It’s difficult to listen to British Synthpop group Years & Years without being wrapped up by their infectious charm and funky beats. With a lot of their tracks dominated by keyboard driven chords and big-room echoes to accentuate the vocals, Palo Santo is an impressive second album, with enough catchy hooks and meaningful lyrics used to back up the euphoric funkiness oozing through every track.
The album begins with Sanctify, a fascinating track with lyrics balancing between dark, depressive tones and light, uplifting funk. Having done a little research on this track, the underlying story is about heterosexuals struggling to embrace their own homosexual desires. While this isn’t initially clear while listening for the first time, knowing this and re-listening to the song does bring a lot of significance to the lyrics.
This level of thought put into the lyrics seems to run throughout most of the 14 tracks with enough meaning and emotion poured into every track to make each one significant in its own right. Karma is a very reflective track, with inwardly focused lyrics about self confidence and belief, If You’re Over Me is about a break-up and the intricate details around that and throughout the album these little bubbles of story crop up, told through a good use of confident vocals and groovy beats to keep each flowing into the next.
The vocals ooze confidence too, showing off a good range and timbre in each song, with lead vocalist Olly Alexander doing a great job injecting emotion into every track. If there’s one minor point with the album it comes from the heavy reliance on big-room chords and echo effects that seem to form the crux of every song but it’s a minor point in truth and doesn’t take anything away from the euphoric funkiness and deeper thematic meaning this album manages to consistently radiate.
Ultimately, Years & Years’ second album Palo Santo is a really well written, uplifting pop album. With barely any filler tracks, an infectious charm and an interesting blend of negative and positive themes, Palo Santo is a maturely written album with enough substance to sustain it for the long term while keeping the great vibes from the first album running freely into this one.