How To Dress Well – Total Loss
by Suzie Conway (Communications), published November 21st 2012
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
How To Dress Well, AKA Tom Krell is esoteric to say the least. While this may turn some off, others may be hooked by the everyday sounds so curiously employed, and even more obscure cinematic references found in his second album, Total Loss.
“When I Was in Trouble” may be the opening track, but nothing about it is welcoming, which seems to be what makes it genuine. If we’re to believe the overall despair that the title of the album suggests, the faint sounds of empty freight trains and a relentless pitter-patter of rain truly heard throughout envelop you in the loneliness. The echoes of Tom Krell’s falsetto seem to bounce against a cubicle-size room, projecting isolation—you alone with yourself. In this case, a total loss means an imprisonment in one’s thoughts.
“Say My Name or Say Whatever” begins with a monologue from the documentary film Streetwise. A teen speaks “I love flying. It’s just you alone. You’ve got peace and quiet…The only bad part about flying is having to come back down to the fucking world.” It makes for easily one of the eeriest tracks on the album.
Though this swath of bleakness punctuates all of the tracks, few are quite as dreary. There’s a burgeoning sense of hope that can’t be discounted, and it appears with a surprising amount of frequency considering the overall darkness that frames the album. In this way, “& It Was U” serves as an antithesis to “When I Was in Trouble.” How To Dress Well pleads his case that he’ll always be there, but as the song progresses his anger and frustration boil over, albeit over smooth R&B (emphasis on the “blues”) backings.
This is a decent departure from How to Dress Well’s debut, Love Remains, with Krell clearly testing out each implement in his tool belt. Love Remains had a hazy lo-fi and electronic feel. Total Loss, on the other hand, is more of a blaring and oddly sexy album, full of soulful croons that always manage to stand at the forefront of each song. In that sense, How to Dress Well is more powerful, his aching voice always sounding urgent.
You can’t help but listen to the album and feel there is something bigger that you can’t possibly comprehend–and you’d probably be right. Krell is a philosophy student. And as Krell described in an interview with the Guardian, he used Total Loss to get over his own losses in his personal life both through music and seemingly on a spiritual level. In “Set it Right” Krell personally addresses those missing in his life, and even know we may not know the Jamie he sings about, the theme resonates. And that’s what Total Loss truly excels at–it stays with you long after the album is over, possibly while you’re curled in the fetal position on your bed. But if it does its job well for you, you can leave feeling a little triumphant, momentarily misplacing and relocating your thoughts in the span of its 11 tracks.
Recommended Tracks: Say My Name Say Whatever, & It Was U, Talking To You