Tom Krell’s fourth album as How to Dress Well is his most celebratory, but not in a standard blow-out-the-candles way. The soul-searching of previous LP ‘What Is This Heart?’ remains, but instead of getting caught up in uncertainty and a pursuit of the truth, ‘Care’ is happy with not knowing.
Krell’s trademarks - hushed, let-me-tell-you-a-secret croons and lush keys - are still central to ‘Care’, but he’s also more free-spirited. The results range from dazzling to disastrous. ‘Can’t You Tell’ is a joyous, twinkly pop song that conquers new territory. The blank slate ‘Burning Up’, however, meanders until there’s nothing worth consideration. Krell has a habit of singing everything like it’s a treasured, heartbreaking secret. Every line carries the same level of drama. There’s no additional gravitas when things really matter, no to-and-fro between different states. It’s been a problem on previous records, and it’s especially grating on ‘Care’.
On the dense, ten-minute closer ‘They’ll Take Everything You Have’, How to Dress Well’s see-what-sticks approach actually works. It’s grossly epic, overblown to an extreme, but that’s the point. The same goes for an intentionally ugly solo at the end of the otherwise serene ‘Salt Song’. Being obnoxiously exploratory is a good look for Krell, most of the time. But it’s when he tries to filter this ethos into a digestible pop song that things become compromised. He’s spent half a decade making music so decidedly settled on the fringes of pop and R&B. It’s due time he either sticks his neck out and goes full-gloss pop, or hedges his bets on the wild extremes of ‘Care’’s best moments. As it currently stands, he’s neither one thing or the other.