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Disclosure, ‘Settle’ – Album Review

As Disclosure inevitably expand their audience following the release of this, their debut album, age will likely be a focus of conversation. At 22 and 19, respectively, Guy and Howard Lawrence, the brothers behind this electronic duo, are not scary young to be releasing a debut album. They are, however, scary young to be making what many expect to be the premiere dance album of 2013 not attributed to artists identifying as robots.

‘Settle’ arrives with big label backing that has helped stir a feverish hunger for Disclosure’s club-ready, dance-pop masterpieces — like their previously released standout ‘White Noise,’ featuring fast-rising popsters AllunaGeorge — as well their more futuristic nods to U.K. garage, the kind heard on their previous EPs.

‘Settle’ works in the most important fashion for a dance collection — on a track-by-track level. The duo places the utmost importance on having each song work as a standalone entity that can be taken to a club, thrown through the remix mill or held up as a pop song on MTV or Top 40 radio. To accomplish this, Disclosure have booked a roster of vocalists that lend their personality to their tracks and take the scuttling beats out of the darkened discos and ready them for the biggest of stages.

AllunaGeorge’s aforementioned ‘White Noise’ might be the best, using a four-on-the-floor pulse and tinny synthesizer hook to repackage a pop song as something progressive. This roadmap pops up on the Jamie Woon-featuring ‘January,’ Jessie Ware’s ‘Confess,’ and ‘You & Me’ with Eliza Doolittle, just to name a few. All offer infectious choruses that don’t feel manufactured like the pop we’ve come to expect. After the first chorus of ‘You & Me,” Disclosure display the musical equivalent of a power-up, hammering home an airtight melody line that sweats with intensity. If this became the standard of mainstream pop, the music world would be drastically different.

But beyond its commercial viability, ‘Settle’ works as an album, and while that’s something we’ve come to expect from IDM acts like Flying Lotus, it’s far less common among broadly popular artists. Listening to the first side of ‘Settle,’ it feels like a continuous club set, as each song flows naturally into the next, and every peak and valley arrives precisely where it would need to in order to get a reaction from a live audience. Disclosure have crafted an experience that can and should be heard as a whole, and that’s meant to exhaust listeners in the way that active music should. The extended pause at the end of ‘Voices’ that leads into ‘Second Chance’ hammers this aspect home, as the first sound on the latter tune is the crackle of a needle hitting a spinning LP.

When Disclosure drift away from the vocal hooks and pop superstars, they don’t try to recreate the same effect as those more accessible tracks. ‘Grab Her’ uses vocal samples, but they take a back seat to the exploration of an up-and-down hook that scurries with the dependability of a pendulum. It’s never exactly pleasing to the ears, but it’s a joy to listen and guess where the young men will take it. As it turns out, they take it everywhere, exhausting the hidden corners of the song’s space only as the track concludes.

‘Settle’ is exciting for the dance community, but it’s also exciting for music in general, as Disclosure exceed the high standards we hold for more organically composed music. They’re not simply exciting songwriters and producers. They might build the bridge that earns dance music the respect of holdout fans and critics and prove that this style of music has goals and achievements as worthy as any other.

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