Expanding their scope on sophomore effort Any Random Kindness, U.K. electronic outfit Hælos took their early trip-hop revival sound and thawed the chill to reveal a lively, effervescent heart beating within. Hints of Moby's early-era house beats and the xx's atmospheric gloom remain, incorporating the spirits of Massive Attack and a little Underworld in the process (especially on "Boy/Girl"). Unlike introverted debut Full Circle, however, much of Any Random Kindness feels reinvigorated, urgent, and bursting with brightness, held together by the group's effortlessly cool veneers. Vocalists Lotti Benardout and Arthur Delaney once again trade duties, their back-and-forth interplay building tension, sensuality, and urgency while the beats and atmospherics -- courtesy of Dom Goldsmith and Daniel Vildósola -- throb and swell. Lyrically, the weight of the world, geopolitics, and uncertainty in the digital age provide moments of bittersweet uncertainty, but Hælos stay loyal to optimism and hope. Of the marquee moments, the rousing "Kyoto" stands tall. The sprawling track starts with familiar keys and a pulsing beat, hypnotizing as Benardout and Delaney layer their vocals; when the song builds to a dramatic, dancefloor-filling breakdown, Hælos throw everything they have at the finish. It's a thrill to experience and one that is challenged elsewhere by the hypnotic and luscious "Buried in the Sand," which whips up a trance-like frenzy of reverie, and "Empty Skies," a throwback to '90s soul/house sounds that stretches the lead pair's vocals. Likewise, "End of the World Party" maintains the nostalgia with a classic Lyn Collins/Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock sample, connecting dancefloors across the decades through an infectious sonic wormhole. In addition to the party-starters, uplifting moments such as "So Long, Goodbye" and "Another Universe" elevate Any Random Kindness with grace, while the bluesy, piano-bar closer "Last One Out (Turn the Lights Off)" pulls everything together with a final plea for positivity and a light in the darkness. Cerebral yet soulful, Any Random Kindness strikes an ideal balance for Hælos, a significant step forward in their evolution.
AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung