How To Dress Well - Total Loss
By: Tom Dozois
I have been completely manic about this album and I have come to the conclusion that, after a roller coaster of ups and down, How To Dress Well's Total Loss is out-fucking-standing.
A couple of weeks ago I heard the 5th track & It Was You; the snaps creating the beat instantly hooked me. I started the album from track 1 and fell into a comfortably numb state. I'm usually a little slow to warm to R&B, but if it's good I'll eventually come around. I mean, it took me a couple of listens to Frank Ocean's Channel ORANGE before I decided that I liked it and now I really like it. I assumed that it was a rare but good thing an R&B album was able to hook me so early.
The next day I sat down at my desk and was excited to give Total Loss another spin while I began my day's work. A funny thing happened; I hated it. In fact, it was annoying the shit out of me. I attempted to listen 2 more times before I gave up. Apparently my love for How To Dress Well was prematurely spewed out the day before.
In the subsequent days after I wrote off Total Loss Syffal's fucking Del LeFevre would not stop professing his love for the album. 'Dude, this album is filled with a bunch of mini opuses', 'Dude, this album almost made me crash my car', 'Dude, this album gives me an erection.' ''Dude, this album makes me feel taller.' , etc., etc. Nothing has gotten Del this excited since he saw some leaked pictures of Ryan Gossling's junk on the interwebs. I wanted him to shut the Fuck up because I was beging to doubt stance against How To Dress Well.
Del didn't shut the Fuck up; he 'implored' me to give it one more listen after he learned my excitement for the album had fallen off the cliff. I reluctantly obliged to Del's request because I honestly wanted to re-discover that feeling I felt during my first listen a week prior. And how coiuld I resist a good imploring from Del? (not code)
.....Okay Delsie, One more try.
It was a Thursday afternoon; partly cloudy with a brisk breeze coming from the Northwest. I cleared my head and started the album once again. I was feeling it, but It wasn't until Talking To You started playing when I officially got re-hooked. Holy Fuck. This is the melody tears cry as they fall to the ground. The reverb on the vocal track is haunting, the falsetto crooning made me shiver, and the violin made my knees weak. I stopped what I was doing and just sat staring at the wall. The beauty is in the melody. The beauty is in the minimalism. Tom Krell, the man behind How To Dress Well, sings like he is the only one left in a figurative room that is his life. There are only a few songs a year that grab my emotions by the balls and demand 'you will feel how I want you to feel when you listen to me.' This was one of them.
It was that moment when I started to fall into the world of Total Loss. The album title actually says it all because listening to the entire piece is like going through the 5 stage of loss. It is beautifully melancholy and succeeds where most R&B albums fail; in the sincerity of the drama. This muthafucker is REAL and it sounds REAL. This is not your 'Let me lick you up and down til you say stop' R&B shit.
I've had Total Loss on repeat for the past 5 days and it has helped guide my way through this review. I have come to appreciate the beauty that is in all the tracks. I'm not sure why I strayed away from this album, but I'm glad I gave it another shot. Maybe it was my mood and the frustrations brought on by work that day. If for some reason you aren't immediately digging this album and you aren't crying like a little girl then TURN IT OFF. Save it for another day. Get in the right mood and try again. I promise that your patience will reward you. Once How To Dress Well gets it's hooks in you it will not let go.