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Years & Years – Night Call (Album Review)

An immersive themed record which takes you to a whole new world but still brings you back to Earth.

Years & Years – Night Call (Album Review) by EJ Scanlan

Years & Years. An artist I’ve followed since the very beginning. From seeing them support Clean Bandit as a band to lead singer Olly Alexander going solo, a decision I anticipated for a few years now, I’ve always been a part of their impeccable journey. Their debut album “Communion” and their sophomore record “Palo Santo” are both flawed records but have a fun and creative sound running through the pair of them, giving me an incredibly positive reception of them both.

On Friday, Years & Years release their third record, “Night Call”, and it’s the first as Olly Alexander’s solo project. From this, as well as the singles that I’ve heard from the record, I’m expecting more of their iconic pop sound coming through, but am also sceptical that their distinctive sound, coming from the thoroughly underrated former members of the band Mikey Goldsworthy and Emre Türkmen, both of which made the band what it is and why I love their music so much, won’t be seen, and that this would just be your bog-standard pop record anyone could make, but having said that, Alexander’s creativity is second to none, but in the past has struggled to capture the album’s central theming to its tracks, which was my main issue with “Palo Santo”, but I’m hoping that “Night Call” can be an experience nevertheless…

The first track on the album, “Consequences” is an incredibly strong start, with a real funky start to the record. Alexander’s vocals showcase the very best of his distinctive style very well, with some great production all the way through… It’s one of the strongest openings to a pop record I’ve heard in a long time, and it cements something: this album is going to be different, and it’s a whole new direction, and it’s certainly one I’m excited to hear. The lead single “Starstruck” I didn’t initially like when it first came out last year, but in the theme of the record, it works very well indeed. It’s funky, radio-friendly, and provokes your whole body to move, and this listen gives me a whole new appreciation for a track I thought was particularly mediocre on the first few listens.

The album’s title track “Night Call” continues this wonderful disco sound, in a way that works mostly very well. Its production is great, but if I’m being nit-picky, I’m not a fan of how the track is written in regards to how Alexander sings, but this still works as a deep cut. “Intimacy” however, isn’t great. The verses are grating, Alexander’s vocals don’t work here, as well as he tries. It doesn’t work, as much as I wanted it to. Every Years & Years record has one track that doesn’t work, so I’m hoping that it’s just arrived early and the rest of it is as great as the project is.

“Crave” begins with some real pop nostalgic production which works so well, and the song is very much inspired from early Kylie Minogue, which I haven’t heard anyone try and recreate before, and Years & Years knocks it out the park here. It’s not my personal taste, but I do very much enjoy it. “Sweet Talker” is next, which features Swedish electronica duo, Galantis, famous for their 2014 hit “Runaway (U & I)” as well as last year’s hit “Heartbreak Anthem” with David Guetta and Little Mix, and this is just pure pop perfection. The production is mastered perfectly, Alexander’s vocals work so well on this too, I’m a real fan of it. Get this representing the UK in Eurovision! We’d win for sure!

“Sooner or Later” is a great pop earworm, produced effortlessly and works so well with Olly Alexander’s vocals. You’ll be singing this for a long time, and you won’t want this coming out of your head, trust me. Following on from that, “20 Minutes” is a nu-nostalgic pop ballad, which has some great lyrics and some great production, a real highlight was how multiple sounds were coming from different speakers, which works wonderfully. I wasn’t sure about Alexander’s vocal style on the first listen, but it definitely works with the type of song that this is, and despite it not being my sort of song, it’s great to see Years & Years experimenting with new pop styles they haven’t done before, and it’s fantastic all the way through.

The first 15 seconds of “Strange and Unusual” is already my favourite part of the whole album, the atmosphere is tense and atmospheric and is some of the best production I’ve heard on a record for a very very long time, and it continues throughout the track. It’s so good that I want to hear the official instrumental of the song, but the downfall of that is that the vocals do ruin the experience for me. As great of a job as Alexander does, it just doesn’t work with an instrumental as strong as this. Either way, I’m absolutely in love with it. “Make It Out Alive” is something I can envision in a camp coming of age movie, I feel the lyrics and the story that Olly’s telling here, and the great production makes me really experience the story being told here so well. It’s an emotional listen in the best of ways, I’m close to crying tears of happiness at hearing that, only the greatest albums and tracks have done, even though this isn’t the best of tracks, it certainly takes something to make me feel like that! I think this song is magical and beautiful and fits with the theming of the album very well. It’s wonderful in every single way.

“Immaculate” is the first of the deluxe tracks from the record, and if I can describe it in one word, I’d say: CAMP! It works in so many ways, and I love it in so many ways. It’s atmospheric in a tense yet fun way, it’s so great. “Muscle” carries on the incredibly camp sound that the album has, and although the track is cheesy and not great critically, it’s fun and my pansexuality is definitely coming out here, it’s just a nice fun cheesy track, and that’s all you need sometimes. The final track from the album is “Reflection” and we finish on an average track that that really doesn’t have anything special, but is still a fun track with great vocals and production. 

So Years & Years have made it a hat-trick, three fantastic pop records. “Night Call” is camp, atmospheric and is a real pleasure to listen to. Former members Mikey and Emre are noticeably absent, more so in some tracks than others, but the album works well without them. Olly Alexander has learned from his previous mistake on “Palo Santo” by making “Night Call” what he intended, an immersive themed record which takes you to a whole new world but still brings you back to Earth. This is a new direction for Years & Years, and it’s a direction that I loved being a part of.

Ranking: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Highlights:

“Consequences”

“Sweet Talker (with Galantis)”

“Make It Out Alive” 

Other bangers:

“Starstruck”

“Sooner Or Later”

“Strange and Unusual”

Lowlights:

“Intimacy”

Full Tracklist:

  1. Consequences
  2. Starstruck
  3. Night Call
  4. Intimacy
  5. Crave
  6. Sweet Talker (with Galantis)
  7. Sooner Or Later
  8. 20 Minutes
  9. Strange and Unusual
  10. Make It Out Alive
  11. See You Again
  12. Immaculate 
  13. Muscle
  14. Reflection