With transparent anguish on his face, this striking portrait of Tom Krell intensely captures the deep-rooted heartache contained behind the album’s cover and in his music that’s soaked with as much painstaking detail as there are tears and honesty. Each previous body of work published under his stage name How To Dress Well have provoked a multitude of struggles; whether they be the two separate songs titled “Suicide Dream” off Love Remains – both aimed at his best friend Ryan Hitchon who died in his sleep three weeks before the album’s release – or the directness to the title of 2012’s Total Loss, subjected around Krell’s inability to reach his dearest family and friends due to addiction, depression, breakups or through more death.
What separates What Is This Heart? from his previous efforts isn’t so much the subject matter. Instead, it is how Krell tackles the subject this time around (which so happens to be the often labyrinthine subject of contemporary romance). What Is This Heart? acts as a harbinger to Krell’s newfound approach to coping with life’s sudden and often unexpected blows. And never does he tip-toe around his innermost feelings, taking care to draft an intimate set of lyrics that could alternately pass as poetry. This has become part of Krell’s trademark, something that is typically unseen now-a-days outside of himself and artists like Sun Kil Moon. On “House Inside (Future Is Older Than The Past)”, perhaps the most uplifting track Krell has cut to date, there exists a sincerity behind his repeating line “Every new day carries the weight of the last” before reaching a massive crescendo shadowed by a sparkling beat. It’s a shining positivity that was previously unseen in his experimental R&B fueled by depression.
Twelve tracks total up What Is This Heart?, each one guised as an open wound he is actively stitching shut. In tune with his forthcomings, he has teamed up with his Total Loss collaborator, Rodaidh McDonald, and utilized a bare-bones, articulate styling to shape Krell’s maturing sound. The murkiness of early-How To Dress Well isn’t as apparent, moreover being replaced by a clockworker’s attentiveness to detail, common to the likes of LCD Soundsystem. “Repeat Pleasure” serves as the greatest example to this, an astounding ballad of evolving love that is as catchy as it is passionate. Every chord Krell strikes feels like a heart string he is plucking, and with each song you feel him grip your heart harder and harder, pumping the blood in your veins towards a euphoric sensation derived from love – past and present. Recently, he’s spoken with the media about his coming out of depression, saying “I’m way less unhappy than I’ve ever been, which is cool, I’m into it”, as we are with his newest output.
The entirety of What Is This Heart? is available for streaming here.