Years and Years are a electronic / Pop band from the UK fronted by vocalist Olly Alexander. They have been bubbling under the radar for a while now and released an EP in 2014 in which many of the tracks are featured on their first Long Player “Communion”.
Before the albums release two singles were put out. “Desire” and “King”. Whilst the former garnered little airplay the latter became a massive hit and went to number one. Even here in October 2015 the song is being played regularly.
“King” on it’s own merit is a solid song.It has a very 80’s feel in its production but a lot of the electronic sounding music released today is taking from that era. What makes Years and Years different is the vocalist Alexander who turns these synthy electronic tracks into R&B ones. These are not just dance songs with a guest vocalist – this is very much the story of the lead singer who seems to be where all the lyrics are coming from.
The album beings with musically minimalist song “Foundation”. The first lyrics of the album are:
“There’s a scratch on your shoulder.
Crushes me like, crushes me like lead”.
The theme of the album is a relationship the main protagonist is in. The relationship seems to experience a shift of control to just one of them with the other being almost subservient. Despite the knowledge Alexander seems to have that he may be in an abusive relationship his utter devotion seems to prevent him from escaping.
Track 2 is “Real”. This was the first song by Years and Years I listened to back in 2014. The video was compelling and it remains a track I love singing along to.
“I broke my bones playing games with you”.
This song also features a gender specific lyric. As I had no idea about the lead singer it was this song that reveals that he is gay. This song also reveals a real desperation to be with this boy. It is a little unsettling to hear someone begging someone to stay the night with lines such as:
“I’ll do what you like if you stay the night”
“I itch all night, I itch for you”.
The world itch is interestingly used instead of I “long” for you. To be itching is to be uncomfortable and to know that this is how you feeling is not healthy.
The line in the song “Love, I will let you go” is unconvincing but it’s meant to be. The singer is almost a prisoner in this relationship.
“Shine” continues the relationship theme and how much he is into this person. But again there are some lyrics that seem a little precarious such as the plea:
“Don’t leave me behind, can you see me, i’m shining.”
Again it seems as though Alexander is the one who really wants to be in this relationship a lot more than his partner.
“Take Shelter” is a mid to low tempo song. Lyrically again it follows the exact same theme as before:
“Just tell me what I have to do,
To keep myself apart from you”
and the painfully honest :
I know I want it far too much
Like on “Real” he seems to have little respect for himself with the lyric:
“Do what you want tonight, it’s alright”.
We then move onto “Worship”. By this time I can say that individually I really enjoy each of the songs that I have heard but as they are all clumped together it is starting become a little tiresome as we seem to essentially be listening to the same song over and over again.
Worship is a great tune but is the exact same story:
“You’re all I need to survive
And further desperation in :
“Gotta hold my head up
Gotta move for your touch
Gotta keep my lips shut
I’ll do what you tell me to”
It is at this point I would like to shake Olly Alexander and ask him what they hell he is doing with this person. This isn’t a relationship – this is a Stockholm syndrome.
“Eyes Shut” is the first ballad on the album. It is just Alexander and a piano for the verses. I take this track as a realisation that releationship may be painful but nothing is going to hurt him if he just ignores it.
The music arrangement in “Ties” is full on 80’s homage. It would be enjoyable on it’s own. Alexander doesn’t vary his lyrical content and we have much of the same “I love him, I love him not” tedium.
“Desire” is the most clubby track on the album. The beat is reminiscent of 90’s house music and again even with out the lyrics it would be interesting. Having song titles such as “Desire” and “Worship” for me is a little too needy. He does point out in this song further realisation that things are not as they should be:
“Cos’ your love only gets me abused”.
“Gold” and “Without” offer no more than we have already heard but the former is a pleasant sounding track which could have easily been a single.
“Memo” closes the album. This ballad further delves into his dysfunctional relationship and whilst there were moments on previous songs that you thought he may be trying to find a way out “Memo” but the last line of the song doesn’t see me hold out much hope:
“I wanna lift this curse
Oh, and I wanna feel worse”
It’s a bit like having a friend in a really bad relationship. They tell you how bad it is but you don’t dare tell them what they need to hear which is “get out of it”.
If you take these songs just as individual tracks that might come on your playlist randomly they are enjoyable. To have them thrown at you 14 times in a row is a little depressing as it seems as though the same song is being sung.
Hopefully Years and Years will be able to show some lyrical diversity on future projects.