Lately, the world has seemed ever-changing, yet uncomfortably still. It’s hard to take time to simply exist and breathe. Disclosure’s third studio album, “ENERGY,” gives us the chance to do just that, while providing us with a world tour alongside their best collaborators yet.
The album opens with collaborating artist Kelis, singing lyrics that double as a mantra for the entire album: “I’ve been working / and I spend my time / dreaming about how I could ease my mind.” True to its name, “ENERGY” features an almost non-stop burst of fast-tempo disco pop that’s so catchy, you can’t help but nod your head along to the beat.
Disclosure, the duo made up of brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence, rose to fame with “Latch (featuring Sam Smith)” in 2013, but they’ve come a long way since then. “ENERGY” comes five years after their second album, “Caracal.” Having dropped their previous two albums almost back-to-back, “Settle” and “Caracal” don’t offer a lot to distinguish them as separate projects. The time off before “ENERGY” seemed to give Disclosure a chance to broaden their horizons, take a break from tours and immediate releases and develop something fresh.
Ditching many of the synth loops and collaborating artists from their first two albums, “ENERGY” stays true to the dance pop that brought Disclosure to fame, while also setting itself apart through inspiration from the Afro House genre. The album solely features guest artists of color, such as Cameroonian singer Blick Bassy and American rapper Common. Many guests, like Bassy, who sings in Bassa, took the chance to bring their own languages to the album. The album’s featuring of these artists brings fresh sounds, new instrumentation and a sprinkle of each artist’s personality into each song.
You can feel the love pulsing through every track on “ENERGY.” Each collaborator’s influence blends seamlessly with Disclosure’s production, allowing sounds from across the globe to be appreciated. While the album as a whole feels like the same electronic sound from their past, each song individually pulls from multiple genres to create a unique, eclectic vibe that stands out as their most well-rounded yet. This display of talented creators never causes the album to lose its central flow; each song feels equal part Disclosure and guest artist, falling right into place with masterful vocal manipulation.
There are a few tracks with somber lyrics sprinkled throughout, but backed by Disclosure’s signature fast drums, it’s up to the listener whether to mull on them or just dance them away. “Birthday,” featuring Kehlani and Syd, starts with dreamy synths and a fast pace, but with lyrics like “But oh, if it were any other day / maybe you’d want me to stay away,” it it tells a tale of an ex debating whether she should check in on her old partner. Past romances are common in pop music, but the focus on wanting to move past pain and still treat her old partner with respect makes the track stick out beyond the catchy tune.
One of the album’s best gems is “Douha (Mali Mali),” featuring Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara. Diawara brings this earworm to life with her vocals and the emotion she shares transcends not only Disclosure’s electronic vocal editing, but also language barriers. Singing in Bambara, she reflects on her country and celebrates the people there. This song was one that Disclosure released as a single earlier this summer, with a music video shot via drone during the pandemic. Even if you heard it before the album’s release, “Douha (Mali Mali)” is a joyous song that you’ll find yourself humming to yourself days after you hear it, bringing a smile to your face every time.
The deluxe edition features some songs that could have fit perfectly with the rest of the album, but instead act as a little cherry-on-top of sorts for fans of the English duo. “Tondo,” featuring Eko Roosevelt, shines as a funky, cheerful track, and “Expressing What Matters” features another groovy bassline that could lift anyone’s spirits. The deluxe edition also has tracks featuring Khalid and remixed versions of “Birthday.”
Although “ENERGY” sounds as though it deserves to be heard in a crowded concert venue, Disclosure took steps to ensure people would notice their music even outside of a club setting. Singles off the album were released with music videos throughout the year, prior to the album itself. Additionally, fitting with the shift to a virtual entertainment landscape, the band used the popular video game “Minecraft” to recreate the album cover as a landscape for players to explore and listen to the music. The experience launched with the album on Aug. 28 and will close on Sept. 4.
“ENERGY” is an album that could easily soundtrack a sold-out stadium one day in the future, but will currently suffice in infusing pleasantness during day-to-day tasks, offering a chance to escape into some catchy music and reminisce as we adapt to our more isolated landscape. Dance music doesn’t have to disappear just because people aren’t dancing together. Instead, it can remind the listener of past gatherings, hype them up for the future or even just provide an escape into some great beats and positive music. “ENERGY” soars as just the right uplifting album we need right now.
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