Track Reviews: How to Dress Well - "What is This Heart?" Bonus 10"

Apparently, whoever takes photos for Weird World/Domino Records is way better at photographing etched vinyl 10" records than I am...


I’m not really sure why I didn’t think of this idea sooner, because over the course of the last week, it’s not like I’ve only been sitting with these two songs—other albums need listening to and reviewing, and 90’s inspired hot mixes need to be crafted for your listening pleasure.

In the early days of widely accessible digital music, to combat leaked albums, labels were thinking of incentives for people to still go out and purchase a physical copy of the record in question—this is a few years before digital music sales started to take over the marketplace. As things shifted, and more began to buy their music in digital forms (primarily from the iTunes store), people were rewarded with incentives for buying online—specifically in the form of the “iTunes Bonus Track.”

Commonly, you get one or two “bonus tracks” on many albums, and commonly, they are b-sides that aren’t horrible, but weren’t good enough to make the final cut of the album. Maybe for a majority of the record buying public, who get most of their music from the iTunes store, they may not have an issue with this, but for a purist/elitist/asshole like myself, tacking on stuff at the end of an album kind of messes with the sequencing.

In an interesting switch, on the latest How to Dress Well album, “What is This Heart?,rather than opting for additional material included when the album is downloaded from iTunes, Tom Krell added a bonus 10” record to the deluxe edition of the album, featuring two extra songs—and fear not, those extra tracks were also included in the complimentary download coupon that came with the LP.

After sitting with “What is This Heart?” for roughly two weeks, I can see why “Let U Know” and “So Easy For Pleasure” were cut from the album’s final tracklist, and as expected, it has nothing to do with their quality. Both of these songs are incredible—“Let U Know,” is actually, in its own way, better than some of the material that ended up on the final album. Structurally, in comparison to Krell’s previous two How to Dress Well LPs, “WITH?” is a (relatively) upbeat affair—it’s certainly not as sparse, and exponentially less depressing. Both of these additional songs, in contrast, are very fragile and somber, so it seems like they wouldn’t fit together well with how the album was deliberately structured.

In a sense, similar to the album’s simple opening track “2 Years On,” and part of the album’s halfway point, “Pour Cyril,” “So Easy For Pleasure” is a very short, somewhat direct acoustic song, featuring Krell’s soaring falsetto, with some subtle trumpet and piano accompaniment. “So easy for pleasure to recast itself as pain,” Krell emotes, and I have to give props for his follow up lyric—“To return from whence it came.”

One of the very unique things about Krell as a musician is his ability to interpolate—it’s something he did right out of the gate with his breakthrough single, “Ready For The World,” in 2010, which, if you didn’t know, was a variation on “Love You Down” by the R&B act Ready For The World. It’s been awhile since he’s so directly done that, but on the second of the bonus tracks, Krell borrows from the experimental French performer oFF Love, and his 2012 track “Let U Know.” But this is far from a cover—in the middle of the song, Krell breaks things down, and begins (possibly ad-libbing) some of the most profound lyrics of any of these songs, whether they ended up on the LP or not—

But what is this love, this love, this love, this love?
And what is this heart, this heart, this heart, this heart?
And what is this truth, this truth, this truth, this truth?
No, I don't feel no past standing in my way.

Unless my ability to find things on the Internet is not as good as it used to be, to my knowledge, these two tracks have not made their way onto You Tube yet, so, much like the review I wrote at the start of the year of the new Tape Loop Orchestra piece, it seems a little strange writing about something that not everyone has access to hearing right now. Part of me is a little disappointed and surprised (both in good ways) that these tracks haven’t surfaced somewhere for all to hear. But another part of me is relieved—that these songs will really only be heard by a small number of people.

I do find it interesting that Krell chose to leave the track that uses the album’s name off of the final product, but this is not the first time an artist has done something like that—The National used “Walk Off,” a song featuring the line “We’ll all get high and walk off to the violet city,” off of 2010’s High Violet. And it is very gracious of Krell to share this moment with the people who opted to buy the deluxe edition of the album, because it gives slightly more context to the phrase “what is this heart,” as well as slightly more background to the ideas presented within the album.