Album Review: Years & Years – Communion

years and years communion

Years & Years release highly awaited debut record Communion
Even less than a year ago, not many people would have known who Years & Years are. That changed quickly after they created buzz on the internet with their single ‘Take Shelter’. The next step was to take things into the charts with the release of ‘Desire’ and just a few weeks later BBC announced them as the ‘Sound of 2015’. If that wasn’t enough for such a small period of time, they went on to conquer Europe and other parts of the world with their first UK number 1 ‘King’. After these imressive successes they waited relatively long with releasing their debut album, but Communion is finally out. Does it live up to the high expectations and hype though?

It does not happen often that a band is able to create such a hype and fan following on the back of one hit and a few buzz singles. Olly Alexander, Emre Turkmen and Mikey Goldsworthy did it effortlessly and the fact that next single ‘Shine‘ is doing so well in the UK charts show the big moment of these guys is far from over. However, they still have to prove themselves as album artists, which is not easy as most of the tracks on Communion were already released in some form (singles, EP tracks, buzz songs etc.) so there is hardly any surprise to be found on the record. Once you get over this fact and try to listen with a fresh and open mind to the whole body of work, you probably will enjoy the ride..

The album starts out with the stripped back track ‘Foundation’. The production is mostly light and subtle, while Olly’s vocal performance almost feels like a capella. It works well as an intro and immediately shows they are capable of more than the synth pop radio hits. Not that there is anything wrong with that, because they do it really well. The already released songs ‘Desire’, ‘Real’, ‘Worship’, new single ‘Shine’ and of course ‘King’ all have extremely strong choruses with insanely catchy hooks, soaring vocals and subtle productions. Where the balance between production and vocals seems out of control in live shows sometimes, because of Olly’s soft and soothing vocals, on record his voice gets enough room to breathe and interact with the synths. From the tracks that are new, ‘Gold’ sounds a bit too repetitive, but ‘Ties’ with a lovely chorus and an even better middle-eight could be added to the already impressive list of upbeat Years & Years classics.

Don’t be fooled by the upbeat and summery productions on the album as most of the songs deal with heartbreak, insecurities in relationships and the feeling of not being treated well enough by a love interest. These themes come to the front more significantly on slower songs like ‘Eyes Shut’ (which received a new instrumentation for the album), the Years & Years style power ballad ‘Without’, but especially the heartbreakingly beautiful ‘Memo’, which shows the full potential of Olly’s emotive vocals and songwriting. Although the album mostly consists of pure synth pop, the guys do a few experiments with other genres, like a light R&B rhythm in ‘Take Shelter’, still one of the highlights in their short discography.

As a body of work Communion fails to surprise because of two reasons: most of the songs on the album were already out there and the record sounds exactly like you expect it to. This however is not a bad thing as they created a fresh synthpop sound for themselves that definitely does not bore on LP. Like on every outstanding pop album, the balance between upbeat tracks and slow jams is perfected which adds to the great flow from song to song. After the success of their hit singles, this album gives their audience what they want and it will probably do very well sales wise. This will secure them the opportunity to record a second album on which they could experiment a bit more with their sound.

Must listen: King, Take Shelter, Shine, Ties, Memo

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