s Pride weekend. Pride in sexuality is a recurring theme on Palo Santo, tying together a bold and adventurous new record which draws inspiration from reggaetón, Stevie Wonder-esque pop-soul, and 2000s R&B.

Lead singer Olly Alexander has not hidden his sexuality in the past, but he was not as direct on their debut as he is here and this freedom leads to sharper, more insightful lyrics. On album opener “Sanctify,” Alexander tells a classic story of a man struggling to understand his sexuality. The twist is that this time he is the seducer, convincing his partner to embrace his desires.

The sense of new-found confidence and freedom extends to the album’s experiments with other genres; hints of drum & bass appear on the title-track and the laser-focused dance-pop of “Hallelujah” marks the group as students of Michael Jackson. Palo Santo is not a major reinvention of Years & Years’ sound, so the influence of ‘80s synth-pop remains. However, it is a clear upgrade; one that is noticeably more ambitious and fully-realized than its predecessor.

Most impressively, while Palo Santo jumps between genres, it is surprisingly cohesive. These songs are best heard as an album and they reinforce one another in context. This is not a self-consciously arty departure for Years & Years. They are still a pop group at heart and this record sells itself primarily on its hooks, which are plentiful.

From the playful swing of “Karma” to the bouncy, acidic “If You’re Over Me,” Years & Years make great pop look easy. Anyone who’s listened to mainstream radio will know how rare it is. For that reason alone, Palo Santo should be celebrated as one of the year’s most surprisingly excellent releases. (

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10


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