Years & Years, Communion - album review: a slick amalgam of 2014’s sounds that does nothing to excite

It won’t give fans of Disclosure or Sam Smith much cause for alarm

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The Independent Culture

Earlier this year, Years & Years grabbed a gong that has, lately, tended to go to solo warblers rather than bands (only Haim in 2013 buck this trend over the past 10 years). Sadly, the sea-change suggested by that BBC Sound of 2015 victory doesn’t translate to their debut album: a slick amalgam of 2014’s sounds, Communion won’t give fans of Disclosure or Sam Smith much cause for alarm, or anyone else – surely – much cause for excitement.

House-pop and romantic nothings is the pitch, sweetened by Olly Alexander’s boyband-pure voice in case anyone finds house music’s hedonistic rush a bit much.

On the shimmering “Real”, the result is catchy but not unlike trying to eat ice-cream with a fork. There’s little to get a fix on, a problem extended to the indistinct, mellifluous synth-pop of “Shine”; not a Take That cover, though it might as well be.

The lyrics are no more attention-grabbing, their lovelorn pleas betraying none of the dramatic punch you might hope for given Alexander’s background in acting. And while one redeeming factor is a limited reliance on rote balladry, there is a caveat: Sam Smith is probably ogling schmaltzy album low-point “Eyes Shut” for covers treatment.

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Communion by Years & Years album cover

Years & Years don’t lack pop know-how – Alexander’s falsetto makes light work of “Worship” and “King” – but too often their light touch turns lightweight, even wan. Songs such as “Border” could have been designed for V Festival-goers to retreat to should Clean Bandit get a bit lively. This may well be a big year for them. But the plural “Years” might be stretching it a bit.