Published Sep 24, 2015When UK duo Disclosure broke in 2013, their house music-indebted debut full-length seemed perfectly timed to both align with the zeitgeist and shift it slightly forward.
Settle was a bona fide smash, spawning five chart hits in Disclosure's homeland, but because of the house and hi-NRG elements that defined their sound, one could perhaps be forgiven if famous pop songwriting partnerships like Leiber and Stoller, Goffin and King or Lennon and McCartney didn't come immediately to mind. It's hard to imagine "Latch" — a house-pop hybrid powerful enough that it helped launch the career of guest crooner Sam Smith — being composed on piano, but that's exactly how the Lawrence brothers, Guy (24) and Howard (21), have always operated.
On their second album, the much-anticipated Caracal, they've kept the formula the same, for the most part. "The process," explains Howard, "is still to sit down and write a song in a very old fashioned, traditional way, like most other people who write songs with a chorus and verse rather than a club track with build-ups and drops."
There are no samples on Caracal, but there are a handful of guests that added anticipation to an already hyped sophomore album. Feeling strongly that collaborations should be an in-person, back-and-forth process between songwriters, the Lawrence brothers sat down with each guest on the LP — the Weeknd, Lorde, Miguel, newcomers Kwabs and Nao and a returning Sam Smith among them — to write.
"We didn't just want a singer singing on a Disclosure record," Howard explains. "We wanted them in there from the start, affecting the music."
The result is a slower, more R&B-infused record that grooves more and pounds less: "Willing & Able" features crooner Kwabs over a snappy, bass-heavy wobble; "Good Intentions" throbs lustily around Miguel's falsetto; "Superego" complements R&B experimenter Nao with gated synths that harken back to the '90s.
Still, it's discernibly a Disclosure record. Besides throwback house tunes that evoke Settle, like the Howard-sung "Jaded" and single "Holding On," their production style maintains a cohesive sound throughout.
"We normally spend two or three days with the singer," says Guy, "and then, after that, Howard and I will spend up to a month producing it and changing it."
Guy chalks up their efficacy as a duo — despite being brothers, they rarely quarrel — to the way that he, a producer at heart, and Howard, the principal songwriter, have embraced their separate strengths over the years.
"On Settle, we shared the roles a lot more," Guy explains. "On this record, I think we just kind of settled into our roles a little more and did what we enjoy the most."
"We are pretty equal," agrees Howard, "but not in the same worlds. I did a lot more of the songwriting here, and Guy did a lot more of the production. Because of how different those two things are, there's no argument to be had; we know that's what we're both good at, and what we should be doing. We have that sense of security."