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Night Call marks Years & Years’ first step forward as a solo project, after the departure of Mikey Goldsworthy and Emre Türkmen last year left frontman Olly Alexander as Years & Years’ last man standing. It’s safe to say the album is a step in the right direction. The loss of two members has afforded Alexander more creative freedom, resulting in a sound that veers away from the radio-pop sound of his 2018 sophomore album, Palo Santo, while delving deeper into its themes of sex and sexuality.
The album reads like a love letter to the neon 80s club scene, full of bumping, rhythmic dance tracks, rampant synthpop influences, and cameos from glam-rock superstar Elton John and Australian ‘Princess of Pop’ Kylie Minogue. ‘Consequences’ kicks the album into gear with thumping drums, synth blips, and retrofuturistic instrumental breaks. This is the 80s reinvented for a contemporary streaming era. Up next, ‘Starstruck’ is a starry-eyed and saccharine track to balance out the seductive ones to come. ‘I can't help it / I get starstruck around you, / I feel like all these people in this room / Don't shine like you,’ Alexander sings over a pulsing instrumental, complete with twinkling electronic sound effects. ‘Night Call’ verges on extraterrestrial disco, set against the sounds of Star Wars-esque laser guns in the background.
Don’t get Years & Years wrong, though—the album may ooze a carefree, fun-loving attitude, but Olly Alexander doesn’t take the same approach to his relationships. ‘I'm not one for casual intimacy,’ he croons breathily on ‘Intimacy.’ The song marks a distinct change in sound compared to Night Call’s previous songs. Across the remainder of the album’s 11 tracks, Alexander dips his toes into a variety of genres: EDM on ‘Crave,’ festival pop on ‘Sweet Talker,’ 2000s R&B on ‘20 Minutes,’ dreamy electropop on ‘Strange and Unusual,’ and sentimental synthwave on ‘Make It Out Alive.’ The album’s sound is about as chameleonic as Olly Alexander’s fashion sense, showing just how much he’s come into his own, now that he’s on his own.
The deluxe edition is arguably where the party really starts, bringing five new songs to the table, which are some of the album’s best, and most danceable, songs. The ‘New Year’s Edition’ adds seven of Years & Years’ biggest hits since their inception in 2010. Night Call may be a love letter, but it’s also an invitation—to look back at Years & Years through the years, while celebrating the next step in the dance.
Edited by Josh Aberman, Music Editor