Given the immense success of Disclosure’s first album Settle, expectations are undoubtedly high for Caracal. There was every chance that Guy and Howard Lawrence, the brothers behind the name, would simply fall back on what they knew worked, offering a mere copy of their debut. While it definitely takes cues from Settle, there are some key differences to Caracal that alleviate the ill effects of this.
While Settle was full of upbeat dance-friendly deep house tracks, Caracal slows things down. While a quarter of the album finds itself in similar upbeat territory, mid-tempo tracks are more common; sometimes slow and sluggish, but mostly cool and sleek. Similar sounds and progressions are used, but the mid-tempo style mixed with their choice of guest vocalists makes for some stellar moments.
One of the most notable examples is recurring collaborator Sam Smith’s track Omen, which sits far ahead of his last track with the brothers, Latch; both his natural vocals and his falsetto feel more at home here, and the chorus’ bass line is positively infectious. Even better is their track with rising pop starlet Lorde; Magnets is defined by its seductive verses, full of low-key percussion and light waves of synths as Lorde’s vocals glide over the top of the hazy setting. It’s a certified banger, to the point that Caracal never really manages to match its power.
The album mostly turns to old tricks in its second half. While the only two main album tracks without guest vocalists—Jaded and Echoes—are both catchy and upbeat, they’re also the most reminiscent of Disclosure’s classic style, and are largely at odds with the mood of the album; not bad, but somewhat out of place. The main issue with the remaining three tracks of this half is their lack of memorable moments. This usually isn’t a major issue, with the exception of Masterpiece; it’s an extremely slow track that lacks any of Disclosure’s charm and magic, feeling more like a generic R&B track anything. It ends the album on a sour note, rather than giving it a proper send-off.
There’s a lot to enjoy on the album, though. While its end point is a definite detractor, the rest of the experience is highly enjoyable, and offers enough of a twist on the Disclosure formula to keep it fresh without the risk of alienating fans. It’s a clear improvement over Settle, and reinforces their uncanny ability to choose the best vocal collaborators for their music; this is easily the most impressive part of the album, as Lorde and The Weeknd’s tracks wouldn’t be anywhere near as memorable without them. Overall, Caracal is a worthy follow-up album for the Lawrence brothers.