Most of us have had the stressful experience of cramming for an algebra exam or pulling an all-nighter for a history project you forgot about. And by the hand of God, sometimes you get an OK grade, maybe even an adequate one, for that hodge-podge assignment. Most of our best work comes from having the time to edit—which is why it wasn’t much of a surprise after hearing the third album, Energy, from the Surrey-based brothers in Disclosure that all the tracks were written very quickly.
In a press release, Guy Lawrence explained the title’s influence on their process. “The thing that decided which songs made it and which songs didn’t was that one word: energy. Every track was written really quickly. That’s why we had to write so many songs because those ones don’t come up every day. Or every week. Or every month.” The irony is that Energy might have been made with vigor, but is a few steps short of possessing any real staying power.
As the world’s sense of normalcy continues to contort, a raincloud now hovers over the eleven tracks on Energy. It might not have been as apparent before a pandemic and the simmering of fascism, but when Aminé raps “Please don’t fuck up my high” it feels out of necessity or hostility rather than snarkiness. And when Kehlani and Syd’s vocals intertwine during the chorus of “Birthday,” asking, “Can I call you on your birthday / Just to make sure that you’re OK,” it hits differently in a time when we’re cooped up with lingering thoughts of exes. Both collaborations excel at their usual wheelhouses, the former also seeing the frantic energy of slowthai, and the latter reflecting Kehlani and Syd’s seductive intimacy. Disclosure knows how to cater to their guests’ talents and comforts, but Energy lacks innovation.
On Energy the Lawrence brothers fail to take risks or maintain any exciting spark that existed on their 2014 debut album. At times it’s hard to understand if the bros had a cohesive plan. There are a couple interludes which break up the album in a bizarre way. From the highlight “Douha (Mali Mali),” featuring Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara, we sink into “Fractal,” a breezy instrumental that sounds ripped from a Noname album. Later, Common closes out the album with a lackluster peptalk, referencing Marvin Gaye and the hellish times we live in. It closes out the album in an awkward flash that symbolizes how optimism is a necessary optic. Dance music doesn’t have to be hopeful in order to coincide with the change. Countless artists, from Arca to Marie Davidson, prove that upbeat music can be optimistic without smiling tones. With Energy, Disclosure fail to make an impact.