Disclosure’s ‘ENERGY’ has moments of promise, but lacks clear identity

Disclosure
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Grade: 3.0/5.0

News of a fresh Disclosure album came at just the right time. The electronic duo’s European fans are cautiously entering back into the outdoor-only club scene with loosening lockdown regulations, and American listeners had hoped for a jolt in their quarantine slump.

Disclosure had given a taste of what was to come on Energy, which released Aug. 28, with an EP released earlier in the year, entitled Ecstasy. The five-track drop is punchy, each song upping the ante with dynamic drum beats and fresh arrangements. The duo branched out to collaborate with Eko Roosevelt, a Cameroonian musician, and Etran Finatawa, a traditional Nigerien group. The vocals are not only surprising, but also signs of Disclosure moving its music in a new direction. 

Ecstasy created a wild fervor of excitement, Disclosure breaking away from its past reliance on classic dance drops and pop partnerships to focus on different mixing. Energy, however, seems to lack cohesive identity as the attitude and experimentation that was brought in the EP doesn’t translate to the entirety of the 20-song deluxe album.

The first track, “Watch Your Step,” features Kelis. While Kelis holds her own in vocal variation, the lyrics lack originality and movement. This track evokes overplayed European club music, falling flat in terms of its mainstream vocals and musicality, and the following tracks are no different.

While Disclosure features acclaimed artists such as Common and Mick Jenkins, the tracks do little justice for the artists. The lyrics and beats are unfavorably repetitive. These songs seem to exist in a standstill as the intensity and arrangements remain constant throughout.

Disclosure saves this record with the fifth track on side one of the album, “Douha (Mali Mali).” The duo features Malian folk powerhouse Fatoumata Diawara, who provides a newer, soulful sound that builds through the well-paced track. The song would have been well-positioned as the album’s introduction — it presents Disclosure’s progression since its last full album in 2015.

Only half of the songs on Energy were not already released on Ecstasy, leaving little room for the duo to showcase its growth. Of those 10 new tracks, two are slower interludes, and both lack imagination in terms of technique. “Thinking ’Bout You” is a lo-fi track that samples a ’50s-style ballad. It offers no insightful transition to the next song, which has strong vocals as it features R&B artists Kehlani and Syd. 

Simply put, the mood of the newly dropped tracks is not up to par with those released early on Ecstacy. When side two of the album hits, all of the older songs remind listeners of the dynamism and drive of the EP.

The album’s ending also disappoints, as Disclosure’s two recent works with Khalid, “Know Your Worth” and “Talk,” appear as last-minute throw-ins to extend the album’s tracklist. The two pop-orientated, slower dance tracks are not reflective of the record’s character and interrupt the energy that the previous five songs create. 

 

 

What Energy really lacks is clarity. As this is Disclosure’s third album, the duo could have steered its discography toward inventive, punchy arrangements. While there are a few notable standouts, such as “Douha (Mali Mali)” and “Birthday,” the overall lineup does not break from the pair’s back-to-basics dance style. If Disclosure hoped to produce another traditional album, then it wouldn’t have introduced initial tracks that promised something else.

The addition of tracks from Ecstasy leave listeners questioning whether or not Disclosure wants to stick within its comfort zone. The album showcases the range of the duo’s mixing talent, but struggles to find a continuous thread to tie each track together. With the excitement that Ecstasy generated, it is a shame to not see that same fervor continue in Energy

Contact Francesca Hodges at [email protected]. Tweet her at @fh0dges.