I attended my third How to Dress Well concert of the year last night. Each show has had roughly the same arrangement and setlist, but the aspects where they differ are so interesting. Earlier in the year at Le Poisson Rouge, the performance felt like a lonely solo album meticulously exploded out to four parts, backing vocals carefully tucked under the lead or relegated altogether to samples so as to maintain the illusion of a multi-track recording. Performing together has strengthened this quartet and the orchestration has only improved, exceeding even the album it complements; last night I actually heard backing vocalist Larissa Loyva sing, and it felt like a triumph. Tom Krell, who previously was How to Dress Well, now behaves more like the front man for a charismatic and utterly coordinated band.
Observing this evolution has been interesting, but watching How to Dress Well evolve from its origins has been intensely satisfying. In the beginning, Tom was performing by himself with a sampler, and even in the studio there was so much less: distorted, clipped audio was a major aesthetic of Love Remains, his first commercial release. Two more albums and an EP later and everything about his public self is so much stronger and more exposed. The two parts of “Suicide Dream” on Love Remains were beautiful, but obscure; now he performs them such that by the end of the song, he sings out with no accompaniment, past the microphone, directly to his audience, straining to take in more just as we always have, but now for completely different reasons.
If you want to know more about How to Dress Well, I highly recommend Pitchfork’s cover story (previous excerpted on this very blog). And of course, I also highly recommend his entire body of work.