English electronic-dance-house duo Disclosure is no stranger to success. The group first catapulted into commercial success with its 2013 BRIT Awards-nominated album “Settle,” a project rife with EDM and pop-infused bangers like the smash hit “Latch,” featuring Sam Smith.
The group followed up its debut album with 2015’s “Caracal,” a project imbued with club-ready tracks and A-list features galore, such as Sam Smith, The Weeknd, Lorde and more.
The group has been relatively off the grid for five years. Disclosure’s only noteworthy releases during those five years are two singles with popstar Khalid and production credits by member Guy Lawrence on the posthumous Mac Miller single “Blue World.” Disclosure has returned with an undeniable energy, a bevy of hyped featured artists and its signature house drum beats on its newest album, “ENERGY.”
The album begins with the ebullient “Watch Your Step,” featuring Kelis, singer of pop classic “Milkshake.” Kelis kills the feature, offering up the catchiest performance on the record along with earworm harmonies aided by the track’s bumping synth drums. It’s a charming piece in which both artists perfectly compliment each other. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the two collaborate again in the future.
“Lavender,” featuring Detroit techno up-and-comer Channel Tres, is another clubbable house number. In this solid performance, the artist longs for a woman at the club. That longing breeds confidence as Channel Tres brags that she’s all his due to her addiction to his rhythm. The song is nice enough, though underwhelming compared to the opening track. The song fails to capture the heart-pulsing effect of love at first sight.
Thankfully, “My High,” featuring slowthai and Aminé picks up the pace in thrilling fashion. How it took until 2020 for Aminé and slowthai to collaborate is beyond me, as both artists perfectly match each other’s rambunctious energy with quippy bars and dueling delivery. The dualism showcased is like yin and yang: while Aminé goes for concise and mordant remarks, slowthai shells out vitriolic and spastic attacks that verge on the cusp of crazed rambling that perfectly fits the UK-garage-inspired beat.
“My High” stands as the album’s most complete song and fits the project’s mantra that, even in a time of worldwide unrest, we all just need a little energy.
Following “My High” is “Who Knew?,” featuring Alabama MC Mick Jenkins. Jenkins’ discography shines the brightest when his voice is mixed with acid jazz-infused tunes, but “Who Knew?” shies away from Jenkins’ typical strengths and instead opts for Vaporwave-reminiscent synths and an excellent use of vocoder effects. Jenkins puts in a satisfying performance and floats around the track in effortless fashion.
Another highlight is “Douha (Mali Mali),” featuring Malian singer-songwriter and Grammy-nominated artist Fatoumata Diawara. The song is a delightful romp with another memorable chorus and a sound that Disclosure hadn’t yet explored: French house. However, the song runs a minute or two too long, and the group repeats the chorus but doesn’t add enough variation to keep the track interesting all the way through.
The first half of “Energy” is captivating. The duo’s creativity is on full display. Upon “Fractal (Interlude),” however, things take a turn for the worse. The interlude is a rather boring beat that lacks the creativity of Disclosure’s previous work.
Disclosure makes another head-scratching decision by placing in another interlude track. After the tracks “Ce n’est pas,” featuring Blick Bassy, an unfortunately disappointing venture, and “ENERGY,” a song that’s cornier than the syrup in your soda, Disclosure makes another interlude for the track “Thinking ‘Bout You (Interlude).”
“Thinking ‘Bout You” is the album’s biggest misfire, and it feels like a track you could find playing on the looping “lofi hip hop radio - beats to relax/study to” YouTube channel. Nothing about the track stands out or would even imply Disclosure made the track unless you looked at the name of its artist. Its presence on the album is particularly odd, as having two interludes for an 11-track project is far too many.
The group seems to be opting for a Chemical Brothers-style project with high energy songs in the first half and trippy brain-bending songs in the latter. The interlude seems to signal this shift, and I’m not opposed to the group doing so. However, these trippy songs never materialize into a good final product.
The album’s two closing tracks “Birthday,” featuring rhythm and blues stars Kehlani and Syd, and “Reverie,” featuring actor and emcee Common, both reflect this. “Birthday,” while cute, doesn’t have much staying power — the song is too relaxed for its own good. “Reverie” is an odd choice to put on the album, as Common’s delivery doesn’t fit in with any of the aforementioned tracks.
“ENERGY” is a tale of two halves, the first being mesmerizingly danceable and the second being a lethargic crawl to the finish line. What starts with a highlight reel of Disclosure’s best elements ends with their worst. Even though “ENERGY” is Disclosure’s shortest album to date, it ticks away at a snail's pace with an uncharacteristic lack of energy in its closing songs.