After their debut almost singlehandedly changed the landscape of commercial dance music, in-demand siblings Disclosure now face the difficult challenge of avoiding the dreaded sophomore slump with Caracal.
Thankfully for the Lawrence brothers, the follow-up to 2013’s Grammy-nominated Settle is unlikely to derail their career, but by sticking rigidly to their well-worn formula, it’s also just as unlikely to elevate it.
Indeed, like its predecessor, which flirted with two-step garage, glitchy R&B and electro-soul, Caracal is a disappointingly samey affair which will no doubt push even Disclosure’s most ardent fans’ tolerance for glossy deep house to its limits. Only the album’s bookends, the slow-motion synth-pop of The Weeknd-featuring opener “Nocturnal” and the haunting closing slow jam “Masterpiece,” see the brothers stray from their comfort zone. And although it’s encouraging to see Sam Smith temporarily abandon his tedious male Adele routine, current single “Omen” is little more than an inferior retread of the two acts’ breakout hit, “Latch.”
Disclosure’s default setting occasionally produces inspired results, such as the gospel-tinged “Holding On,” which transforms jazz man Gregory Porter into an unlikely Chicago house master, and the sassy “Hourglass,” which will hopefully help turn wild-haired alt-R&B duo Lion Babe into the superstars they deserve to be.
But with artists as individual as New Zealand prodigy Lorde (“Magnets”), soul man Miguel (“Good Intentions”) and rising star Nao (“Superego”) on board, it’s still a little frustrating that Guy and Howard seem content to give them the kind of underwhelming fare that’s almost impossible for them to stamp their mark on.
Of course, Caracal was never going to be the game changer that Settle was, and it’s far from the disaster that some of their detractors may have been hoping for. But it’s the sound of Disclosure coasting, and nothing more.