Artist: How To Dress Well
Album: Total Loss
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Record Label: Weird World/Acephale
“Don’t know what I want/don’t know what I need/Don’t know who I am/Don’t know who I’ll be….”
The mystery of Tom Krell is an alluring trait. Rising out of the shadows with his 2010 debut Love Remains, it was a stellar record that showcases the dark lo-fi production and reverberating vocals that reflected its fragility and charm. I wrote briefly about how the Brooklyn artist brought an alternative to the ever-changing R&B genre, with ethereal elements that are now being popularized by that of The Weeknd and Miguel. Krell doesn’t seem to be one that aims for chart recognition, nor would he even consider his sound to be what is dubbed by bloggers as “PBR&B”. Though his latest output Total Loss, could definitely turn heads as his most accessible and polished project.
Krell, who uses the stage name How To Dress Well, strips much of the underwater-esque audio that was noticeable on Love Remains and makes an album that is clearer and cohesive in its production. The vocals are coherent, and Tom’s falsetto becomes absolutely intoxicating in the wave of orchestral strings, chilling keys, and howling synths. From its cinematic opening “When I Was In Trouble”, Krell picks up from Remains as he sings around a turbulent background only topped by haunting piano keys. The terse start smoothly transitions to the sensual “Cold Nites”, which could easily act as a sequel to Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River”.
The range and R&B influence is prevalent throughout Total Loss, from the doo-whop “& It Was U” to Krell channeling his favorite artists Janet Jackson & R. Kelly respectively with “Running Back” and “Talking To You”. The latter is the most versatile track on here, building into a grandiose finish which was previewed in the interlude “World I Need You, I Won’t Be Without You (Proem)”. Krell passion kicks into overdrive here, creating a song that is magnificent in its structure as it is elegant vocally.
Each song tends to play off from one another, adding to the cinematic appeal to this album. It takes a deeper look into the feelings of loss and solitude, though passively keeping hope in the light. It speaks true on the warm “Set It Right”, paying tribute to his loved ones. It takes me back to his cover of “I Wish”, further alluding to the Kellz afflatus. It begins as a transcending point in Krell’s career, bridging the gap between the two albums in its organic approach.
Krell seems to come at peace through all of the melancholy, but he is spiritual and heartfelt tugging away at the listener’s emotion. It is valiant and compelling, surely to be immersed by its dynamic shift with each playback. How To Dress Well proves yet again with Total Loss, there is a whole lot to gain in its beauty.
- “Cold Nites”
- “World I Need You, Won’t Be Without You”
- “Talking To You”
- “Set It Right”