Oftentimes, archly avant-garde music can be so tastefully cerebral, you find yourself missing the sexy swing of traditional pop. Seamlessly bridging the gap with their 2015 debut Communion, London electronic trio Years & Years manage to artfully combine the ambient, '80s style synth-pop of M83 with the funky dancefloor grooves of Justin Timberlake. Produced by Mark Ralph and Two Inch Punch (Sam Smith, Jessie Ware), the album's appeal lies in the angelic melisma of frontman Olly Alexander. Blessed with an ethereal voice that still packs a soulful punch, Alexander has a mutable quality, evincing the floating lyrical style of Jeff Buckley one minute, then launching into all-out '90s boy band croon the next. Musically, keyboardist Emre Turkmen and bassist Mikey Goldsworthy take a similarly cross-pollinated approach, mixing the icy swirl of deep house with the driving, bass-heavy pulse of post-punk bands like New Order. And while cuts like "King" and "Gold" are tailor-made for blasting out of dance club speakers, there is a substantive, experimental aspect to some of the arrangements on Communion. Many of the tracks, like the opening "Foundation" and the dramatic "Ties," start out with hypnotic, repetitive electronic lines that bring to mind the modern classical style of composers like Philip Glass and Steve Reich. It comes as little surprise then that the band have name-dropped such wide-ranging influences as Flying Lotus, Diplo, and Radiohead. That said, at their core, Years & Years are a pop group, and Communion fits nicely next to the work of such similarly inclined artists as Frankmusik and La Roux. Ultimately, Years & Years are so passionately in touch with their influences, they've transformed them into something new and full of the light. As Alexander sings on "Shine," "Can you see me? I'm shining."
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar