Around the time How To Dress Well’s Tom Krell released 2016’s ‘Care’, he moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of his doctorate, and some observers felt as if they could hear it on the album; it was unabashedly poppy in its sound (Jack Antonoff was among the collaborators) and unashamedly earnest in its approach to lyrical ideas surrounding love, loss and mental health. It suited him down to the ground, but anybody pining for a return to a more experimental approach with ‘The Anteroom’ is in for some good news.
This fifth LP is sharply ambitious and probably most closely mirrors ‘Total Loss’ in its musical outlook; throughout, there’s a kind of sparseness that unites the tracks, although they differ consistently. ‘Body Fat’ is a gentle, electronic love song that swamps Tom’s vocals in reverb; ‘Vacant Boat’, meanwhile, which conjures images of the earth after humanity is extinct, is discomfiting in its discordance. A depressive episode of his triggered in part by the result of the 2016 presidential election inspired him to write an album on which “the energy never goes above three out of ten”, and yet there’s the occasional acceleration, especially on the nervy ‘Nonkilling 6 | Hunger’. The Anteroom is surely How To Dress Well’s most exciting work to date; it might, in time, unfurl into his most poignant and vital, too.