The cover art for the past three How To Dress Well albums are strong indicators of their contents: 2010’sLove Remainsis packaged in a torch-lit shot of random roadside;Total Loss(2012) has the side profile of a face set like it is part of the landscape; and new albumWhat Is This Heart?is a straightforward headshot.
These images reflect the slow reveal of the man behind it all, Tom Krell, and his movement from echo-chamber obfuscation to a more open, perhaps even optimistic, vision.
This openness was one of the changes implemented on his previous album, but Total Loss was also steeped in a deep sadness and sense of loss. One of its standout tracks was ‘It Was You’, a four-to-the-floor banger that was atypical of the stark remainder of the record, and the obvious progression would be a push in this direction for his third album. Instead, in his expectation-defying fashion, Krell kicks off What Is This Heart? with tinkling piano and an acoustic guitar-based song that could almost be described as folk.
Whatever Krell was going through two years ago has been processed and has re-energised him as a performer. There’s a confidence and clarity to this collection, though also an acknowledgement of his limitations.