Britain has been generous enough to give us countless talented electronic and genre-blending artists; ranging from legends like Pet Shop Boys to newer artists like Calvin Harris and Disclosure. Michael Goldsworthy, Emre Turkmen and Olly Alexander can also take their place on that list as the electro-trio Years & Years. Michael and Emre met in 2010 but it was only after hearing Olly singing in the shower at a friend’s house that they decided he was the perfect addition.
Thanks to that moment the trio have been working hard to break into the music scene, and they’re gaining serious traction. Their YouTube view counts are in the millions and climbing. And they’ve already been on tour with fellow Brit, Sam Smith. This year they managed to win the prestigious BBC Sound of 2015 award.
Fans can catch the trio on their North American tour this fall. And after a long wait, their debut album finally drops today. But is it a Communion worth receiving? Find out in our track-by-track review:
A slow chilled-out opener featuring Olly’s soulful vocals. The style is a noticeable resemblance to artists like The Weeknd, but with a subtle electro beat to accompany Olly. The overall tone of the song feels slightly darker and more intense than some of their previous songs.
Things pick up with the thumping beat and rhythmic clapping that “Real” delivers. It hits a happy medium between an upbeat rhythm contrasted with lyrics that hear Olly plead to his lady and confront his insecurities. The song is is steadily catchy and the R&B vibes are a nice addition.
“Shine” is a electro-pop jackpot. It’s easy to understand why it was one of the band’s singles. Lyrically it’s sweet and relatable and just a little sultry. It’s so catchy it will no doubt have you up and dancing no matter where you are.
4. Take Shelter
Taking a different route with “Take Shelter”, Years & Years deliver a Carribean-influenced track mixed with an urban sound. Not one of their stand-out songs but thankfully Olly’s vocals shine when he brings it to the softer, sultry notes.
The 90’s R&B mixed with the modern electro sound really seems to agree with Years & Years. Olly’s voice blends the two genres seamlessly, hitting those falsetto notes reminiscent of a young Michael Jackson. “Worship” delivers a strong chorus that will have you chanting and singing like you’re being taken to church.
6. Eyes Shut
The first thing you’ll hear is a gorgeous piano arrangement— it’s unlike anything you’ll hear from the previous five tracks and it works like a charm. Olly goes into serenading his listeners with his soulful voice and delivering poignant lyrics like “nothing’s going to hurt me with my eyes shut.” This track is a total switch-up with just the lightest R&B/electro beat under the vocals. Truly a stand-out song (and this stripped-down version is heavenly).
With a repetitive chorus that instantly grabs you and a bridge that builds in anticipation, “Ties” is a steady synth-pop beat with a slight edge and just a dash of angst. While it’s not one of the album’s standouts, it fits with the genre-blending the trio delivers on each track.
With lead single “King,” the boys take us back to the upbeat elctro-dance sound. The video’s 55 million view count is a testament to the song’s popularity with it’s radio-friendly mass appeal. Easily a song that would get you moving, whether it’s with thousands at a festival, in the clubs, or jamming out in your car.
Another dance track, “Desire” isn’t quite as catchy as “King” but thanks to its catchy chorus it could very well become one of those songs that gets stuck in your head days after you’ve heard it. Without that chorus the song would really lack anything memorable.
“Gold” is a dreamy house number that opens with Olly’s smooth vocals and quickly add in synths and an insanely catchy chant with the lyric “let go.” There’s an intensity to the song that creates a heart-thumping energy and a lyrical edge.
Things are slowed down to a slow-jam electro change-up on “Without,” and another example of the ’90s R&B vibe the group loves to inject their songs with. But this song, much like “Eyes Shut” is a swoon-worthy track that Olly’s voice perfectly compliments. This song gives us some of his best vocals on the album so far.
A little bit of finger snapping and toe tapping comes out when the second last track “Border” begins to play. Like some of the other tracks, the chorus saves the song from being forgettable. With this chorus it takes on a likeness to Florence & The Machine; the kind of folksy-dance melody and airy vocals.
The album ends on a soulful note with “Memo”. The delicacy and gentleness of Olly’s voice and the piano accompaniment beg a comparison to fellow ‘Sound of’ winner Sam Smith. A doomed love story that begs us to get lost in. Ending the album with this song only proves that they have so much to offer beyond the electro-dance scene.
Verdict: 3.5 Church Sundays out of 5
Years & Years have compiled a melting-pot album that brings together genres like pop, electro and R&B tied together in a way that sets them apart from other popular house and EDM mainstream acts. While some of the songs don’t produce a wow factor, this album blends genres in a way that encourages its listeners to think of the electronica genre in a different way. Full of both soulful and reflective tracks like “Foundation” combined with early ’90s R&B influenced gems like “Shine,” their debut album is a promising glimpse into what we can expect in the years and years to come.