For a British electronica band that was founded in 2010, released
their first single in 2012, and signed to Polydor Records in 2015, releasing
their debut album just this past July, we expected Years & Years to
have a pretty humble audience size.
But when we walked into Neptune Theatre for Years & Years’
first show in Seattle, we were shocked. Every nook and cranny was packed with a
person. There was hardly room to breathe, let alone dance, but the crowd was
there for a reason and that was to groove all night.
With a upbeat, dance vibe, the British trio ties together their
90s R&B influences with modern dance pop, reminiscent of fellow contemporaries,
Ben Khan, Kwabs, and
Iyes. You catch the more somber tempo with songs like “Take Shelter” and “Real”
that have a James Blake balladry to
the melody and R&B hint to them—songs that have a great visceral feeling to
the lyricism and background beat. And using their set time to play the entirety
of their debut album Communion¸ that
visceral feeling lasted the entire night.
But where Years & Years thrives is in frontman Olly Alexander’s high pitched, well
controlled vocals in tracks like “Worship”, “Ties”, and “Border”—songs that are
subtle in their background instrumentals and hints of synth. They’re songs that
focus solely on the act of listening to his voice smoothly sing every lyric,
and although aren’t explicit in working as a dance pop song, they cause your
body to move.
The song that Alexander executes best is a wild card on the
album, “Foundation”. Not a dance song at all, but also not a soft ballad, this
song has overlaying synth and a mystical, almost surreal instrumental overlay.
Yet, it’s even better life with Alexander’s yearning, almost pleading vocals
that give you chills as he bends over his microphone on stage in front of a
packed theatre of wide-eyed fans.
In a live show, the trio flows well, leaving a brilliant
stage presence–making it no surprise that just in the past year, the band has
been nominated and won a handful of awards and topping charts across the UK. The
synthesis and connected energy between the performers and audience was almost
electric, everyone on-stage and off moving together in synchrony.
There’s something about this trio’s music that is unlike any other electronic-pop artist. Perhaps it’s the ‘90′s R&B influences, perhaps it’s the subtle way
the dreamy synth and smooth vocals work to make you dance almost subconsciously—
or maybe it’s the way the artists are compassionate and human enough to pull
two men up on stage to watch a marriage proposal play out, bonding the
community within the theatre ever more so.
Whatever it is, we were honored to see a band keep the
energy up among their fans for the entire set as that’s a feat in itself, and
when they finished their last encore, we were sad to see them go.
But we’re excited to see what they have for us next.