The vehicle of Berlin-based New Yorker Tom Krell, How to Dress Well's acclaimed debut, Love Remains, first unveiled his fractured R&B and doleful falsetto. As with Frank Ocean's recent Channel Orange, the follow-up nods to Stevie Wonder and especially Prince, whose heavenly Purple Rain harmonies are particularly referenced for the hymnal Talking to You. However, Krell's music is starker, as he brings a deeply personal sadness to tracks of ethereal beauty. The first words – "You were there for me when I was in trouble" – set the tone as he pours out troubles of loss and loneliness. It's minimalist electro-soul with handclaps, echo-laden drum machines, ghostly melodies and a strings section (for sublime instrumental World I Need You, Won't Be Without You [Proem]). There's a hint of Ocean-type sexual ambiguity in the line "Will you love me like no other did, boy?" Set It Right lists his most-missed (often deceased) people over beautiful music. Total Loss is surely one of the year's most affecting records: a symphony of pain that continues haunting long after the record ends.
Dave Simpson is a Guardian music critic and author