Let me be clear here: How to Dress Well is my favorite rookie artist of the year simply because Tom Krell makes the most vital, the most interesting work I’ve heard in a long time. He makes me remember what was (unironically) admirable about acts like Jodeci and Shai; he makes me think of R&B as a template rather than a means to an end. But more than anything else, HTDW has captured my attention because Krell has written some of the saddest songs (“Suicide Dream 2,” “Escape the Rain”) and some of the weirdly funky songs (“Mr. By & By,” “Lover’s Start”) that I’ve heard in ages. Look, if you’re not sold on HTDW by now, then I’m not sure what it’s going to take. In the event that you still need more convincing, check out the two choice cuts that are represented on a new 7” courtesy of Transparent (order here): “Ecstasy with Jojo” and “Take It On.”
Holding down the a-side is “Ecstasy with Jojo,” a Michael Jackson-sampling throw down that slowly disintegrates as the reverb carries off the good times until all you’re left with is the ghosted skeleton of Jackson’s beat. Krell’s ability to shift gears subtly like this makes his work so consistently engaging. Just as the remarkable “Decisions” gradually puts on a weary smile, subtly shifting the tone of the song, “Ecstasy with Jojo” slowly switches gears, allowing itself to peter out in an ocean of echoes and reverb.
Whereas “Ecstasy with Jojo” gradually loses its way in a funhouse of echoes, “Take It On” is a haunted house constructed of demonic bass and satanic tape hiss. The song is a stark piece of anxiety: the inexorable metronome clicks away as the very foundation of the song rumbles underneath.