Anyone who knows how pop music works will know that while it often seems the latest ‘Hot New Thing’ it has most likely been worked on for quite some time. So while it does feel like we’ve been inundated with a tsunami of Years & Years singles in the last few months, their first single was released back in 2012, their first EP in 2013, and the first single from Communion back in February 2014. Years & Years have literally been at this for years and years.
If you’ve had the radio on at all lately, you’ll already know that signature sound they’ve developed over the past singles. They begin with a massive three circled Venn diagram, and the singles have either leaned towards R’n’B (‘Real’), 90’s house (‘Desire’), Diplo-lite calypso (‘Take Shelter’) or somewhere right smack bang in the middle of all three (‘King’). Within these parameters, Years & Years can garner up some slinky-hipped beats, but five singles into the album prior to its release, and we’ve already heard the best it has to offer, by a wide margin.
Album opener ‘Foundation’ mixes things up a bit with its murky-electro downer-buzz and the group pull it off quite well, but full on piano-led ballad ‘Eyes Shut’ sounds like an overly mawk-ish version of Wiz Khalifa’s ‘See You Again’, which probably means it too will be a number one smash. Throughout the album, the lyrics can often fall into absolute nonsense, such as on the chorus of ‘Border’ – “I’m going to the border / My body will be stronger / My heart it will start to shine / And I will be alright”. Couple this with vocalist Olly Alexander’s permanent melodramatic and sometimes grating delivery, and Communion can actually be quite a difficult album to pay attention to when played in its entirety.
It’s only when they properly loosen up do you feel the potential energy being released, and you can see the vast, distant future that Years & Years might have. The propulsive, kinetic ‘Ties’ and the anthemic, very modern sounding ‘Gold’ will be a blast when played live, plus those singles – especially the scalpel sharp ‘Desire’, a track worked on by both Two Inch Punch and Kid Harpoon – will be enough to carry the group over to album number two. Hopefully by then they’ll have learned to lighten up enough to realise that by having more fun, we will too.