Album Review: Years and Years - Communion

3/5

The success of sad-eyed soul boy Sam Smith has been duly noted by the music industry, with the debut album from his former support act, Years and Years, doubling down on the groove-infused miserablism that has made Smith a sensation both sides of the Atlantic. Indeed, there is arguably something deeply calculating about Years and Years’ splicing of bittersweet beats and falsetto-pop, a formula that has already yielded the number one single ‘King’. Here is a trio of young musicians who know which way the wind is blowing.

Still, there’s no arguing with the effectiveness of the London band’s songwriting. Frontman Olly Alexander (a former teen soap actor) shares Smith’s talent for imbuing throwaway lyrics with bottomless angst and Emre Turkmen’s grooves are compellingly cool and fragile — as if always in danger of collapsing under a dead weight of melancholy.

Winners of the annual “Sound Of” poll of UK rock critics, Years and Years are ready to take on the world. Communion features glistening production and even its sadder, slower tunes are front-loaded with hooks and choruses.In fact, in another context, it is easy to imagine yourself falling hopelessly for their mash-up of euphoria and ennui — ‘King’, especially, walks the line between joy and sadness with considerable skill.

However, with a huge marketing budget at work and echoes of Smith discernible throughout, the emotionally manipulative qualities of Years and Years’ music are difficult to ignore. Communion is a sweet and sublime collection but was clearly machine-tooled to shift as many records as possible. The whiff of corporate group-think is ultimately overwhelming.


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