Music Reviews
Love Remains

How to Dress Well Love Remains

(Lefse) Rating - 4/10

If there was a genre that had yet to be occupied, consider Tom Krell's (better known as How to Dress Well) mixture of lo-fi recordings and contemporary rhythm and blues. Though many artists have caught up with this craze, HTDW is the real deal. Krell contrasts that horrible name by actually possessing an impressive vocal range that could compete with any of the artists in still-in-a-coma Uptown Records. His proposal is fairly simple: develop an array of textural ambience whilst incorporating some unfathomable vocal samples, all this done in the solace of one’s bedroom.  Except he makes the serious offense of treating his small space as a holy temple – instead of treating it as his recording space, he brings to light the appeal of dejection as a means to create.

Creativity can be a devious monster, especially for Krell, whose prolific number of EP’s and post-Kantian retreat to Germany has raised his allure to skyrocketing heights. The result became known as Love Remains, a collection of greatest hits coming from an artist who hasn’t even created a full length except for gracing numerous blogs, all of them willing enough to construct fancy and obscure metaphors to praise Krell's experimental nature. HTDW’s music is made up of technical swoops of ambience and lush soundscapes amidst bouncy electro funk, blended with looping vocal samples and mechanized drumbeats. The music sounds intentionally scrappy and muffled, as if the slightest touch of emotion could stretch the fragile crevices in his bedroom.

Even if the music may sound like minimal couture, Krell’s real intention is that of pulling his vocal abilities to the forefront. You Won’t Need Me Where I’m Going sounds rhythmically soulful but also suffocates with all the crackling fragmentation, limiting Krell’s vocal tonality instead of it being the main attraction. Just like he achieves in Can’t See My Own Face’s sexified verses, in which his ode to Michael Jackson’s exuberance in Off the Wall is nothing short of infectious. Krell even approaches anthemic resonance with Decisions, repeating sparse synth layers with tribal thumps and choral ooohs until reaching optimistic rapture. Other times, his indulgence gets the best of him. Krell randomly sings a vocal run at the beginning of Endless Rain, only to break the build up by looping a washed up hip-hop sample with some unintelligible rhymes. And is there any point in including Mr. By & By? It sounds like a disc jockey pressing play to some whack beat in a programmed Casio keyboard, with Krell treating a crowd of five people to some karaoke.

In essence, How to Dress Well’s arrogant reliance to hype sounds devilishly constructed. Instead of having music executives extract the ripe out of a lean finished product, we have the makings of a label (and artist) compiling a promising body of work into bits and pieces with the purpose of rushing it while the stove is hot. Love Remains has no established coherence, disrespects the meaning of creating a full length from scratch by (reworking?) rehashing material, and frankly, relies too much on Krell’s scorching falsettos. The final result is like receiving an assortment of Halloween treats – even if you always take pleasure in finding your favorite candy, it’ll still be infested with a jumble of questionable poison.