Pitchfork Music Festival 2011, Sunday: How to Dress Well
Critics love this guy. I guess I get it—it gives them a lot to write about. How To Dress Well's Tom Krell is a philosophy student that seems to have a deep love affair with ’80s and ’90s R&B. And his live set-up for today was truly admirable, with a lush string section and a drummer who doubles as a keyboardist—many more moving parts than expected. I was truly intrigued before he even got up and running.
Once the kinks were worked out and the performance had begun, I immediately tried drawing comparisons: Jamie Lidell and Mayer Hawthorne are looking a few decades further back than Krell, and that's about the closest I could come. Krell's can be most closely compared to Prince or R.Kelly—which might ruffle a few feathers, but it seems like that's what he's going for.
He belted out "Decisions" in his best upper register (which could still use a little work), while he kicked off "Ready For the World" with a deep cello growl, leading into an inspirational "We Are the World"-type shtick. A tentatively titled "Cold Night" was the set highlight. This is hipster R&B without the sex—definitely without the sex.
While How to Dress Well, performing live, might still be in the trial-and-error phase, today Krell's vocals were sweet, the strings soared, the drums pounded. With the full band at peak efficiency, everything fired on all cylinders. Lovely. I look forward to hearing how this all develops.