After a 3 year long wait, British synth-pop band Years & Years have created another amazing album, one that beams with new and unique sounds. They have also portrayed quite an unconventional identity through the album, its art, and its imagery in order to express the essence of the discovery of their newly found sound. Following Communion, which contained brilliant hits Desire, King and Eyes Shut, was always going to be challenging, but Olly Year’s rare voice complements Palo Santo’s hits with equal success.
Sanctify, the opening song of the album, has very powerful vocals in the chorus and was surely an accurate choice to begin - Years & Years come back with a bang. Indeed, many of the album’s tracks are extremely up-tempo: Hallelujah, All For You, If You’re Over Me and Don’t Panic carry an energy that gets your feet tapping out the beat. The lyrics of the songs in Palo Santo are full of reflections, realisations, and retrospections. One of the most relatable songs on the album is Karma, speaking to how destiny is not in our hands but Karma is something that will surely give back good for good - “Karma come over, lean on my shoulder, tell me what’s good….”
Lucky Escape breaks the constant of intensity, with a much calmer and mellower sense to the vocals and the beats than compared to the songs that are placed earlier. I really liked the dynamics of this song in particular. Palo Santo follows a very similar slower paced fashion, which is just enough for it to stand out as the title track. Even though this album clearly portrays the new and improved musicality of Years & Years, each song on this album somewhere still reflects the band’s true roots. Some beats and sounds of the songs of Palo Santo have the aura that was similarly felt in the songs of Communion.
To an extent, on a personal note, I would listen to some of the songs on this album only because of the music and not the lyrics or the vocals as I felt the former was overpowering the impact of the latter. On the other hand, I would listen to certain tracks for the majestic blend of Olly’s beautifully executed vocals and the music. All in all, the trajectory of the album is as follows in terms of captivation: It starts up strong, slows down a bit through the middle and picks up again with a very changed up and mellow vibe.
The imagery used for the album - the symbols, colours and the theme of the album art and promotional material - truly shines, encapsulating the sounds, ideas and textures of the album itself. Without a doubt, Years & Years has one of the most outstanding, authentic ideas of music composition - that is exactly what makes them stand out from any other band. Even though Communion and Palo Santo revolved around two very different areas of inspiration, one can still identify the energy of Years & Years through any of the music they have made.