Written By: Fletcher Bonin
With their debut album Communion, British electronica trio Years & Years presents us with an entirely new sound and a range of styles throughout this latest eighteen track release. The album is characterized by breathy vocals, throbbing back-beats and steadily building base tones. Years & Years is composed of two keyboards and a bass, as well as the soaring, passionate vocals of front-man Olly Alexander. However, their range extends far beyond these few attributes.
While most of the tracks are comprised of their signature electro pop meets R&B with house influences, this album does include two acoustic tracks. The first, ‘Ready for You’ is sung in a trembling falsetto and is intensely personal to the ear. On this track, Alexander seems to ask the universe “would you break my heart? I’m ready to be torn apart.” The sound is mesmerizing and sympathetic all at once.
Of course the album also features perhaps the trio’s most popular track in ‘King’. With its engaging synths and Alexander showcasing his vocal range in this song, it is not hard to see why ‘King’ reached number one on the UK singles chart in March of 2015. However, the real treat offered by Communion is the deluxe factor, which features an acoustic version of their hit single ‘King’. In my opinion, this draws greater attention to the lyrics that is otherwise lost in the hypnotic sound of the original, generously synthesized playback. On this acoustic version, we hear Alexander in a more personal tone sing “I was a king under your control, I wanna feel like you’ve let me go.” The acoustic accompaniment makes it sound more like a story or ballad being relayed rather than the equally victorious dance hall hit released as a single prior to the album.
I thought that the decision to feature Tove Lo on the track ‘Desire’ was an excellent artistic decision by the band. This, my personal favorite track off the album features inspired lyrics and the dancehall beats that Years & Years has claimed as a style all their own. On this track, Alexander sings “I want you to want me again, is it desire or is it nothing I’m feeling for you?” Like many of their songs, I don’t think it would be wrong to dismiss Years & Years’ lyrics for being overly-simplified or ambiguous. However, I think paired with their unique sound, the lyrics are imbibed with a new, more powerful and even transcendent power. With tracks such as ‘King’ and ‘Desire’ it is really easy to see why Communion was the fastest selling debut album of 2015 from a UK signed band.