Years & Years

Polydor / Interscope, 2015

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love


To counteract my sugar addiction, I took up running. Which, of course, means running playlists, which I’ve crafted from the most shameless, beats-laden tunes I can find – let’s just say there’s a lot of Flo Rida. It’s a rare treat to find songs that are both upbeat and catchy but not totally made of fluff, as in the case of “King,” the sixth single from Years & Years, a British electronica group who leapt onto the scene with this very track. Chock full of shimmering synths and glossy energy, with a soaring chorus to boot, “King” was on constant loop for me for months before I realized there was probably a whole stellar album to be found. And fans have agreed, rocketing this single to #1 on the UK charts.

Communion,my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 the debut full-length from the electropop trio (frontman and keyboardist Olly Alexander, bassist Mikey Goldsworthy, and Emre Türkmen on synths), is at its best when it’s reaching for the rafters with dance-ready cuts. Moreover, what makes these songs standouts is the substance underneath the high sheen. The lyrics veer from lovelorn and vulnerable to sultry, almost reminiscent of an amped-up Sam Smith, raw in a different sort of way. For instance, “Real” describes the pull of longing for someone unreachable, offering up anything in exchange for an approximation of love: “Oh, I think that if I had been enough for you / Would I be better? / Would I be good? / And I’ll do what you like if you’ll stay the night,” Alexander opines through a haze of staccato hand-claps and rumbling bass as he closes with the repeated refrain, “Love, I will let you go.” 

The album is awash in thwarted love songs, from the R&B-infused slow-burn “Take Shelter” to the upbeat, redemptive “Shine” to one of my other favorites, the clubby, spangled “Desire,” which finds Alexander asking: “Is it desire? / Or is it love that I’m feeling for you? / I want desire / I wanna see what you’re willing to lose.”  Nearly every track here is filtered through the experience of lusting, yearning, pleading – seeing oneself through the eyes of another, searching for that one person who will set everything right.

What makes Communion endlessly listenable is the coupling of honest lyricism with electronic beats that sparkle and unfold with reckless abandon. When they stray from that formula on the final third of the album, my attention begins to drift. The syrupy slow “Eyes Shut” and “Without” fade by without consequence, and “Border” never rises above its middle ground tempo. However, closer “Memo” is a keeper, the fuzzed-over vocals detailing the loneliness and the sacrifices of unrequited love amid quiet pulses of synths and trickling piano.

On their debut outing, Years & Years has created an atmosphere of energy and allure; their songs are catchy and stylish pop without compromising. Plus, anything that keeps me running and isn’t Pitbull is glorious indeed.

Rating: A-

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