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The Globe and Mail

How To Dress Well: Come for the R&B hooks, stay for the ambient noise

Promo photo for the band How To Dress Well, featuring Tom Krell.

Jesse Lirola/Handout

The parts that make us most giddy about the new album from the avant-garde, R&B-tinged project How to Dress Well (more or less just Colorado native Tom Krell) are parts he'd rather not focus on. For instance, on & It Was U, the most rhythmic track on Total Loss, opening finger snaps and Krell's now-trademark falsetto will have you swaying like it was the school dance in 1997, with Janet, Whitney and Mariah blasting from the PA.

"Despite what anyone wants to say about the influences," Krell told The Globe and Mail in a recent interview, "it's exceedingly contemporary music."

Indeed, there's something metallic about those snaps and hypnotic about the snare that simply wouldn't sound right on Jackson's '90s lounge record The Velvet Rope. The rest of Krell's new disc, which rolls through moments of quiet a cappella just as easily as swells of violin and static, find him drawing from far-left-field influences like ambient-music icon William Basinski.

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On the standout Set It Right, Krell croons a series of I-miss-yous to first names in his life, whether separated, departed or simply dear to him. You may be on the wrong side of the confessional, but you can't stop listening in.

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