2013 is shaping up to be a freakishly great year for dance music. The Knife released their first album in seven years. The compilation After Dark Part 2 brought amazing Italian house to America. Major Lazer continued to expand what we think of as dance music. But all of this seems to be overshadowed by one release. Random Access Memories has been out for a few weeks now, and it still stands up to scrutiny. “Get Lucky” is the song of the year so far, and Daft Punk has been dominating the radio. To be fair, there is a reason for this. Random Access Memories is an instant classic, redefining Daft Punk and proving that dance music doesn’t always have to sound like the future. Instead, Random Access Memories revels in the past, taking huge influences from disco and other old-school dance styles. It seems like RAM is the future of electronic music, and if it is, then I am perfectly alright with that.
It would be very hard for anybody to predict that Disclosure’s Settle could compete with any of the big names in dance music. As two brothers from England who claim to take influence from Burial and Joy Orbison, it doesn’t seem like they’re bringing anything remotely new or exciting to the dance music mix. England has seen its fair share of incredible dance music debuts in the past few years, but none of them have really managed to stick around. However, Disclosure looks to change things up.
What separates Settle from other typical dance music fare is the same thing that separates Random Access Memories. Instead of looking forward for inspiration, Disclosure has looked backwards. Yet while Daft Punk looked towards the seventies and eighties, Disclosure does not go back so far. Disclosure’s closest comparison is Basement Jaxx. Hopefully this doesn’t turn anybody off, because it is fair to admit that Jaxx took a very steep downhill turn after 2001’s Rooty. Instead, this is much closer to earlier Basement Jaxx efforts, in that Disclosure has a real knack for the pop hook. Settle has some great guest spots, with some of Britain’s greatest up and coming artists delivering amazing melodies and hooks throughout the album.
What makes Settle so listenable is the fact that Disclosure knows how to put together an album. Unlike far to many dance artists, Disclosure are experts of pacing. The first true track on Settle is a club banger called “When A Fire Starts to Burn”. Throughout the album, Disclosure explores various dance music sub-genres, from trap, to dubstep, to house, to everything in between. The album is never boring or tedious, a feat few dance albums can claim. While there is never anything as deep and emotional as “Giorgio by Morodor” or “Touch”, Disclosure never even pretends to try and make a Daft Punk inspired album. Instead, the brothers make the most fun, dance-able, and listenable dance album in a very long time.
It is hard not to compare Settle and Random Access Memories. The two albums were released around the same time, and, at least on paper, are made for the same audience. However, the comparison between Disclosure and Daft Punk is not a fair one to make. If you’re looking for an album that is full of fun, poppy, dance music, then RAM is not the album for you (other than “Get Lucky” that is). Instead, one should try out Settle. While Daft Punk may make some of the most expansive, meaningful electronic music of the year, Disclosure is making a very similar style of music with more pop flair. In fact, I’d be willing to say Settle has much fewer misses than RAM. Settle is as close to a perfect dance record I’ve heard in a very long while.