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Years & Years - Palo Santo (Album Review)

Thursday, 19 July 2018 Written by Jennifer Geddes

On ‘Palo Santo’, Years & Years’ Olly Alexander embraces his identity as both a gay man and a pop star. Within the genre, LGBTQ+ representation has sometimes been either invisible or problematic, and Alexander redresses the balance with an album that revels in its enjoyment of the format while utilising its gloss to reveal deep, complex emotions.

The follow up to 'Communion' moves seamlessly between musical tropes, with Alexander having worked alongside a long list of songwriters and producers, including Greg Kurstin and Justin Tranter. Rendezvous mixes the light, breezy air of tropical pop with heavier house influences sure to soundtrack summer hook-ups in Ibiza, while If You’re Over Me is straight up bubblegum with enough bitterness in the lyrics to stop you getting toothache.

Sanctify, the lead single, was inspired by the Neptunes’ early 2000s production on Britney Spears’ I’m A Slave 4 U, but it sounds completely contemporary. Each track here is inventive and yet easily accessible, with Alexander’s vocals imbuing each word with feeling.

“You don't have to be straight with me,” he playfully sings, discussing a relationship with a man who who identifies as straight. There is a loose, dystopian theme at play on the album but Alexander often simply sings about sex.

“Want to taste you, on that lips to make you jealous, make me forget I feel much better, but you move those hips so, come on press it next to mine,” he teases on Hallelujah, while on Rendezvous he questions: “Maybe our love is just a physical rendezvous.”

Where ‘Palo Santo’ really shines, though, is when Alexander gets more specific to his own experience. Sanctify explores the complex dynamic of feeling like both a sinner and saint in encouraging a man to explore his sexuality, while at the same time he contributes to a broader societal view of what it means to be gay.

On Rendezvous he sings: “I don't wanna be something objectified.” It’s statement we might expect to see associated with women, and later he again pushes at this notion of gender by repurposing another statement that could be termed traditionally feminine: “So be a man and take my sympathy for granted.”

Years & Years, completed by multi-instrumentalists Mikey Goldsworthy and Emre Türkmen, have taken the platform delivered by the success of their debut and used it to push boundaries, while also moving further into the mainstream at the same time. It’s incredibly exciting that they’ve managed to do both while also showcasing a multifaceted gay identity to a mass audience. It just underlines that pop doesn’t have to be written for everyone to appeal to many.

Years and Years Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu September 27 2018 - KINGSTON UPON THAMES New Slang
Wed November 28 2018 - GLASGOW SSE Hydro
Thu November 29 2018 - MANCHESTER O2 Apollo
Fri November 30 2018 - BIRMINGHAM Arena Birmingham
Sun December 02 2018 - MANCHESTER O2 Apollo
Tue December 04 2018 - BRIGHTON Centre
Wed December 05 2018 - LONDON O2
Sat December 22 2018 - DUBLIN Olympia Theatre
Mon January 21 2019 - DUBLIN Olympia Theatre
Tue January 22 2019 - DUBLIN Olympia Theatre

Click here to compare & buy Years And Years Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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