Crowned the winners of the BBC’s prestigious Sound of 2015 poll, Years and Years may be fronted by a rising star of the British film scene, but their debut album, Communion, suggests that Hollywood may have to wait.
Of course, Olly Alexander, whose list of acting credits includes Great Expectations, God Help the Girl and The Riot Club, has already proven himself a majestic vocalist, with his gossamer falsetto on the likes of breakthrough single “Desire” and recent UK chart-topper “King” inviting comparisons with a young Michael Jackson.
However, while the juddering electro of the former and the soaring dance-pop of the latter placed Years and Years on the fringes of the deep house scene, half of Communion aims more for the heart than the feet.
In fact, with its melancholic piano chords and gospel-tinged melodies, emotive ballad “Eyes Shut” could have fit onto Sam Smith’s Grammy-winning debut, while the beatless opener “Foundation” and the trio of low-key electro-soul numbers that conclude the record (“Without,” “Border,” “Memo”) are unlikely to get anyone dancing.
As with Smith’s descent into adult contemporary blandness, there’s a sense that some of the band’s initial vibrancy has been watered down a little, which is a shame because Communion is a much more engaging listen when it picks up the pace, whether on the addictive dancehall beats of “Take Shelter,” the Giorgio Moroder-esque “Ties” or the shimmering synth-pop serenade “Shine.”
Had Years and Years completely avoided the middle of the road, then Communion could well have been an album-of-the-year contender. Instead, it’s a solid, but occasionally a little too safe, affair which nevertheless places Alexander in the top tier of actors-turned-singers.