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"What Is This Heart?" is the third album by How To Dress Well and the pinnacle of a scene that has been bubbling and building for a while. Writers have been struggling to call it what it is for as long as they've been defining it as a thing. For the purpose of this review we can call it blog-pop, or neo-nerd soul, or just class it as hip faux asexual sexual music championed by the socially awkward. It isn't 'indie R&B', as is the most used definition, R&B should have a live rhythm section at its core, not an apple mackintosh.

I lost that argument a long time ago actually.

It's easy for writers to get stuck on definitions, because instead of being out having the fun, they are inside trying to write about what the fun is that they are too unpopular to be having. That's how this scene developed, an idea of what was cool struck a chord with a group of uncool kids, who then projected their idea in print until it became a valid entity to the cool kids that read about it. Which is why it's such a weird scene, because thousands of musicians are chasing that idea, trying to become popular by recreating something that is in fact completely baseless.

In the same way as it's easy for musicians to disappear under the weight of their own ego, once they've been drenched in hyperbole for a couple of press campaigns, it is easy for writers to start believing in all their own breathless rhetoric, and the breathless rhetoric of their peers. To get caught up in being first to publish and champion a band, rather than being first to write something of worth about a good band, the scatter gun approach has taken over. We're all complicit. The self-righteous fans who want to tell their friends about a band they haven't heard yet, the writers who want to be the first to back that band, and the musicians who want to be in that band. We're all complicit in the digital race to the bottom, we're caught in our own importance, and occasionally we need to be brought back down to earth.

All of which is a long preamble to the moment I sat listening to "What Is This Heart", thinking about how it's the best thing ever, and patting myself on the back for always knowing that Tom Krell had this album in him. My wife walks in, side eyes me suspiciously and says... "Why the hell are you listening to this wannabe R Kelly crap?".

You see from outside this internet bubble we've invested in, without the constant hype and validation circle jerk, things look and sound different; you can listen and judge things for what they are, not what you want them to be, or what you've made them to be.

Listen to a song like 'What You Wanted' and you can understand how Krell's delivery is divisive. To some it will appear intimate, pure, and a long list of superlatives. To others it serves as a reminder of all of the worst excesses of '90s R&B. For example, in normal circumstances the word "sailed" does not necessitate four syllables, but as the bass hits and the music expands around it, you realise that this is a very different animal from those dancing alongside shaking teenage booty on an aircraft carrier. It's an immersive experience - but only if you can approach it without internalised bias towards its influences.

That bias is the thing, How To Dress Well's music has progressed so far in three albums, that the people that are most likely to be at odds with it, are the indie music fans that the album is being pitched at. The massive step from the murky drones of Love Remains to the wretched beauty of Total Loss, has been matched and then some, by the jump towards unabashed pop that can be found within "What Is This Heart?". Tom Krell has found confidence in the validation of the critical acclaim he has been smothered in, confidence to present his ideas openly, without the veil of experimentalism to hide behind. That confidence has allowed him to place his voice at the very centre of the music, and once it is stripped naked, it becomes either its strongest asset or the quickest turn off. Either way it's a strange phenomenon. An album that is as likely to have you staring off into the distance, feeling it between you and everybody else as you walk through the city, as it is to make you dance around your kitchen with your sweetheart.

Despite having many stand out songs, 'A Power', 'Childhood Faith In Love' and 'Repeat Pleasure' in particular are worth dwelling on, it still manages to feel like a chore to listen to the album as a whole. Which is maybe due to the emotionally draining nature of the songs, although there is nothing as wrenching musically as 'World I Need You, Won't Be Without You' from Total Loss. The strength of the songwriting throughout attempts to provide its real depth, depth that is checked by Krell's aforementioned vocal gymnastics, that consistently snap you out of its dream state.

Its scope, the sheer scale of the project that he has sought to undertake with this album, is worth noting. "What Is This Heart?" is in practice, nearly an hour of intense pop meditations from an incredibly emotionally intelligent and self aware character, one who is trying to process and decode loss, life and love, in a way that he can understand. Which makes for a very personal record, one which is much more revealing, and ultimately more rewarding, than the disappointingly self-aggrandising nature he presents when being interviewed by sycophants.

At its heart it is an album at odds with itself as much as it is with its audience, too weird to gain mainstream popularity, but too pop to be truly revered by existing fans. Much like the scene it is spearheading, it's an album that will suffer for being inflated by critical acclaim, perpetuated by those with a vested interest, and forgotten about when something newer arrives. For that reason alone you could call it a modern classic. With this album Krell sought to define the self, and its motivations. Instead, he has become the living embodiment of our fickle relationship with music in the age of the internet. Mostly smoke, a handful of mirrors, and when you look back at it a few years later, not much fun.

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