Years & Years: Palo Santo – Album Review

The British synth-pop trio Years & Years with the lead singer Olly Alexander released their second studio album on the 6th of July. Since then I’m obsessed with their new creative work called “Palo Santo”. I became immediately a fan of them after I heard their hit single “King” for the first time in 2015. I also saw them on tour in 2016 in Zurich. They are finally back with new music and this time their lyrics are more personal for Olly, in an interview he admitted that the album is like his personal diary.

Sanctify is the lead single and was released in March this year. In this song, Olly sings about the time when he was romantically into straight guys, who were questioning their sexuality. This song has a strong statement because in contrast to bible Olly supports the idea that homosexuality isn’t a sin. “My sins are holy, sanctify them. It’s a blessing”. You can definitely hear the passion in his vocals and the support for the LGBTQ+ community.

With the second single If You’re Over Me they dared to try something new and it doesn’t even sound bad. In the beginning, it sounds a bit childish but after you get used to the beat you start to like the entire song. Just listen several times to it. Olly wrote this track with Steve Mac and they were done in 2 hours with the entire song. In the lyrics Olly wants his ex-boyfriend to stop deceiving him and to be clear if their relationship is over or not. He wants to know if he is really over him.

After the singles, the next most important track is probably Palo Santo since it’s also the name of the album. Palo Santo has two meanings, first it’s an incense stick with a scent named Palo Santo, secondly, Olly named also the fictional universe after it, which he created for this album and for the music videos of the singles. In the world of Palo Santo people have no gender and sexuality, they’re just androids. You should watch the music videos and the short film, which was released with the album if you want to get inspired by this universe. In the lyrics, he combines these two meanings and sings about the effect of this incense stick on him and also about his lover. The song itself seems a bit dark but I love the magical atmosphere of it.

Olly wrote the dance track Hallelujah with the pop legends Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter. These two names wrote so many number one songs with other famous artists it’s unbelievable. In this song, Olly is dancing away from his breakup with someone who is like his ex-boyfriend. This track is definitely not the only song to which you can dance to. The tracks All For You and Rendezvous should also be in your next party playlist. And if you’re a professional dancer you can make crazy choreographies for them. In All For You, where Olly is reflecting on a past relationship. He has the feeling that his ex-boyfriend used him just for his own intentions, so he thinks that the entire relationship was all for his ex. For Rendezvous Emre made the beat and Olly wrote the lyrics. You can not only dance to this track you may also make love while listening to it, it is very sexual the match of the beat and the vocals are so appealing.

With Karma, Olly is asking for revenge. In this song, he is confident with his sexuality and asks for Karma for all his haters and homophobic people, who used to bully him. Do you believe in Karma? I do.

The album gets slower with the tracks Hypnotized and Lucky Escape.  Hypnotized is like a magical trip into a paradise in a fairytale. It is actually written for an H&M advertisement short film. Olly is singing about falling in love and being hypnotized by someone. Lucky Escape is about leaving your ex-lover behind in your past. Olly realizes that his breakup with his ex-boyfriend is better for him, he even thinks that he was lucky that their relationship ended. If Hypnotized is an entry song for a fairytale trip than Lucky Escape is the exit song of this magical place. Every fairytale has a dark side, right?

I fell in love the track Howl when I first heard it, the beat and the vocals hypnotized me, then I also noticed that I can relate with this song perfectly after I’ve read the lyrics. It’s like written for me. Olly sings about being in a phase in life when you just don’t know what you’re doing, where to go, who you are. You just want to know: “Am I gonna be ok?”. Since I’m only 21 years old and still finding myself every day with every new experience I had many phases like this when I doubted everything in my life. Therefore, this is my anthem thanks for Years & Years for writing this song.

Another song to which I can totally relate is the last track of the album called Up In Flames. Olly sings about the divorce of his parents and how he felt during this time, they divorced when he was 14. I can relate to this song because my parents also divorced last year, and I know how it is to have parents which argue all the time. If you’ve read my older reviews, then you should know how much I love such songs with emotional lyrics influenced by the biography of the artists.

Don’t Panic is also an upbeat song of the album, but the lyrics have a deeper meaning than the other dance tracks. This song it’s like an anthem for everyone, who used to deal with panic attacks and anxiety. The message is that you can overcome every situation just don’t panic. Olly was inspired to write this song by his own panic attacks, he told in an interview that he used to have many panic attacks when he was younger, and his mother always told him not to panic. I’m glad that this album also includes a song about mental health.

Two songs I don’t really like and are a bit weak compared with the other great songs on the album are Preacher and Here. Preacher isn’t fascinating me at all and makes me feel numb. Olly wrote it together with Julia Michaels and again I see that not every track Julia co-writes has hit potential. She co-writes on very good but also on some weak songs. Here is definitely too short, I like that it’s a slow acapella song but 1:39 minutes are too short for me I’d like to hear a longer version of it, then I’ll love it.

Olly co-wrote in every song of the album, so I can confirm that he sings more about his personal life. In my eyes, it seems like Olly is dancing away his pain and his past with this album and I’m dancing with him. So many albums came out this year and there are still many to come out before Fall, but under so many new albums this one really managed to inspire me from the first until the last track. You should definitely give the album a chance and buy your ticket to the world of Palo Santo.

I’ll link some music videos just for the case you’re interested.


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