De­spite iron­ing out the idio­syn­cra­sies, trio’s fol­low-up hits the tar­get.

Q (UK) - - Q Review -

Af­ter three years away, can the trio fol­low up their ex­cel­lent de­but?

On their 2015 de­but al­bum Communion, Years & Years spe­cialised in slightly skew-whiff pop songs; catchy cho­ruses piped over sub­tle ta­pes­tries of heady elec­tron­ica. On its fol­low-up, they’ve cut back the in­tri­cate un­der­growth, clear­ing the path for a pure pop bulls­eye. To that end, found­ing mem­bers Mikey Goldswor­thy and Emre Türk­men have been largely re­lieved of song­writ­ing du­ties, and top-tier hit­mak­ers (Ju­lia Michaels, Justin Tran­ter, Steve Mac) en­listed in their place. The re­sult sounds a lot like the pop sta­tus quo, with front­man Olly Alexan­der al­ter­nately re­sem­bling a more lit­er­ate Justin Bieber and a less whiny Shawn Men­des. Yet lack of sin­gu­lar­ity doesn’t pre­vent Palo Santo from be­ing en­tirely dis­arm­ing – in fact, the more con­ven­tional the track, the more grat­i­fy­ing it tends to be. Cases in point in­clude All For You, which puts pop’s ubiq­ui­tous “oh-oh-oh” whoop to a cork­ing cho­rus, and Hal­lelu­jah, whose trop­i­cal house pal­ette in­cludes a sur­pris­ingly lov­able pan flute synth. Alexan­der’s per­cip­i­ent lyrics, which de­ci­pher romance’s eye-wa­ter­ing thrills, give the record some bite – as, iron­i­cally, do nods to once-again-hip, turnof-the-mil­len­nium man­u­fac­tured pop (the boy-band R&B of Karma; Sanc­tify’s mechanical crisp­ness). Years & Years cur­rently seem un­con­cerned with idio­syn­crasy and edge, but it’s hard to mind when they’ve hit a pop spot this sweet. ★★★★ RACHEL AROESTI

Listen To: All For You | Karma | Ren­dezvous

The more con­ven­tional the track, the more grat­i­fy­ing it tends to be.

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