Closer

Claptone

Closer

Masked DJ/producer Claptone has been conjuring an air of mystery ever since he first poked his golden beak above the edge of the DJ booth and pressed play on one of his sensuous, shadowy, midtempo house tracks. The intrigue is deeper than ever on his third album, Closer, which follows 2018’s Fantast after a three-year pause. Certain trademarks of his sound have remained constant, like pistoning piano chords, whispered vocals, and whip-cracking drum programming. But Claptone’s songwriting has never been sharper, and co-production from Stuart Price (who has made records for Madonna, The Killers, and Pet Shop Boys) helps tip his melodic club anthems firmly into pop territory. A crack team of collaborators is on hand to realize Claptone’s radio-ready fantasies: Dizzy turns “Queen of Ice” into sweeping gothic pop; longtime peers Peter Bjorn and John bring an almost punky ’70s vibe to the guitar-flecked disco of “Satellite”; and Seal, of all people, lends his inimitably smoky croon to “Just a Ghost,” evoking memories of dance-pop’s ’90s heyday. Most surprising of all: Barry Manilow’s star turn on the closing “Nobody,” a buoyant disco anthem. Putting one of pop music’s most recognizable voices over a song about anonymity is precisely the kind of gambit that only Claptone could pull off so effortlessly.

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