Considering Tom Krell's blown-out R&B as How to Dress Well feels like a dream partially reconstructed, it was only a matter of time before he crafted a song title to reflect that feeling. In How to Dress Well's hazy world R&B "heroes" are paid homage, though the tributes have the thinnest connections to the source material. Even if you can hear through the thick-coats of reverb and distortions, pinpointing a single song as "inspiration" is still a Herculean effort.
"Words I Don't Remember"'s warbly synthesizer presents a similar challenge. Hearing it ring through the track's dark halls brings to mind countless instrumental breaks from 90s R&B, but it's too much of an abstraction to be categorized. It will warble in fear while building to climatic breaks that never come. The synth crests into waves that are warm to the ear, but cool to the touch. Out there somewhere in such a strange dichotomy is Tom Krell trying to stay afloat. "You know that I love you, baby, only wanted one thing on my mind," he delicately croons. Even in that initial pledge, there's a note of reluctance. HTDW's work is marked by tremulousness and here it's played to a hilt. Embracing those shivers allows Krell to wonder, "So what is trust but knowing when to let you have your silence, baby?" over a riffling background guitar figure. I've had similar questions creep into my head as I labor intensively to find a balance between giving someone I care about space and letting them go completely. At times, finding balance is seemingly impossible. There's no hard and fast rule as to what is "too much" or "not enough." One answer won't solve every problem. In Krell's case he resigns to promising "I won't tell you how to live out your life" as he fades into a fog of echoes. How to Dress Well's work may often be blurry, but here it's presented in stark clarity.
Starting next week, HTDW will be playing shows with friend and label-mate Forest Swords at venues throughout the U.S.
3/17 San Francisco, CA - The Independent
3/18 Los Angeles, CA - The Roxy Theatre
3/21 Brooklyn, NY - Rough Trade NYC
3/22 Washington, DC - U Street Music Hall
3/24 Philadelphia, PA - First Unitarian Church
3/26 New York, NY - Le Poisson Rouge
3/27 Cambridge, MA - T.T. the Bear's Place
3/29 Toronto, Ontario - Mod Club
3/30 Chicago, IL - Lincoln Hall