Wonderful, creative, extreme, I love it!!! Love Remains is arguably THE MOST creative album of the year brought to you by Tom Krell's How to Dress Well.
It is extremely difficult to classify this artist, if you are unaware of the culture of noise music (don't sleep on Wikipedia!!!). I went to a noise concert back in my college days (like that was a long time ago, but anyways) up in good ol' Athens, Ohio. I must say it forces you to open your mind of how technical difficulties merge well with unexpressed feelings. And often times it's the deep, dark feelings that don't want to have the same energy or delivery as other deep, dark music (i.e. heavy metal, metal core, etc). How to Dress Well is often put into this category because by nature the ears will call it noise, but they bring a-whole-nother aspect to original noise and lo-fi (even no-fi) music, which is blues.
So How to Dress Well’s official debut album Love Remains is an album packed full of emotions that are easy to express if sung on an R&B record or blues or even hiphop. Unfortunately, he is not an R&B, blues or hiphop artist. He doesn't have that talent, per se, but he wants that same emotion. So instead of going auto-tune to make an R&B album, they take what they do best and add those sounds to their record. And he becomes successful at doing it!
Blending the noise, lo-fi sound with a blues ballad, some R&B and hiphop tracks, and a mean falsetto makes this album one that has been totally slept on for the entire year! For example, "Ready for the World" capture one of the most exciting moments whenever an R&B artist performs their music. He cries out towards the end of the song, after many dings and distorted loops, "let me hear you say 'yeahhh'" with a call-and-respond effort that is commonly seen in urban music, but not in the noise culture. Another aspect he brings is their heavy sampling of R&B songs, and it's not like he's sampling the usual James Brown records that many artists from all genres try to cover. Krell tells Pitchfork in a Q&A "I really love 90s R&B. It's not a joke to me. "Twisted" by Keith Sweat is a fucking masterpiece." Although I didn't catch a direct Keith Sweat sample, I did peep the "Candy Rain" instrumental loop in Endless Rain.
Beyond all of the copy-catting in this album, the lyrical content in Love Remains is phenomenal. If How to Dress Well wanted to bring out a blues-esque emotion, he most certainly did with his constant falsetto-like vocalism. Plus, making his voice evaporate by the distortion causes an unforeseen emotion that most people can't catch in R&B, and it's a technical one. With turning up the bass and turning down the treble (or whichever way it's supposed to go), his vocals give a sound of struggle, like he's crying and sad, but also appearing to have trouble singing the song. To some that may seem annoying or irritating, but it's an emotion that needs to be expressed too.
At one point How to Dress Well tries to make a fast-paced, perhaps a club banger, but it just bangs. The distortion is nothing somebody wants to dance to, or even think of bumping at a party. Although the stomping noise as the bass is very creative in "Walking This Dumb," the up-tempo it creates for the hand claps and the mumbling-bumbling he does just doesn't blend well. At all.
So when it comes to this album, imagine cloudy and distorted Maxwell (circa late 90s, early 00s) vocals blended with the fainting sound of a guitar and piano mashed together at the hands of a noise artist. As effed up as it may sound (like a lot of noise) he gets his point across of what the title of the album means, making him one creative being. He successfully creates a piece that crosses genres, and ultimately bends genres, in a quest to seek out the emotion of one specific genre. That calls for talent! How to Dress Well may not hold much weight, but his talent is unmatched in the entire music industry.
Star's Grade: A+