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Years and Years ‘Communion’ – Album Review

Polydor (2015)

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.

3.5 / 5 stars     

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About the Author


Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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