Our Take: How to Dress Well Surprises with Fourth Album, Care

Care - How to Dress Well
Care - How to Dress Well

Alex's Take


Emotions: They influence each of us every moment of every day, and music artists have always worked to turn emotions, simple or complex, into something we can listen to. Tom Krell, better known as How to Dress Well, is arguably one of the most emotive artists on the scene though he has surprised his audience with a slightly different take on feeling in his fourth album, Care (September 23 via Weird World/Domino).

Opening with a self-proclaimed “consent-pop” song and “sex-positivity anthem” called “Can’t You Tell,” the album is characterized by an emotion not common in Krell’s previous work: happiness. In an interview with The Verge, Krell talks about the effort being happy takes and the lack of recognition that fact is given in society; all too often sadness takes center stage – and the most praise – in music and pop culture. In a clearer statement of how he was feeling while writing new music, he said, “Ugh, I don’t want to just write another fucking sad song.”

Watch: “Can’t You Tell” – How to Dress Well

Care is full of bright, airy and musically upbeat tracks that might make you do a double take at the artist’s name. “What’s Up,” the second single off the album, has a smooth, easygoing and tropical vibe while the vocals sound like Krell might just be… smiling.

That it is up to us
To see what we are made of
Yeah if you make a mess of me
I wouldn’t change one thing

Here, Krell sounds carefree, and so in love with the subject of this song he doesn’t care what happens to him as a result of it. A big change from darker, suspicious-of-love lyrics we’re used to hearing from him. This theme continues on tracks like “Burning Up,” a slower track in general but one that still has legs, and “Anxious,” a somewhat lighthearted tribute to social media anxiety.

How to Dress Well © Ben Tricklebank
How to Dress Well © Ben Tricklebank

For those who may be mourning the loss of Krell’s brooding phase, fear not. While many of the songs are more upbeat, some continue to exhibit lyrical mastery tinged with melancholy from Krell, like “Lost Youth / Lost You.”

And they say that love can change your heart
And brighten up that darkness and I thought that too
When I was younger
But I lost youth when I lost you

Watch: “Lost Youth / Lost You” – How to Dress Well

In standard reading this may seem like jerky, slightly awkward wording, but when sung it flows well, a testament to Krell’s lyricism and skills in arrangement. Another example comes on “Salt Song,” a six and a half minute track that goes from gentle violins all the way to a frantic frenzy of percussion with thoughtful verses in between. And while Krell could be accused of self-righteous, overly flowery lyrics, there’s something about them that still feels genuine.

Last night I dreamed that I was older
And the room was filled with flowers
And I opened up the door
And found myself there as a toddler

Though many of us might have this image in our mind of How to Dress Well as a guy who likes to write about tainted love and sadness, that’s one of the reasons why Krell decided to change things up. According to him, he’s a reactive artist, creating music that subverts expectations, fills in holes he perceives in the industry and is basically anything other than the standard. One thing is for sure, Krell has a natural ability to take different genres of music and cut and sew them into something that’s his own.

Krell’s first album, Love Remains (2010), was an alternative R&B album characterized by a foggy, atmospheric sound, bedroom production and a slight overuse of reverb. Krell has long been influenced by old school R&B music, with his first single “Ready for the World” being a nod to the 1980’s R&B group. His subsequent releases – Total Loss (2012) and What Is This Heart? (2014) – show an evolution most noticeable in production (they’re much cleaner) but also in genre, especially on What Is This Heart? Here, Krell sticks to his R&B influence on “Precious Love,” but also continues to dabble in soft, stringy and piano-ridden tunes like “See You Fall,” and “2 Years On (Shame Dream).” Not to mention, this is where we see a more electronic style of pop music appear, with “Repeat Pleasure” offering a glimpse into what Krell’s work would become on Care with plucky guitar riffs and a head-bobbing beat. The beauty and mystery of Tom Krell is, there’s no way to know what’s next until he shows us.

Connect with How to Dress Well on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Discover more new music on Atwood’s Picks
cover photo: How to Dress Well © 2016

Care – How to Dress Well

Care - How to Dress Well
Care – How to Dress Well

How to Dress Well Fall Tour 2016
click for full list of How to Dress Well tour dates

:: How to Dress Well 2016 Tour Dates ::

09/23 – Chicago, IL @ Bottom Lounge
09/24 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
09/26 – Grand Rapids, MI @ Pyramid Scheme
09/27 – Detroit, MI @ Shelter
09/28 – Toronto, ON @ Mod Club
09/30 – Boston, MA @ The Sinclair
10/01 – Philadelphia, PA @ Boot & Saddle
10/04 – New York, NY @ Webster Hall
10/06 – Washington, DC @ U Street Music Hall
10/08 – Atlanta, GA @ The Earl
10/09 – New Orleans, LA @ Hi-Ho Lounge
10/10 – Dallas, TX @ House of Blues
10/11 – Austin, TX @ The Parish
10/13 – Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
10/14 – Los Angeles, CA @ Regent Theater
10/15-16 – San Francisco, CA @ Treasure Island Music Festival
10/18 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios
10/19 – Seattle, WA @ Neumos
10/20 – Vancouver, BC @ Biltmore Cabaret
11/10 – Paris, FR @ Point Ephemere
11/11 – Brussels, BE @ Botanique Rotonde
11/14 – Amsterdam, NL @ OT301
11/15 – Hamburg, DE @ Hakken
11/16 – Berlin, DE @ Gretchen
11/18 – Copenhagen, DK @ Rust
11/19 – Stockholm, SE @ Debaser Strand
11/21 – London, UK @ Village Underground
11/23 – Glasgow, UK @ Stereo
11/24 – Manchester, UK @ Band on the Wall

Written By
More from Alex Killian

Our Take: Chris McClenney Proves His Promise on Debut EP “Portrait in Two”

azz, soul and R&B music are arguably among the most emotive genres....
Read More