Album of the week 27.01.22: Night Call by Years & Years

Words: Harry Fuller

English actor and musician Olly Alexander has proven himself to be one of the most important figures in British pop culture over the past few years. Whether it was his frankly amazing performance as Ritchie Tozer on Channel 4’s mini-series ‘It’s A Sin’, to winning the LGBT Celebrity of the year award at the British LGBT Awards in 2020, Alexander has made a name for himself as one of the more important figures in British pop culture today.

Alexander has also continued to make a name for himself under the Years & Years title, with ‘Night Call’ being the first release in four years, since their second album ‘Palo Santo’ in 2018. ‘Night Call’ is also notable as the first independent release of Years & Years since the departure of Emre Türkmen and Mikey Goldsworth in 2021 (though it is worth noting that both of them served as executive producers on the project). This helps give the album a much more intimate feel, with Alexander diving deeper into his romantic side much deeper than on other Years & Years projects.

This side of intimacy can be seen on the album opener, ‘Consequences’, written “about saying, ‘You really deserve to suffer for this’ to the people you wish you could say it to.” This level of affection can be seen throughout the first leg of the album, with tracks like ‘Night Call’, ‘Intimacy’, and lead single ‘Starstruck’, all of which featuring expert-level production and synth work from British producer Mark Ralph. ‘Starstruck’ might be one of the best songs overall on the track list.

The album objectively hits its peak during the middle half of the record, with the club-level urgency and excellent vocal work from Alexander on ‘Crave’, the brilliant production on ‘Sweet Talker’ featuring Swedish DJ giant Galantis, and ‘Sooner Or Later’, featuring a swung feel a swung-feel bop which lyrics depict Alexander chasing after a long lost lover. This portion of the record shows how truly capable Alexander is at writing truly great synth pop on his own.

The album then takes on a much more introspective look after this, and even begins to explore further other genres such as R&B, as seen on tracks like ‘20 Minutes’ and ‘Strange And Unusual’ respectively. The latter is unique in the track list for featuring a much slower and spacious production than the rest of the album, with this level of contemplation and spaced-out production from Mark Ralph being continued out onto ‘Make It Out Alive’. The album then ends on a barn-burner of a bop with ‘See You Again’, which serves as a nice closer for the rest of the album, neatly completing the albums’ theme of intimacy and longing.

Alexander has made a name for himself as one of the most important figures in the UK pop scene in 2022 with this release. ‘Night Call’ is very neatly compacted in both the albums running time and song structure, and the release also manages to encapsulate both Years & Years as a new solo act, and as a simultaneous victory lap of their work of a group thus far.

Watch Sooner Or Later here: