Hearing Aide: Years & Years, “Y&Y EP”

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They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but what about judging a band by their album artwork? It’s an interesting concept. As a musician, I’ll admit I enjoy the contents of a record way beyond its initial art, but as I’m gazing along multiple music search engines, I have to say bright colors do catch my eye first.

But what does this have to do with British band Years & Years and their new album? Everything. Many have been drawn to this talented trio’s previous releases, including their 2012 single “I Wish I Knew” and 2014 super hit “Real.” However, it wasn’t music alone that brought me to the masterpiece that is Y&Y EP. Once the intricate design of the album cover caught my attention, there was a sudden urge to listen to the entire collection, which of course, I did.

In typical EP fashion, the EP contains only four tracks, each contrasting in style. The opening track “Desire” leads us in with what some would consider to be a champion pre-game anthem, with an engaging house-inspired pulse courtesy of beat master Emre Turkmen. The combination of Turkmen along with bassist Mikey Goldsworthy was the start of Years & Years back in 2010. Since then, Olly Alexander’s soulful vocals have been added to the band after Goldsworthy heard him singing in the shower. With the addition of Alexander, Years & Years have been gaining great success before even releasing a full-length album, like undergoing an extensive UK tour. The tender mix of bluesy melodic lines and urban dance blends make this band very distinct to listeners, especially for tracks like “Take Shelter” and “King.”

Placed last in the EP is a track entitled “Memo,” which you could say is the outlier of the Y&Y EP. With subtle use of electronic embellishments, Alexander plays block piano chords as he sings jazzy vocal syncopations. His use of vocal trilling is similar to that of Tracy Chapman, yet there’s an intimate softness in his voice that is close to the style of James Vincent McMorrow. While the song may leave the EP on a rather gloomy note, it shows great versatility within the group that leaves us anxious for a full-length album. While there’s no official word on what this group will do in the studio next, we will surely be keeping watch, at least for some new artwork to marvel at.

Key Tracks: Desire, Take Shelter, Memo