What You Need To Know: Palo Santo is the second album by British trio Years & Years. It follows on from 2015's Communion and sees them team-up with a slew of big hitmakers like Greg Kurstin, Julia Michaels and Steve Mac.
What We Think: Palo Santo threatened to be a difficult second album for Years & Years. The campaign kicked off with a somewhat convoluted marketing strategy that introduced us to the dystopian world of Palo Santo. It led us towards the first single Sanctify which threatened a concept album that stripped us of those glorious pop moments that Communion delivered.
The good news is, that's not the case at all. Palo Santo is a loose concept album but the title means 'holy wood' in Spanish which is a dick joke that sums up the album better than we ever could. It's packed with religious iconography, dripping with queer spirit and is surprisingly personal. Alexander uses religion here in the same way that Madonna does - to pair the idea of sin with euphoria. Hallelujah is sweaty club music with a hands-in-the-air spirit, Sanctify liberates from shame and Preacher translates intimacy into one mighty, soulful chorus.
There are so many big, glorious moments on Palo Santo as Alexander creates his grandiose world but its the honest moments that give the album its heart. Lucky Escape centres around the lyric, "you're so deluded, you're such a fake," which cuts through in an album that trades, albeit successfully, in metaphor. The biggest single from the album If You're Over also triumphs in honesty with Alexander providing a refreshing directness.
Wrapping your head around Years & Years' concept of a dystopian future where humans perform for androids threatened to derail the human aspect of this album but it really provides an aesthetic backdrop for great pop music. It's an album that exudes melody, emotion and grandeur with a modern pop sound that's pushed forward by the intelligence and eloquence of Alexander.
Essential Listening: If You're Over Me, All For You, Hallelujah and Karma.
In Short: An album that takes guilt or shame and repackages it as liberation in the most triumphant of ways.
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