With all the touring and promotion U.K. electronic duo Disclosure did in the 28 months between the release of its rapturously received 2013 debut album, Settle, and its follow-up, Caracal, it’s hard to fathom where brothers Howard and Guy Lawrence found the time to actually write and record songs. We’re pretty sure it wasn’t during their venue-filling, festival-conquering summer tour last year, which included a sold-out gig at Brooklyn Bowl, or their big Wild Life weekends this year, where they’d top a stacked bill of DJs at party capitals like Ibiza, Miami and, on multiple occasions, Las Vegas (namely, at Light and Daylight). They might’ve had a measly six to eight months to dream up, lay down and put out Caracal—and it sure sounds like it.
Anyone would ding Disclosure for making Settle 2, but it’s disheartening that the duo took great pains to move on from the 1990s U.K. garage aesthetic it so effortlessly updated, only to retreat into the doldrums of templated electro-R&B and club pop. For an act that represented the anti-EDM in 2013 and ’14, it’s sounding status quo on tunes like “Nocturnal,” which blows a big-name get like The Weeknd—as “Magnets” and “Good Intentions” do with Lorde and Miguel, respectively—with a languid composition destined to open club doors rather than raise their roofs. “Hourglass” is a rehash of modern British dance music with little snap or seductiveness, a likely favor to Disclosure’s record company, Interscope, as it features the vocals of unknown labelmate Jillian Hervey (of duo Lion Babe). Sam Smith reappears for “Omen,” a forgettable, mid-tempo groover that doesn’t kick up like his first Disclosure collaboration, “Latch.”
Only first single “Holding On,” featuring jazz-cum-house vocalist Gregory Porter, bounces along with any sort of enthusiasm or inspiration—both of which marked Settle and evade Caracal.