Will Young

85% Proof

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Kicking off a new contract with Island, Will Young also seizes the opportunity of a new label to retreat from the electro stylings of 2011's Echoes on 2015's 85% Proof. He doesn't entirely leave synthesizers behind: the album's opener, "Brave Man," is as sleek and glassy as the best Ryan Tedder and he revisits urban soundscapes on "Like a River." Usually, though, Young spends much of 85% Proof alternating between effervescent neo-Motown bounce -- a sound best heard on the single "Love Revolution" -- and stately soulful marches reminiscent of Adele and Sam Smith. While the latter may or may not have considered Young an influence, there's little doubt that Young isn't shy about operating in a post-Sam Smith world, happy to indulge in a bit of high-thread-count soul so melodramatic it feels operatic. Because he has vocal chops, this doesn't feel like either a stretch or thievery, and while it'd be nice if the slower songs were as sticky as the speedier tunes, this nevertheless maintains a classy, well-manicured mood throughout.

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